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When ‘sponsorship’ isn’t sponsorship at all

01 Jun, 2020 Sponsorship

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.

Sponsorship can be the most effective form of marketing and marketing communication when handled well. It can become a nightmare when handled badly! The public relations literature hardly mentions sponsorship, partly because it may be considered more of a marketing responsibility than PR. However, many sponsorships are based largely on corporate communication objectives and are therefore a public relations responsibility. In fact, sponsorship is often one of the largest budget items in annual public relations plans.

Many people have only a vague idea of the meaning of the term ‘sponsorship’ in its commercial sense. They may have previously come across the generic meaning of a sponsor as a person who vouches for or is responsible for another person or thing. The word sponsor is derived from exactly the same word in Latin (sponsor), which means a person who guarantees the good faith of another person and who may act as surety on their behalf, ie they agree to be responsible for the debt or obligation of another person.

The modern commercial use of the term requires both the sponsorship giver as well as the receiver to treat the sponsorship as a business activity with measurable value in marketing or communication terms.

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About the author Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from

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