As radio stations, newspapers and other types of traditional media outlets struggle to find the right business and revenue models to compete with new media, partnerships with event, sports, cause and other properties remain a key marketing and business-building element.

Pressured by growing competition for audiences and advertisers from the Internet and other digital media sources, traditional media–always extremely active sponsors–have come to rely even more on sponsorship.

According to IEG’s annual property survey, a significantly greater percentage of properties reported sponsorship from radio, newspaper, TV and magazine sponsors in ’07 than in the two previous years (see table).

At the top of each medium’s list of sponsorship objectives: securing new dollars from advertisers and marketers by offering benefits that extend beyond the printed page or broadcast time. This allows them to tap sponsorship and other nontraditional marketing budgets, which are growing at a faster rate than traditional advertising dollars.

Further down the priority scale, but still important for traditional media, is the use of sponsorship to promote and demonstrate that new information, features, personalities and other content is relevant and compelling, making the case that readers and viewers should stay with or come back to familiar sources of news and entertainment.

Below, IEG SR offers insights into the four most active media categories: radio, newspapers, TV stations and magazines.

Radio
With revenue from the sale of ad spots continuing to slowly shrink, stations are in need of alternative income streams.

Like other media outlets, radio stations use sponsorship to access benefits so they can offer advertisers the integrated marketing packages they are interested in.

“One of the main things we look for is the opportunity to bring in advertisers,” said Kevin Russell, interactive sales manager with station owner Greater Media, Inc.’s two-station Charlotte, N.C. cluster. “So many of our clients are looking for 360-degree marketing programs that provide multiple touchpoints including experiential marketing, broadcast, interactive and print.”

For example, Greater Media leveraged WLNK-FM’s new partnership with Charlotte’s Alive After Five after-work concert series to secure a deal with SunCom Wireless, Inc. The service provider receives a package that includes on-site exposure, mention in radio promos, Web site links and mention in the station’s listener email blasts.

Sellers should not lead with signage and other opportunities for the media partner to promote itself, Russell cautioned. “Properties can make a much stronger case to a potential radio station partner if they can bring something to the equation from the revenue side,” he said, adding that nontraditional or non-spot revenue is the only income area where radio stations are seeing growth.

Those in the radio industry note a recent development based on changing radio economics that is of great interest to rightsholders: stations moving away from creating their own events in favor of sponsoring third-party properties. For many years, the trend was in the other direction, as stations looked to control all aspects of events and retain all sponsorship, ticket and other revenue.

“Many stations are cutting back on events they create on their own, lessening the competition for sponsor dollars in the market,” said Elaine Clark, general manager with Revenue Development Systems, Inc., a non-spot revenue consultancy.

To access assets through sponsorship, radio stations typically structure deals in one of three ways:

• The station secures the right to sell and retain sponsorship revenue from several categories
• The station receives the right above, and also receives a cut of ticket and/or concession sales
• The station secures the right to sell all sponsorship categories and shares revenue from those sales with the property.

Newspapers
Perhaps no medium has been as negatively impacted by new media as newspapers, causing a fundamental shift in papers’ approach to marketing, including sponsorship.

Take Tribune Co.’s Chicago Tribune. While the paper once used sponsorship to compete for reader attention and loyalty against its daily rival Chicago Sun-Times, its goal for the medium now is to provide a compelling offer to advertisers and boost its bottom line.

“Everything has completely changed, and it’s not newspaper versus newspaper anymore. We’re fighting a much bigger battle with the Web and other types of nontraditional media,” said Tom Garritano, the Tribune’s director of sponsorships and events.

His colleague at Tribune Co.’s largest paper faces a similar situation. “We’re finding that print alone doesn’t meet the goals of some advertisers; they want one-on-one interactive experiences,” said Bill Benjamin, director of strategic partnerships and events for Tribune Co. subsidiary Los Angeles Times Media Group.

To help stem the tide of advertisers leaving for those other shores, newspapers are playing the same game as other traditional media: Link with properties for access to benefits.

For example, the Tribune is negotiating a deal with Chicago’s Navy Pier attraction that includes the right to pass through on-site booth space to newspaper advertisers, Garritano said. Similarly, the paper leverages its sponsorship of The Taubman Co.’s Woodfield mall in Schaumburg, Ill. to gain pass-through display rights for automobile dealerships and other companies in the mall’s main concourse, he added.

In addition to interactive benefits, the Los Angeles Times tries to leverage sponsored properties to create advertorial inserts–which remain more popular with advertisers than run-of-press ads in the regular sections of the paper.

For example, the Times leveraged its tie to L.A.’s Project7ten green home showcase to produce a supplement and sell advertising to sponsor Ford Motor Co. The supplement also was used as an event program, Benjamin said.

After meeting the needs of advertisers, both Tribune Co. papers–like many other dailies–also use sponsorship to promote their content offerings to readers.

Of particular importance is touting new online and digital offerings. The Tribune leverages its tie to minor league baseball’s Single A Kane County Cougars to promote its TribLocal.com site, which features local community news for individual western and southern Chicago suburbs. The team is located in the far western suburb of Geneva, Ill.

“Instead of going out there with a Tribune message, we’re doing something that is much more targeted,” said Garritano.

The Tribune also is developing a promotion around its sponsorship of the MLB Chicago White Sox that will allow attendees to use their mobile phones to receive exclusive content from reporters covering the game. The content will be branded under the ChicagoTribune.com and Chicago Tribune Mobile Edition banners, Garritano said.

Sponsorship also is used to tout more traditional content. For example, the Times last year sponsored the LA Fashion Awards to promote a new fashion section in the paper.

The Tribune also leverages sponsorships–including its deal with the MLB Chicago Cubs–to gain on-site sales rights for subscription sales, Garritano added.

TV Stations
Local TV stations, while not in as severe an ad revenue crunch as other media, nevertheless look for opportunities to court new advertisers through sponsorship, as well as highlight their hometown positioning in the wake of competition for viewers from cable channels.

Allbritton Communications Co.’s WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., leverages its sponsorship of the Marine Corps Marathon to gain new advertising prospects.

The station accomplishes that task by offering select ad inventory at reduced rates, which the marathon can bundle into sponsorship packages.

The event has the leeway to split the advertising time and retain some for event promotion. For example, it can divide a 30-second spot into two 15-second spots, one for the sponsor, and the other for the event, said Marc Goldman, the marathon’s manager of marketing and sponsorship.

To showcase its community involvement, the station has produced a 12-minute event-themed broadcast featuring one of its news anchors sharing information on the marathon for runners and participants. The marathon plays the broadcast at its expo and in its shuttle buses.

On-air personnel also make appearances at the event.

Magazines
In their pursuit of new advertising and marketing dollars, magazines differ from their media brethren in one respect: They are more likely to create their own events, thus creating competition while also still sponsoring traditional properties.

For example, New York Media Holdings, LLC in March launched New York Events, a division that creates and sells consumer and trade events. The company publishes New York, New York Look and New York Weddings magazines.

The goal: “To leverage the power of the New York brand to tap into the growing budgets that companies have specifically allocated towards sponsorship,” said Sona Hacherian, executive director of creative and marketing services, who oversees the division.

New York Media will use the events to lure companies with whom it is not doing business. The company will then try to upsell those companies on advertising packages, Hacherian said.

The division plans to produce several events this year, including September’s New York Culinary Experience and December’s New York KidShop one-day shopping event.

New York also sponsors third-party properties, including City Harvest’s Skip Lunch Fight Hunger program and the Gen Art Film Festival.

The company signs in-kind deals by providing pages in exchange for pass-through rights and on-site visibility, Hacherian said.