News & Blog

Lessons from an Entrepreneur: Marketing through Sponsorships

News & Blog

I’m sure all of you who own a business have been asked for free goods or services for some cause or another. When business is good and cash isn’t tight it’s great to be able to support your community this way. For a small business that can be a real burden if you aren’t careful.

In my last blog, I talked about joining NAWBO and getting involved right away. One of the things I did for them was to build them a website. It was a great way for me to wrap my head around the whole organization as well as showcase my work to the membership.

Around the same time, we bid on a project for an annual air show. We met with them and got the contract to redo their website as well as add e-commerce, and other elements. We negotiated tickets to the show, ad space, and the use of a chalet on the flight line as part of the deal.

We sponsored the air show until they took all of their web work in-house. It was an amazing opportunity for us to get our name out to others who may have never heard of us. We were just starting out and didn’t have a lot of money to market in traditional ways. It was also a great way to show support for our community and the military.

The best part of our partnership with the air show was our ability to invite 200 people to our chalet for a hosted experience. We would serve food and beverages and invite our employees, customers, and potential customers, as well as their guests. It became a real internal production, getting ready for the event.

Everyone LOVED it. We would start getting requests for tickets in April for a September event. We never had less than 200 people and there were a couple of years we had more.

It was really a pretty incredible opportunity for us to show appreciation to our customers and while we had seen enough air shows (we did this for 15 years), we were sad to see them go. It was a lucrative sponsorship for us for sure, but it’s difficult to calculate the total (dollar) value.

Another opportunity we had was to sponsor a large (if not the largest) east coast festival for 15 years. Again, no way to put a value on this. We were able to meet so many people from our community, which in turn resulted in name recognition (with banners hanging on the boardwalk), and more business.

The festival was a lot of fun, and work, for our employees. We would get rooms for the weekend and have a tent on the boardwalk from Friday evening through Sunday late afternoon. One year our goal was to recruit potential employees, other years we gave away sun visors. It was really pretty exhausting, but we always looked forward to it.

We have volunteered for numerous organizations and donated school supplies. I’ve sat on various boards and taught for Junior Achievement. We give money to some, and buy tickets for events, and hold fundraisers. I wish I had been better about keeping track of money spent and made on these efforts, but it’s not always easy connecting those dots. I will tell you that sponsorships are one of the most important things we have ever done as a business.

Whether it is getting business, marketing your name, boosting the morale of your employees, or doing a friend a favor, it’s worth it. And while it’s not completely altruistic, it does make me proud that we have been good stewards of our community.

It’s hard to know what the future holds for events and gatherings like this. I am sure there are many ways to replicate those efforts, but I’m not an expert on what should be done, only what I’ve done.

When you are bootstrapping and have some capacity to take on a sponsorship, it’s a great way to market your business. It can also fill some capacity gaps. Sponsorships should definitely be a part of your overall marketing strategy. Regardless of your reasons, it can be a win-win for you and the organization you are sponsoring.

Until next time,


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