Corporate support rises for Dublin Irish Festival

The Columbus Dispatch – July 31, 2002

In a time when the tough economy has forced many corporations to rethink their event sponsorships, the Dublin Irish Festival is doing just fine.

The festival’s corporate backers have risen this year, to 24 sponsors from 20 last year. That translates into $162,750 in donations of cash and products, services and volunteer support this year compared with $130,000 in 2001.

“Not everybody is reporting increases. It indicates they must be doing something right,” said Jim Andrews, editorial director at Chicago-based IEG, Inc., publisher of the “IEG Sponsorship Report,” which tracks sponsorship trends.

Dublin festival organizers have secured the backing of national corporations — the likes of Pepsi, Verizon Wireless and Killian’s Irish Red — with a sprinkling of area companies, from Cardinal Health to Hoggy’s Restaurants.

Andrews said corporate sponsorships can be tougher to come by, as companies are seeking to gain the greatest possible return on their investments. Since Sept. 11, he said, some are focusing on community-based events, such as the Dublin Irish Festival. Their goal is to target potential customers while sending the message that they are committed to the things that are important to the community.

“There are a number of companies out there that want to do more grass-roots efforts, almost one-on-one marketing with consumers,” Andrews said. “These kinds of sponsorships are a kinder and gentler way of marketing.”

Although the Dublin Irish Festival has a local flavor attractive to corporations, it has enhanced its ability to gain corporate support by tapping into research. In recent years, the festival has hired Saperstein Associates, a Columbus research company, to gather demographic information from event visitors.

Saperstein Associates will staff the exits Friday through Sunday and interview hundreds of festival visitors, asking them to provide information on their ages, income levels, sponsor recall and impressions of events. The data gathered during the $2,500 project will be used, in part, to help retain and attract sponsors.

Beth Anne Chesnes, Dublin community-relations specialist in charge of sponsorships, said the information has proved valuable in convincing companies that sponsorship is worthwhile.

“This helps potential sponsors know if this is absolutely the audience they want to reach,” she said.

Among the findings from last year’s exit interviews: 69 percent of visitors are 35 or older; 61 percent earn in excess of $60,000, with 24 percent of those making more than $100,000; 80 percent recalled sponsors, and 89 percent of those indicated they likely would support sponsors’ businesses.

“This event hits more of our demographic group,” said Juli Varsanyi, marketing director for Columbus-based Hoggy’s Restaurants, a first-time sponsor.

Varsanyi said Hoggy’s, which has six restaurants in central Ohio, is a growing company that views ties to the community as an important part of its expansion and marketing efforts.

“Budgetwise, this made sense,” she said.

Jill Rako, central Ohio marketing manager for KeyCorp, which includes McDonald Investments, said the company has been a continuing supporter of the Irish festival because it is in a targeted market.

“Our strategy has been to look at the micromarkets,” Rako said. “Our largest growth has been in the northern quadrant. That clearly would be Dublin.”

Sponsorships range from financial backing of the festival itself to support of individual attractions. The cost of sponsorship varies.