When you’re a family ski and snowboard tour that relies on sponsors to fund your efforts, your success depends on your ability to help our sponsors achieve their goals. We’d like to share a few observations from our nearly 30 years of signage, sampling, and smiles.
Frank Tansey started the Vertical Challenge while he worked for PepsiCo as a way to provide added value for those mountains that committed to pouring Pepsi. The series of casual ski and snowboard races evolved into a family festival, one that we hope makes a difference in children’s lives by creating a positive environment in which staff can serve as mentors to participants and their families.
Frank now owns the VC, and it has added sponsors beyond PepsiCo.
Here are a few things we’ve done that we’ll try to continue.
Valuing The Bottom Line: If you don’t take an interest in your partners’ success, you won’t be considered a good investment for long. We’ve worked to come up with ways to leverage our ski industry knowledge and connections to help sponsors move product. We’ve had good luck with retail promotions in the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) space, contests to generate leads to sell automobiles, and loyalty rewards to push gasoline fill-ups.
Loyalty: A big reason companies invest in sponsorship to supplement traditional advertising is because it creates a bond beyond the sales message. With that in mind, we’ve tried to make sure our patrons know that sponsors make the tour possible. It’s probably obvious, because we don’t charge anything for the races, but credit to our participants for getting it big-time. 93% of survey respondents answered “yes” to this question: “If a company supports the Vertical Challenge, are you more likely to consider their product/service for future purchases (assuming price and quality are the same)?”
Cost Management: Helping sponsors save money where possible can be a differentiator. Some of that involves just simple maintenance of assets – if we can properly stow and store a sponsor banner in the offseason, that’s one less thing he or she has to buy for next year. And we put a system in place to train our crew to serve as brand ambassadors for our partners, so those companies don’t have to worry about staffing to run a sampling tent on the mountain.
We’ve made mistakes, too. We hope we’ve learned from them to make our sponsor service even better in the future.
Overpromising: We made an error when we promised a lead generation number we couldn’t deliver. In hindsight, we should have been more diligent about what we put in our proposal. While such numbers are always somewhat imprecise, this was a case where we should have better anticipated the results. Being up front with sponsors about what you can and can’t do is crucial to long-term relationships.
Doing A Favor: We decided to help a small company by comping them a booth for some events. When word got around to one of our other sponsors that they had paid for something somebody else got for free, they weren’t happy. The heart of the person who made the decision was in the right place, but in hindsight, we should have figured out another way to assist rather than compromising sponsor value.
Sponsoring a tour like ours is supposed to supply a good time along with meeting marketing goals.
Incorporating Partners: The more one can work sponsors into the fabric of one’s event, the better their connection with the audience. One way we do that is to incorporate sponsor products into the games we play with our young competitors. Maybe they have to carry an egg on a spoon in their mouths through a relay race. Or we’ve used sponsor beverage bottles to mark the course for a sledding challenge. That’s fun for the on-site audience, and we’re often also able to grab photos and video for social media added value, too.
Employees Like Winter Sports, Too: The Vertical Challenge can be used for internal as well as external uses. We’ve had sponsors set up special discount days for their employees in conjunction with a Vertical Challenge event. It’s a superb morale booster for the company and it creates a nice loyalty bump for us.
We’re always looking for new ways to make an impact for our partners while also enhancing the VC participant experience. Here are a couple of areas where we’ll look to work with our partners to customize the way they engage with our audience.
Storytelling: We’ve got some great stories of families being active together, kids learning new skills, and young people helping others. Today’s world offers so many digital ways to tell those stories and make sponsors a part of it. Every company needs compelling content and we’d like to leverage ours for the benefit of our partners.
On-site Interactives: The sporting world has seen incredible growth in the ways patrons can interact with an event they’re attending. We want to take some of the types of games you might see at an arena and bring them to life at our events. Technology has made it possible to customize on-screen activities and people are excited to interact with them on their mobile devices. And sponsors can customize them to their needs, too.
If you’d like to discuss any of this with us, please reach out any time!
Vertical Challenge Chief Marketing Officer