Technology is injecting new life into the taxi category.

The growing number of companies making cell phone apps for hailing taxis is creating new opportunities for rigthsholders.

Among recent deals, Hailo last month sponsored Tomorrow Never Knows, a five-day music festival that took place at five clubs in Chicago. The Jan. 16-20 fest featured Bear In Heaven, Born Ruffians and other acts.

In addition, Hailo in 2012 sponsored London’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The company—whose headquarters is based on a ship moored on the Thames river—activated the sponsorship with three “taxi gardens” inspired by bars located in the Soho entertainment district.

And future deals could be in store in Chicago and other markets.

“We will be sponsoring many, many more events,” said John Thompson, Hailo executive vice president and general manager of the Chicago market, which launched service in November 2012. “We want to be affiliated with events that people need to get to, which is pretty much every event.”

Once downloaded on an iPhone or Android phone, consumers can use Hailo to hail a licensed taxi with two taps on their mobile device. The app sends the message to the closest taxi in the Hailo network.

The company focuses on events that take place late at night, during inclement weather or otherwise have a high demand for taxi service.

“We try to go everywhere there is a need for cabs,” said Thompson.

Hailo typically pays for sponsorships with in-kind services. For example, the company gave musicians and the press a promotional code that offered free rides during the Tomorrow Never Knows fest.

The company also offered attendees a $5 discount on their first ride using the Hailo service. The company promoted the offer through the festival’s media buy, Web site, blog posts and other consumer outreach initiatives.

The number of redemptions exceeded expectations, said Thompson. “We were pleasantly surprised by the number of people who used it.”

In addition to Chicago and London, Hailo offers service in Boston, Dublin and Toronto. The company next month will launch in New York City followed by Tokyo, Barcelona, Madrid and Washington, D.C. this spring.  

Other taxi apps include Flywheel, Lyft, myTaxi and Taxi Magic.

From The New To the Old: Taxi Companies  
Although they may not have the glitz associated with smart phone apps, taxi companies also represent a prime sponsorship target.

Below, three factors to consider when pitching the taxi category:  

Be prepared for In-kind deals. Like other segments of the transportation industry, taxi companies typically look for in-kind deals.

Case in point: Yellow Cab Co. of Los Angles provides in-kind services to pay for its sponsorship of Outfest Los Angeles: The LGBT Film Festival.

“I approached Yellow Cab about becoming a sponsor in the form of providing taxi vouchers for us to pass on to filmmakers. The vouchers allowed the filmmakers to travel without having to rent a car,” said Kevin Connell, Outfest’s director of corporate relations & strategic partnerships.

The partnership also helps promote responsible drinking, and perhaps more importantly, potential lawsuits.  

“It frees us up from any liability,” said Connell.

In Texas, Yellow Cab Houston provides the Meinke Car Care Bowl $5,000 worth of travel vouchers. The bowl game distributes the vouchers to players and coaches during their stay in Houston.

The Greater Houston Transportation Co.—which does business as Yellow Cab Houston—signed a four-year partnership with the bowl game in 2011.

Look for promotional support. In addition to providing transportation, taxi companies can help promote teams and events through ads on vehicles.

For example, the Greater Austin Transportation Co. kicked off its partnership with the USL Austin Aztex by promoting the team on 45 vehicles. The company operates under the Yellow Cab brand.

Provide fundraising overlays. Clean Air Cab activated Susan G. Komen for the Cure by donating $1 to the nonprofit for every fare over a one-year period.

The company—which bills itself as Arizona’s first completely carbon neutral taxi service—sponsors Komen’s Phoenix affiliate. The taxi company touts Komen on the vehicle and distributes educational materials inside the cab.

Clean Air Cab has run similar promotions with Arizona State University and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.