Sponsorships and return on investment are tricky for any CFO to analyze. Truth is, the return isn't always about new business signed, the P&L statement and ROI. Through a sponsorship that's now in its seventh year, our company has discovered the ROI is truly the reality of the investment by way of the people impacted.
Six years ago, our company made the decision to sponsor the Indianapolis Colts. True, the Colts were a winning team, Super Bowl champs even, and "the team" to back with a sponsorship. Yet this sponsorship presented a unique opportunity to become title sponsor of a statewide campaign called Books for Youth, operated by the Indiana Department of Child Services.
When we sat down with the professionals who operate this project, we learned about a program that immediately captured our attention. Books for Youth provides 25 age-appropriate books in a Colts backpack to foster children throughout Indiana. These are children who often have very little, so 25 books is a lot. And as avid readers know, these books open up worlds through adventure, science fiction, fairy tales and more. The goal is to have backpacks for 10,000 foster kids in Indiana. As parents, we knew this was a worthy cause that needed help to meet its goal.
Our stipulation to signing was that we become part of the program in a hands-on capacity. We envisioned involving our customers by having Books for Youth events at client facilities where we could invite customers to join us. We also agreed to work with local community centers at their Indianapolis facilities. We even host an evening for our employees to meet the foster families and their foster children by passing out backpacks and seeing the sponsor investment in action. These events are fun. They include Colts in Motion, cheerleaders and mascot Blue with his P.R.I.D.E. youth development program.
We've even taken it a step further promoting a buy one and donate one backpack program. Blue has a special blue or pick backpack which Colts fans can purchase. We encourage anyone and everyone to buy a backpack and then one is matched via a donation to an Indiana foster child.
We were offered the opportunity to sponsor and take an active role in a game day book drive. These books are collected, sorted by age group, and stuffed in Colts backpacks for distribution to foster kids around Indiana.
All of these activities are now in place and this partnership continues with events planned statewide this summer, at Colts training camp and more.
So what’s the best part of this sponsorship? The kids and their foster families. We see their faces light up. We see the smiles on their faces. And we know our sponsorship creates a difference in someone's life. That has nothing to do with ROI and everything to do with our pride in the investment we’re making to help families and children, along with creating a love for reading, developing self-worth and giving these families a fun day.
It's true, there are intangible and ancillary benefits, including giving back to our community, getting customers and employees involved (the smiles on their faces have no ROI either), and making some great friendships throughout the state. And yes, in some way we hope this sponsorship will enhance awareness of our company in the Midwest.
But when renewal time comes, and we consider ROI, it's not the monetary version we consider. Our bottom line is that this charitable investment is about more than the bottom line. It's the smiles on the kids' faces, the camaraderie of our employees and the pride among our customers that makes us know and remember, successful companies that are allowed to give back, get back time and time again.
Steve Fugate is the CFO of Cargo Services, an Indianapolis- based freight forwarding company serving companies throughout the Midwest.
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