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Sponsorships Do your business some good by sponsoring radio or TV programs that draw your target customers.

By Kathy J. Kobliski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What It Is:
An advertising method that gives your business credit for bringing entire programs, or specific reports, to the public on radio and television

Appropriate For:
Any business

Typical Cost:
$500 to $3,000 per week for reports; $1,500 - $4 million for complete programs

How It Works:
Did that $4 million figure shock you?. Don't worry: With such a wide price range, you have a huge selection of sponsorship opportunities to choose from--and some you'll actually be able to afford. Unless you're in a league with the likes of the regular Super Bowl sponsors, you won't be looking at anything remotely near that price tag.

Radio and TV stations all have sponsorships available for news, sports, traffic and weather reports. You buy them on a regular schedule, like Monday through Friday or, if your budget's small, Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday. Like all advertising formats, the more you can do, the faster your message gets to your customers.

Sponsorships are a great way to go for two reasons: First, you're buying a smaller number of commercials per day than you would with a regular nonsponsoring schedule, and these reports are run in excellent time slots to provide audiences with critical information, so you're not going to get any crummy placements. And second, audiences tend to hear your sponsoring message because they're in a listening mode--that is, they're focused on the special report and will most likely hear your message more clearly than if it had just popped up between songs.

With a sponsorship, your company name will be given either before or after the report. For example: "This traffic report (is being/has been) brought to you by XYZ Auto Care." These spoken "billboards" are live rather than taped, and if the on-air personality has had a good experience with your company, you can often get extended coverage because he or she will speak with conviction, sound happy or excited, and might even add in information about his or her satisfaction with your products and/or services.

To encourage this "extra" coverage, you could try providing the on-air personalities with samples of your products for their own personal use. If your company sells food, for example, you can provide the radio hosts with a free meal at your restaurant, let them pick up a complimentary dozen donuts, or provide them with a sample of whatever it is you serve so they can speak from personal experience when they broadcast your sponsored report. This ploy works for many types of lower-ticket items. (Don't try and deliver a washing machine to the station, but you get the drift.)

Then, in addition to the quick sponsorship credit, you'll also get to run a commercial, either adjacent to the report or within a half hour of it. The length of the commercial will vary, from 10 seconds to a full 30-second spot on television and 10 seconds to a full 60-second spot on radio.

Sponsoring news, traffic and weather reports are most likely going to be less expensive than sponsoring sports playoffs, but if the audience is there and it's the one you need to reach, consider this more expensive program. Often these sponsorships will include a segment where your business is mentioned, along with the other sponsors, during a break, and you'll receive one commercial per hour, or a specific number of commercials during the game. Sports show sponsorships are often sold based on a number of games, but sometimes you can buy into just one if you can't afford the whole enchilada. Remember, these have a short life span, while the ongoing weather, traffic and news--and regular sports reporting--go on all year long.

If you like the idea of TV sponsorships but want more coverage than what a segment can provide, you might consider approaching PBS stations, which offer program-length sponsorships. In fact, that's the only way you can advertise on these stations. You'll reach the right target audience by choosing the programs carefully, be it Sesame Street, Antiques Roadshow or any of the other public TV programs available.

Like any other form of advertising, you have to use it, not just try it. Sponsoring a one-time sporting event won't get you the publicity you're seeking. You really need to stick with it for at least 13 weeks to see some successful rate of return. And be sure you choose the programming based on reaching your audience, not because you personally like the show or the station. Yes, it's fun to see or hear your own commercials, but don't choose your favorite shows unless you're typical of your own best customer.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder of Silent Partner Advertisingin Syracuse, New York. She is also the author of Advertising Without an Agency Made Easy.

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