How Brands Can Turn To Community Sports Sponsorships To Meet Corporate Social Responsibility And Improve Consumer Trust

By Evan Brandoff, Co-Founder and CEO of LeagueSide

Over the past decade, the link between consumer values and brand purpose has grown significantly, with most consumers now choosing to purchase from brands that aligns with their principles.  Yet, while brands are starting to take more value-based positions, less than 35% of consumers are completely satisfied with their brand relationships, according to the 2022 Brand Relationship Design report. What’s worse, other reports indicate more than 71% of consumers have little faith that brands will actually deliver on their social promises.

Gone are the days when companies could simply create a TV commercial or release a statement emphasizing their views and receive an immediate return in increased sales. Even digital advertising campaigns aren’t engaging consumers as they used to, as consumers can simply block online advertisements or scroll past them without a second thought.

This begs the question – how can brands effectively build trust and meet social responsibility expectations amongst customers? The answer is simple. Companies need to begin prioritizing where and when they reach consumers to develop and foster stronger, more effective relationships. One way of doing this is by sponsoring community sports organizations.

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Direct access to target audiences through community support

When thinking of ways to meet corporate social responsibility and increase customer loyalty, community sports sponsorships may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it may be the most effective. Community sports organizations attract more than 60 million families across the United States.  By sponsoring leagues in local communities, brands have direct access to these families to strengthen their brand/customer relationship. One of the major trends sprouting out of Cannes Lions this year is the importance of brands empowering consumers and improving visibility of underrepresented communities, and what better way to achieve this than establishing a presence within and giving back to these communities.

While 60 million may seem like a large audience, brands can refine their reach and impact to specific communities where they have a presence. This allows them to offer their services in a way that’s more authentic and provides support to local communities. For instance, a brand hoping to improve customer relationships or increase sales within a specific region can sponsor the city’s local youth sports leagues, which provides them with the means to offer scholarships for athletes, buy new equipment, maintain playing fields, and more, while providing your brand with a welcomed channel to share your message.

Local sports organizations could not survive without these types of sponsorships, and when consumers in these communities can physically see what companies are supporting their children and how they are giving back, they are more likely to trust and support those brands over competitors who are not. Studies have actually shown that 64% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that have a reputation for purpose, while 53% of consumers may even pay more for a brand that takes a stand.

Adapting to changing consumer behavior

Over the past few years, digital advertisements have cluttered the internet so much that consumers are now feeling overwhelmed and struggling with decision fatigue when it comes to the most basic purchases. On top of that, consumers now prefer to not be sold to anymore, and can easily spot marketing messaging since they are inundated with them  Brands are also paying large amounts of money for digital advertisements that offer limited targeting options, which can leave businesses ending up with a lot of wasted time, money and reach within the wrong demographics.

As an alternative to relying solely on digital and social media advertising, brands can focus on omnichannel marketing strategies to distribute real value to consumers and greater influence. Compared to a traditional online campaign where brands are reaching out to consumers they have no relationship with, a digital ad that is paired with community sports sponsorship will result in larger engagement and impact. Consumers who see and receive online advertisements and social media posts from brands they know actively contribute to their community are more likely to trust those companies and will repeat purchases.

For example, a brand can actually utilize the commissioner of one of their leagues to share a dedicated email to all those who participate in the league to spread their message. When consumers receive a message from a trusted source – in this case the league commissioner – they are more likely to hear the message and act on it.

In addition to providing actual equipment and scholarship funds, brands can gain greater visibility by placing logos on sports jerseys, hanging banners at sports complexes or even offering coupons for families to use at their stores. This can all be done in conjunction with a targeted digital campaign that complements the in-person activation. By not relying entirely on your social or digital presence, brands will be able to build strong, authentic relationships with consumers and illustrate how they view each consumer as an individual, rather than just a sales target or a number.

With consumers continuing to shy away from brands that do not prioritize their social responsibility, companies who wish to stay competitive in this turbulent market will need to begin finding ways to showcase their values and positive impact on consumers. Sponsoring community sports organizations is one way brands can show support and increase their favorability, in order to make their brand message heard. Plus, it’s  spreading positive experiences for communities throughout the country, helping more kids play sports.

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