Don’t ask, “What kind of an event should we have for our corporate anniversary?”
The right question is, “What series of events can we create and/or sponsor to drive our corporate brand marketing objectives over the course of our yearlong anniversary celebration?”
Your organization’s anniversary, whether or not it’s a multiple of 25 years, is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to increase the strength of your brand. Anniversaries are about your organization’s brand.
Marketing sage, David F. D’Alessandro, entitled his book Brand Warfare, then entitled the first chapter: “Rule One: It’s The Brand, Stupid.” Marketing starts with your brand. That’s where your anniversary planning must begin as well.
Events can drive your brand
So start with an understanding of your brand, and then create or discover events that can help market your brand.
Make this easier by asking two additional questions,
Whom do we have to reach?
What do we want to communicate?
In other words, who are my audiences and what is my brand message?
Your multiple audiences could include employees and their families, your sales force, the community or communities in which you are headquartered and have offices, your board of directors, the financial community, the news media, state and federal regulators, suppliers whose businesses are dependent upon yours, and more obviously, customers and clients.
Decide what events are most appropriate for each group. Which groups can be combined? What will be the scale of the events? What funds are available from marketing budgets or elsewhere to drive this strategy?
Person-to-Person is critical
Whenever possible, events should involve face-to-face encounters because events are about building and nurturing relationships. Events can be activities you create yourself as well as activities others create that you sponsor.
I was fortunate to help create some powerful brand building programs for my company around sports sponsorships that increased corporate brand awareness and sales.
As a Major League Baseball sponsor, we provided our top sales people with the opportunity to play fantasy baseball games with former baseball greats such as Rich “Goose” Gossage, Howard Johnson, Jim Rice and Ozzie Smith.
Olympic gold medal figure skater Peggy Fleming provided on the spot commentary as she and our guests watched a live video feed of Olympic ice skating competition.
I literally sat on the coattails of Dr. Henry Kissinger, Former US Secretary of State, as we rode from the airport in a too-small town car. His first undertaking was to call and let his wife Nancy know he had arrived. At our meeting the next day, Dr. Kissinger provided valuable insight into China at a time our company was seeking to expand sales there.
Employees met and had their photos taken with Olympians including two-time gold medal winner Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic gold medal gymnast Shannon Miller, Olympic basketball star Rebecca Lobo and others who spoke to employee assemblies.
Each activity was about building the brand and was part of the company’s overall brand marketing plan and initiatives.
Both corporate and nonprofit organizations are similarly engaged in brand building initiatives. For its 125th anniversary, The Salvation Army draped an enormous banner over the entrance to its Greater New York Division headquarters in Manhattan and arranged a special lighting of the Empire State Building in The Army’s colors.
We helped the College of Nursing at the University of Rhode Island celebrate its 60th anniversary with a yearlong series of events under the theme “Preparing Nursing Leaders for 60 years.”
Match your target and your brand
Every year, companies sponsor sporting events and cultural events that match their target audiences with their brand marketing.
Sponsoring events offers a terrific opportunity to collaborate with organizations whose brand is compatible with yours. The leading source for sponsorship information, Sponsorship.com, lists over a dozen common reasons organizations sponsor events. The first three are brand related: increase brand loyalty, create awareness & visibility, change/reinforce image.
You will benefit from developing an event strategy to celebrate your organization’s anniversary over an extended period of a year or more because events drive brand. If they don’t drive your brand, don’t do them. Find or create events that will.
And one last story. As police with bomb-sniffing dogs surveyed the ballroom, former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher posed for photos with our sales people. Then, in that secured ballroom, she held our guests spellbound with her stories as sharpshooters kept guard from the spotlight towers.