Is your sponsorship BECOMING the story?
First, check out spitter (sponsorships + twitter): http://twitter.com/sponsorpitch
If you don't know what twitter is yet, you should. Check it out.
Now on to the blog, you know it's bad when a sponsorship story makes it on the front page of TMZ: Northern Trust Bank Bailout
Even if your company's own balance sheet is in order, in the scope of the current witch hunt, you're taking a big risk with the sponsorship becoming the story, rather than facilitating the story you want to tell. You've got to know the risk and your risk tolerance (which often vary by the sponsorship, industry you're in and your own company/brand. One option may be to keep the sponsorship. but try to reallocate/renegotiate benefits for this year (i.e. away from exec parties/hospitality and towards other less exclusive benefits).
Weighing the best business rationale for financial services (in some cases b2b, hospitality) against a very real potential for PR backlash is not an easy equation to measure. Justification and ROI metrics help (and amonng sponsorship pros, we get the value), but they won't take back the PR nightmare it created in the first place.
How does the equation net out for you? Should marketers stick to their guns or simply milk the clock (the safe PR move) and wait for the storm to blow over? The answer is likely "it depends."