Sep 29, 2009 at 12:34 PM
written by Gail Bower

Corporate sponsorship as trust-builder

When you enter Nancy Gilboy's office at the International Visitors Council of Philadelphia, a big poster reminds you of something that's easy to forget in our increasingly electronic universe: "Face-to-face is better than fax-to-fax." This operational value is an important element of IVC's work: to "welcome a stranger, send home a friend." Building trust is implicit in IVC's mission.

When you think about ways to build trust for your brand, three best practices, among others, come to mind:

1. Being reliable. Consumers want to know what to expect, to be able to count on your brand to deliver in a consistent way. If that means that you constantly innovate (think Apple) or constantly introduce new products, services or programs (think Trader Joe's), that's OK, as long as consumers know what to expect. Just be reliable.

2. Engaging and communicating with audiences openly and honestly. This means delivering messages and also receiving messages.

3. Operating with integrity. We want to count on your brand to be ethical and to do the right thing, based on your values and our understanding of them, consistently.

Corporate sponsorship is an excellent vehicle for underscoring trust in one's brand because there's nothing like the face-to-face opportunities marketers receive when they execute their activation strategies well. (As a reminder to some corporations and the organizations they sponsor: sponsorship is not about sticking logos on banners and brochures and on the backs of t-shirts with clusters of other logos. It's all about the experience.) During the last year, the top brands, according to research by Interbrand and reported by Associated Press, have experienced an overall decline in trust. Not surprisingly, our trust in the financial sector has dropped the most.

With this week's news that large banks are taking on risk again – risk resembling that which got us into this mess and not the kind of risk that looks like prudent investment in credit decisions – the financial sector will surely see that decline continue. Of course, this is the same sector engaging in sneaky sponsorship, too.

Given that sponsorship allows your organization to be so open, to bring your brand's image to life face-to-face, make sure that your brand's values guide your sponsorship decisions and activation strategies.

This article is an excerpt from Gail Bower’s new guidebook, entitled How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times. To order the book, visit

Gail Bower is President of Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, a firm that assists nonprofit organizations and event/festival producers with dramatically raising their visibility, revenue, and impact. Gail Bower is a professional consultant, writer, and speaker, with nearly 25 years of experience managing some of the country’s most important events, festivals, and sponsorships and implementing marketing programs for clients. Her blog is and you can see all of Gail's past posts here.