If you live in the Rochester, NY area, you’re probably familiar with the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. It takes place every year in late June and is one of the most popular events of the summer, serving as a sort of unofficial kickoff to a very busy upstate New York festival season. This year, roughly 200,000 people showed up downtown over nine days of shows featuring artists from all around the world.
One of our clients, Xerox, is the title sponsor of the event, and we’re lucky enough to support them in pretty much every jazz-related thing they do. It’s one of those really fun projects that everyone in the agency gets excited about, regardless of whether or not they’re actually working on it. Getting to see your team’s creativity on display is always pretty cool. But what really makes it such a fun project is our clients’ approach to sponsorship.
In fact, the word “sponsorship” may be a bit misleading in this case. Anyone can write a check to financially support an organization or event. But truly investing yourself—your time, your ideas, and your hard work—is a far more effective way of connecting with the community. This year (as well as in years past), Xerox developed a theme all around the attendees. The goal was to enhance the experience of everyone who came through the gates. And the word we use is “activation.”
What goes into successful sponsorship activation? While no simple task, ultimately, it boils down to three main goals:
Make it personal.
It’s no secret that people like things that highlight their unique individuality. That’s why we dubbed this year’s theme “How Do You Jazz Fest?”
We began by digging into the motivations of attendees and the real reason they came out to the festival. For many it’s the music. But there are a whole lot of other people who come out for the social scene, food or just to wander around. We created personas for each and created posters, supplementing our concept with a free photo opportunity, the SweetShot, where each person got to choose the character they identified with most and receive a free poster or 3D motion file.
Make it cool.
Enhancing experience is essentially making something enjoyable even better, or adding that little extra cool. At this year’s festival, we helped Xerox develop the Social Beat, a social media visualizer powered by WDS, a Xerox company specializing in analytics. Once all the tweets, posts, likes and shares were tracked and analyzed, a 16’ x 5’ digital monitor overlooking the center of the festival displayed trending artists and hashtags as well as video and live tweets. I was there and it was in fact really, really cool. And I think the large pockets of people in the crowd staring up at the big board in hopes of seeing their latest tweet would agree.
Make it matter.
Even if you manage to develop a bunch of insanely cool, personalized experiences that successfully connect with the core of your target audience, it can all feel a bit empty without a charitable aspect supporting a worthy cause. But it turns out raising money can be a lot of fun, too.
We hosted an onsite Lip Sync Challenge benefitting AutismUp, a local nonprofit supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. Willing participants were recorded giving their most passionate voiceless performances and challenging their family and friends to donate and make a video of their own. It ended up being a blast, raised a substantial amount of money, and was a great way to connect with the community.
It’s important to remember that enhancing the experience isn’t limited to the masses. While it was a great way to expose fresh audiences to the brand and Xerox technology, we also helped facilitate several business meetings throughout the week, little events within the event if you will. After all, few prospects decline an invite when it involves getting the VIP treatment at a music festival.
Sponsoring an event can be an effective way to connect with potential customers in an unexpected place, in unexpected ways. But if you go beyond financial support and activate your sponsorship, your brand can become a memorable part of the experience. Connecting with people in unusual, refreshing, and, meaningful ways can make a powerful lasting impression long after your event is over.