To acknowledge someone’s contribution to society is always important. It honours the achievements of passionate and hard-working individuals and gives inspiration to those who would follow their example. It is even more important to celebrate the achievements of visible minorities and immigrants, whose victories are not so easily won. But, it can also be a perfect opportunity for businesses to put their brand ‘on the map’ by either sponsoring, hosting, or attending an event.
The benefits of involving yourself in these events cannot be taken for granted. Cultural events are a great way to familiarise yourself and your business with a certain cultural community. “It’s so important for any community,” explains Honore Gbedze, editor at Afro News, whose publication just finished hosting the 5th year of the Sage Foundation Awards, which recognises excellence in our multicultural society. “It reminds us all how important it is to invest in our cultural communities,” says Gbedze. “And [awards like these] not only inspire people, but they elevate the profile of the entire country. After all, no matter where we come from, we’re all Canadians.”
Organizations that want to build relationships with various cultural communities can start the process with attendance and observation of a few cultural events. No matter what demographic you want to reach, there are events that target entire ethnic communities. This could also include cultural sub-segments, such as:
• Foreign-trained South Asian professionals
• Chinese business owners
• Asian sales and marketing professionals
• Chinese families of “astronaut husbands” (husbands who live and work overseas)
• Many more niche markets such as multicultural female entrepreneurs, youth organisations etc.
When at these celebratory and festive functions, mingle, talk to the hosts and guests, learn what things they value and carefully observe how they interact with one another. How do they greet each other? Do they mingle with same or opposite gender or with different generations? Whatever it may be, “astute marketers can use these cultural insights to build new and deeper community networks, expand their customer base and increased brand affinity”, explains Alisa Choi Darcy, founder of Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy. As a former Judging Committee member of DIVERSEcity’s Cultural Diversity Awards, she witnessed, first-hand, how cultural awareness can be successfully integrated into all pillars of an organization’s culture. “The benefits can be felt all the way from an HR perspective, through to a higher brand awareness and trust in the brand, even among those who are new in Canada,” she explains.
In fact, research has shown that consumer behaviour is highly influenced by the positive and negative experiences immigrants have in their first three years in the country. Marketers can help ensure their brands are trusted by becoming “familiar” with newly arrived and even established immigrant consumers. “By sponsoring cultural events, you have a great platform to positively and meaningfully connect with ethnic communities,” says Choi Darcy, “It provides the opportunity to engage with newcomers and established immigrants alike.”
Award ceremonies and similar events can also provide marketers with free demographic research. Better yet, it’s a time to make you — the face of your organization — as well as your business, a familiar name within that cultural community. It’s branding, but in a real, grass roots, visceral way.
This doesn’t mean you need to attend every multicultural awards gala and start furiously handing out business cards or pamphlets. This would be considered tacky in any culture, not to mention disrespectful. Nor should you organise an event to disguise a hidden sales pitch. People can often sniff out when you’re not being genuine and are pandering to a community just to get a sale. And that negative word-of-mouth will spread quickly within a community, especially in ethnic communities, where word-of-mouth advertising is often deemed genuine and true.
Instead, we suggest you attend a few cultural events throughout the year. See what’s already out there and how things are done. You’ll have a better idea of how to proceed when it comes to integrating into other cultural communities.
After all, sponsorship can do many wonderful things, such as:
• show a community that you value them and respect their cultural values and traditions
• welcome a community to do business with you
• provide an “ethnic face” to an organization that traditionally has been focused on the “mainstream” market
• increase brand loyalty through meaningful sponsorships that resonate with the culture
• strengthen, or differentiate, an existing brand image
• build corporate or product awareness, and maximize visibility
• celebrate your company’s successes and inspire your visible minority and non-visible minority employees
• increase employee retention by showing you care and respect cultural values and it is also a subtle way to draw talent from outside your normal recruitment channels
• sponsorship can even drive retail traffic and an increase in sales
After all, who doesn’t love a company that gives back to the community? And what better way to show that your organization embraces diversity than by sponsoring or hosting a cultural event? That’s why, this year, Drishti Magazine, a South-Asian focused magazine, will be hosting the first ever Drishti Awards, honouring members in the South Asian community who have contributed to society in various ways. There will be special acknowledgements for innovative and inspirational leaders in ten categories such as innovation in the arts, science and technology and their very special ‘Phoenix Award’, which celebrates the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. “These awards will also bring youth to the forefront,” explains Nawal Tandon from Drishti Magazine. “They’ll learn how wonderful it is to be an asset to the country. The [honorees] are role models. They have reached a certain level of success and can be an inspiration to young people.”
Corporate social responsibility is now considered ‘the norm’ for many businesses. After all, consumers love to know that the brands they use also care about them and their communities. “At the end of the day, sponsorship will always make your company more successful,” adds Gbedze. “There are so many businesses out there. People look and see what brands are giving back to local communities and that’s where they decide to spend their money.”
Not only does sponsorship enhance your company’s credibility, it can also serve to educate the public about your business. Have the public sample a new product or educate them about how to use your new service. With your sponsored event, you now have the perfect opportunity to spread the word about your brand.
To have a successful event, though, you will also need a culturally-minded marketer. This should be someone who is familiar with the target community. They can act as a brand ambassador, translator, and also as a liaison who can broach the cultural demographic you want to reach. They can help you host the event, promote it through targeted advertising, and more importantly, they can help you craft an event that will really showcase and highlight your business.
By Vanessa Vachet, business blogger at Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy
Reference article: “Why Do Companies Sponsor Charitable Events?” By Joanne Fritz, Nonprofit Charitable Orgs expert; About.com
Images: Courtesy of Afro News, the Sage Foundation, Drishti Magazine and Flickr Creative commons (top image)