||Farm Bureau Grows Sponsorship Portfolio
Regional and Local Properties That Draw Young Adults Should Include Farm Bureau on Their Prospect List
While big guns in the property/casualty insurance category such as Allstate Insurance Co. and Farmers Group, Inc. have recently announced high profile sponsorships, sellers should not overlook some of the smaller players in the industry, many of whom are increasingly using the marketing medium.
Case in point: Farm Bureau Insurance is allocating more money to sponsorship as a platform to raise its profile, connect with consumers and generate leads.
The company focuses its sponsorship activity on regional and local properties. While the American Farm Bureau Federation serves as a lobbying group for the agricultural community, its state Farm Bureau offices serve as independent membership organizations that spearhead their own marketing initiatives and provide insurance coverage.
Those offices use sponsorship to promote both the Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Insurance brands.
For example, Virginia Farm Bureau last week announced a three-year naming rights deal to the former Virginia Beach Amphitheater. The venue -- now called Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach -- adds to an extensive sponsorship portfolio that includes nearly every college and minor league baseball team in Virginia.
In addition, Texas Farm Bureau this year plans to build on its existing ties to Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University with six more schools. Those deals will add to a portfolio that includes the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Triple-A baseball's Round Rock Express and every other minor league baseball team in Texas.
The key sponsorship driver: Raising the profile of the Farm Bureau Insurance brand. While most consumers are aware of Farm Bureau, many are not aware the company sells insurance to consumers outside the agricultural community.
"We have a pretty big brand identity issue. Most people think Farm Bureau is a government organization that not relevant to their life. We're constantly trying to overcome that challenge," said Matt Smith, director of marketing & change strategy for Virginia Farm Bureau.
Consumers must pay a $40 annual membership fee to purchase Farm Bureau insurance products, he said.
The role of sponsorship has grown in importance for Virginia State Farm over the past several years as a result of the increasingly competitive insurance category, Smith said.
"State Farm, Geico and other companies are spending millions of dollars on TV and radio, which has become a cluttered space. We can't cut through the clutter with our marketing budget, so sponsorship and special events have become a more viable solution."
In addition to gaining visibility, Virginia Farm Bureau uses sponsorship to accomplish the following objectives:
Reach young consumers. With the majority of Farm Bureau customers over the age of 50, the organization is using live music, college athletics and other events to reach younger audiences.
Acquire leads. Virginia Farm Bureau typically activates sponsorship with online ticket sweeps, a platform it uses to acquire leads for follow-up marketing. For example, the organization is activating Farm Bureau Live with a sweeps dangling two gold circle passes, VIP club passes and parking to one concert. Consumers enter the contest at FarmBureauLive.com.
In addition to tickets, the company frequently tries to include behind-the-scene experiences in its sweepstakes. For example, Virginia Farm Bureau has activated its Virginia Tech partnership with a sweepstakes offering tickets to a home football game, an autographed lunch pail and the opportunity to attend pre-game events.
"We try to create experiences you can't get any other way," said Smith.
Virginia Farm Bureau also promotes sweepstakes and other promotions on its Facebook page, he added.
Drive branch traffic. Virginia Farm Bureau also looks for opportunities to drive branch traffic. For example, the nonprofit leveraged its branding on Virginia Tech athletic tickets with a cross-promotion with McDonald's Corp. that offered a coupon for a free cheeseburger to fans that brought a ticket stub to one of its 113 offices.
"If fans visit our offices, they'll remember us," said Smith.
Gain member perks. In addition to building visibility and leads for its insurance products, the organization also uses sponsorship to access perks that it can share with members.
Virginia Farm Bureau will activate Farm Bureau Live by offering members 1,000 tickets to seven shows. The organization will distribute the tickets on a first come, first served basis, Smith said.
The office also offers members tickets to minor league baseball games, college basketball games and other sponsored events, added Paul Sinkmon, president of Knox Sports Marketing, a sponsorship consultancy that helps Virginia Farm Bureau negotiate and activate deals.
Other States Grow Their Sponsorship Portfolios
In addition to Virginia, other state Farm Bureau offices are increasingly adding sponsorship to their marketing mix.
The increased activity is driven in part by Smith, who shares sponsorship best practices with associates in other state offices. That networking has prompted Farm Bureau offices in Florida, South Carolina and Texas to retain Knox Sports Marketing for assistance.
Most offices focus on college athletics, state fairs and other types of community events. For example, Georgia Farm Bureau Georgia sponsors Macon, Georgia's Int'l Cherry Blossom Festival; Idaho Farm Bureau sponsors Boise State University athletics; while Farm Bureau Tennessee sponsors the Tennessee State Fair.
(Source: IEG Sponsorship Report, 02/28/11)
How You Can Make Money:
This article makes for a terrific sponsorship sales lead, but also offers a wonderful sales tip: When looking for sponsors, look beyond the top-tier brand names. Brainstorm the top 10 names in a category (i.e., for pet-related events, everyone thinks "Purina!" right away). Once you have your Top 10 written down, stir your gray matter to come up with another 10 companies...and then another 10. The companies in numbers 11-30 are often just waiting for the right sponsorship opportunity to come along. I knew of a Fishing event seller who bypassed all the boat and rod-and-tackle brands and contacted Igloo. Based on the premise that every fisherman wants a cooler filled with beer on the boat, he landed a "whale" of a sponsorship contract. (Ok, I apologize for the terrible pun...)
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