PSJ Quarterly Progress Report
April 2009 Progress Report
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Sponsorship: Partnering in Prosperity
PSJ Highfields Winter Series Highlights
by Sally Kay
Sponsorship for many organizations is the lifeblood of their programs, services and their ability to give back to the communities in which they reside. The incentives, promotional opportunities and degrees of brand awareness can vary, but ultimately the goals of those entities that contribute their financial resources toward event sponsorship believe there is a return on their investment. With regards to brand image, consumers associate sponsorship at sporting events, i.e. horse shows, with a particular meaning or purpose. The meanings associated with these events are derived from their characteristics, i.e. professional status, venue, size, etc.) and individual consumers’ factors such as one’s past experiences with the event. Additionally, events can perform similarly to celebrity endorsers in the transfer of image to sponsoring brands. In other words, just as consumers associate a celebrity’s “meanings” with the brands they endorse, consumers may also associate a sporting event’s “meanings” with a sponsoring brand. Needless to say, if this image transfer process occurs, then brand managers considering sponsorship opportunities should not only explore brand awareness issues, but focus on the relationship between a sporting event’s image and the image/positioning goals for their brands. While it is possible that the directionality of the image transfer may move from brand to event rather than event to brand, this is less likely to occur when the event has a strong established image relative to the sponsoring brand. Further, since the primary focus of the spectator is typically on the activities of the sporting event rather than on the sponsors, the event's image is likely to be more salient in their mind, suggesting the image transfer process would move from event to brand.
With the 2009 Aiken Spring Classics (ASC) quickly approaching, the finishing touches on the myriad of activities are duly underway, many of which are sponsored. This year’s USEF “AA” rated events will be held over two weeks at Highfields: The Aiken Spring Classic Masters, April 15-19, 2009 and The Aiken Spring Classic Finale, April 22-26, 2009. According to Progressive Show Jumping’s (PSJ) Sponsorship Development Manager Courtney Disposti, the 2008 Aiken Spring Classic Horse Shows were a huge success with stalls at maximum sold-out capacity and exciting exhibitor parties held almost every day. “The local media took a huge interest in the horse shows and we were proud to be mentioned in the news nearly every day,” offered Courtney. “This year we are offering the opportunity for individuals, families, small and large businesses alike to be a part of the 2009 Aiken Spring Classic. We have four distinct levels of sponsorship, so there is sure to be an opportunity available for everyone.”
Oak Manor Saddlery has been working in conjunction with several major companies to secure sponsorships for the ASC for 3 years now. “Being a small business in town it is extremely important to support all the local venues because our success is so closely tied to the success of these competitions,” commented owner Tracey Murray. Tracey appreciates the fact that it is extremely expensive and risky for the producers of these competitions; therefore, they need as much financial support as possible. “Unfortunately our business alone is not strong enough to give the kind of support these competitions need, so we try to seek out the help of other larger horse oriented corporations looking for exposure in advertising on a regional and national level and we can all benefit each other.”
Even though there are significant financial commitments to execute these equestrian based events, their residual economic impact on Aiken County is far greater. Last year, PSJ conducted 18 hunter/jumper shows and averaged 227 entrants per event. Between meals, lodging, horse care and shopping, close to 8.2 billion dollars were generated. “When you think about the ASC, there are at least 600 competitors who also bring an average of 3 people per person with them which translates close to 2000 people in attendance from across the US,” offers Tracey. “That number doesn’t include the number of people living in the area who come to watch. Then factor in how many ‘horsey’ tourists come to visit Aiken at that time just to experience the ASC as well as Aiken’s other ‘horsey’ activities. Bottom line…there’s a whole lot of horse people in town and a whole lot of cost effective exposure for smart companies looking to reach them in one shot in an upscale environment.”
PSJ’s events and sponsors have also enabled them to give back to the community. “We were extremely pleased that the charities associated with the 2008 ASC met or exceeded their fundraising goals,” affirms Cathy Cram, co-owner of PSJ. “Every year our ASC is able to help several local charities, i.e. Child Advocacy Center, Aiken Land Conservancy and Women Beyond Cancer, raise funds to help meet their goals.” Cram adds that their calendar is filled again this year with activities to help these groups nurture those in need.
In an economically challenged business environment, Courtney believes that customer loyalty is perhaps the single most important key to success. “Sponsorship allows you to gain customer loyalty by reminding your customers that you are there for them and that you believe in the sport that they have dedicated such a big part of their lives. The generosity of our sponsors is what keeps us going. Tracey firmly agrees, “I think that sponsorship of PSJ has been key to our success here in Aiken.”
For more information on how you and/or your company can get involved with the sponsorship program, please contact Courtney Disposti at email@example.com or phone: (908) 625-9199.
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Economic challenges have impacted everyone to some degree; therefore, PSJ decided to expand its selection of winter horse shows “local to AA” in an effort to provide more opportunities for those who preferred to remain “closer to home.”
While golfers say that it never rains on a golf course, riders embrace a similar mentality. PSJ’s Winter Series endured Mother Nature’s mixed bag of tricks, i.e. warm and sunny, extreme cold, wind and rain, and of course the South’s infamous “wintry mix.” Despite the variable temperatures and intermittent wind chills, those who participated in the series believed them to be overall successful and appreciated the fact that the “show must go on.”
“Rick has done a great job at building up Highfields. It is one of the best stops of the year. I think the pizza party he has on Saturday evening is a great idea. I love the wash racks that are over by the double pole barns, it would be great if the one over near the other lone pole bar was concreted like the other one, it does get a bit muddy after a few horses have been washed. The weather is a bit out of our hands, but they do a good job and keeping the show rings in good shape and show comfortable.”
Jordan Burton ~ Clemson, SC
“I thought the PSJ shows we attended went really well. Especially considering the frigid temps and very strong winds we had the majority of the time, the rings went relatively quickly and smoothly, and finished at reasonable times every weekend. "
Kylie Nickles ~ Columbia, SC
"While I did not show on that circuit this winter, they usually do a great job on their shows in other places that I have attended!!"
Betty Oare ~ Warrenton, Virginia.
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