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One of the most intimidating components of local, grassroots marketing is its variability. Whether you’re a local, regional or national brand, finding the time and budget to build out marketing strategies for everything from 5K events to business associations is an overwhelming task. But there is scalability in verticals that exist within local ecosystems.

There is a difference between local engagement that’s simply there and local engagement that grabs attention: a booth with pamphlets at a family event versus a booth with balloons and coloring books. And this form of engagement is much easier to reach when focused on a single local vertical.

By focusing on a specific type of event or organization, going local, at scale, can include creative execution, too. And this is when sponsorships grow from tactics to channels.

Nissan’s Pride Parades

Nissan found that local niche via Pride Parades. Backing 11 such events in 2017, often as the presenting sponsor, Nissan announced these sponsorships alongside a mention of their commitment to diversity. Greg Cason, the leader of Nissan’s internal LGBTQ alliance, told a local paper that he worked with his colleagues in Nissan’s operations and marketing departments to build out ROI for these sponsorships.

Film festivals & 5Ks

Via our ZipSprout database, we’re able to pull event “thank you to our sponsors” pages to determine the most frequently appearing domains, after social networks and hosting websites (which are often false positives). Among the 500+ film festivals in the ZipSprout database, the most common sponsors are and Stella Artois.

Inktip, a site that introduces screenwriters and producers, seems like an obvious fit for this crowd. Not surprisingly, Inktip doesn’t even make a drop (so to speak) on our vertical-neutral list of frequent sponsors. Stella ranks at around 50 on our complete list; this brand has made it a point to be seen in the film scene.

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When we looked at races — after removing social networks and race signup websites — three brands stood out: Clif Bar, Gatorade and Cigna insurance. Again, these sponsorships aren’t haphazard; Clif Bar and Cigna both have active teams that visit races across the US and view running events as an integral part of their marketing program. Clif Bar’s team includes pacers, who help runners stay on track during the course.

Local verticals at a glance

Not every brand can afford to sponsor Cannes or the Boston Marathon. But there are other ways to go local, via verticals. At ZipSprout, we’ve categorized more than 25,000 local sponsorship opportunities, finding that most fall into the following:


  • Arts Event
  • Book Reading
  • Concert
  • Dance Recital
  • Museum/Gallery Exhibit Opening
  • Poetry Reading
  • Storytelling
  • Theatre
  • Auction
  • Awards Ceremony
  • Community Aid
  • Area Cleanup (park, beach, highway, etc.)
  • Conference
  • Expo/Trade Show
  • Fair
  • Craft Fair
  • Festival
    • Renaissance Festival
    • Film Festival
  • Music
  • Food/Drink Related Event
    • Breakfast
    • Brunch
    • Clubbing/Bar Crawl
    • Dinner
    • Drinks/Cocktails
    • Food Tasting
    • Lunch
  • Meeting
  • Parade
  • Party
  • Physical Exercise Event
    • Bicycle
    • Race
    • Golf
    • Tournament
  • Show
    • Air or Boat show
    • Car Show
    • Comedy Show
    • Fashion Show
    • Fireworks

Local Organization-Specific

  • Advocacy Group (social justice, “rights for ___”, etc.)
  • Association
    • Alumni Association
    • Chamber of Commerce
    • Civic Association
    • Homeowners Association (HOA)
    • Parent/Teacher
    • Professional Association
    • Sports Team/Club/League
  • Educational Organization
    • Charter School, Organization within a Charter School
    • Private School, Organization within a Private School
    • Public School, or Organization within a Public School
  • Event Venue/Events Company
  • For-Profit Business (not an events company)
  • Local Government
    • Parks & Rec Dept.
    • Public Library
  • Local Journalistic Organization
    • Blog
    • For-Profit Media Publication
    • Nonprofit Media Publication
  • Organization for the Arts
    • Museum
    • Music Ensemble
    • Theatre Group
  • Service-Oriented Organization
    • Animal Shelter
    • Green/Eco-Friendly Project
    • Homeless Shelter
    • Poverty Aid
    • Youth Development
  • Sports Team (non-school related)
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There are at least 75 ways to sponsor locally. And if we get more into the details (“hockey team” versus “sports team”), the variations grow into the thousands.

Tips for vertically oriented sponsorships

1. There doesn’t have to be an obvious link between what you’re selling and what you’re sponsoring. 

Clif Bars and races — that’s a pretty clear jump. But Stella and film fests — that’s more about demographics and branding than mission. Sometimes the best sponsorship vertical is the one where target customers live.

2. You don’t have to sponsor every. Single. Opportunity. 

Nissan worked with 11 pride parades in 2017. That’s significant, but it’s certainly not the whole map. Instead, the brand focused on prominence at a few key events. Even a sponsorship campaign that includes a select few opportunities is notable and worth mention.

3. Sponsorship verticals can be a cross-channel campaign. 

Aligning sponsorships gives content and social teams additional ways to connect. For example, Cigna posts about racing and race-prep frequently on Facebook.

cigna facebook

When at-scale local marketing can be centered around a theme, there is a much larger opportunity for PR, social and content campaigns.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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