Sponsorship properties are in the enviable position of turning their trash into dollars–figuratively, if not literally.

Their methods for doing so range from cash and in-kind sponsorship from waste hauling and recycling companies, to tie-ins with government agencies charged with promoting and overseeing responsible solid waste management, to including on-site recycling efforts as sponsorable inventory that can help position corporate partners as environmentally sensitive.

Waste Management, Inc. Increases Sponsorship Spending
National and local sponsorship is playing a more prominent role in the marketing mix for North America’s largest environmental services company, Waste Management, Inc.

The company just kicked off a three-year partnership with the PGA Tour and has stepped up its NASCAR involvement with primary sponsorship of an MB2 Motorsports NASCAR Nextel Cup entry for 12 ’06 races and associate sponsorship of that entry and another of the team’s cars for the full season. WMI also is an official NASCAR promotional partner in the nontoxic waste removal services category.

The company, which provides trash hauling, recycling and other services for residential, commercial and municipal accounts, uses sponsorship in part for brand building. The company launched its first national consumer branding campaign in the fall of ’05.

“We are the largest player in the industry, but we’re still not a household name,” said Steve Neff, WMI’s vice president of strategic business development. “We’d like to get more brand recognition.”

In addition to building recognition as a category leader, the company uses sponsorship to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Secure business with properties and cosponsors
  • Gain hospitality opportunities for clients and prospects
  • Attract and retain employees through rewards programs
  • Underscore its commitment to diversity and inclusion in hiring and sourcing
“More than 100 Fortune 500 companies are involved in NASCAR; we want to develop business with those participants,” Neff said.

WMI will leverage its cosponsorship of MB2’s entry titled by the U.S. Army to build relations with the armed services branch, with which it already does business. It also participates in the Army’s NASCAR-themed high school outreach program to promote working in the industry.

Also around NASCAR, WMI sponsors the sanctioning body’s Drive for Diversity outreach program, entertains prospects and clients at races and runs employee incentive programs. Additionally, the company sponsors NASCAR tracks through partnerships with Int’l Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports, Inc.

WMI aligned with the PGA Tour in part due to the popularity of golf among corporate decision-makers, Neff said. The partnership confers exclusivity in the environmental waste services category, as well as hospitality opportunities and branding throughout PGA Tour assets.

In addition to its national ties, WMI sponsors local and regional events out of 56 market area offices, said Neff, who noted that the offices are charged with replicating the company’s corporate sponsorship objectives.

“It’s important for us to be involved in the community,” he said. “People will only trust us nationally if they trust us locally.”

The area offices sponsor hundreds of local and regional properties, including the AHL Milwaukee Admirals, NBA Memphis Grizzlies, NHL Columbus Blue Jackets and Rice University athletics.

WMI is by far the most active sponsor in the environmental services category. Other major players include Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Allied Waste Industries, Inc., a sponsor of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Services, Inc.

Plano, Texas-based Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc.–which specializes in parts washers, industrial waste clean-up and oil recycling and does not offer trash removal services–has official ties to NASCAR, as well as to many NASCAR, Champ Car, IRL and other motorsports organizations’ teams and tracks.

Potential Prospects: Solid Waste Authorities
Although they mostly operate as low-profile entities, government bodies created over the past few decades with a mission to reduce reliance on landfills might consider sponsoring to raise public awareness of recycling and safe disposal programs.

Case in point: The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio sponsors nearly every major property located in its Franklin County footprint, including the Center of Science and Industry, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, MLS Columbus Crew, NHL Columbus Blue Jackets, the Ohio State Fair and the Triple A Columbus Clippers.

Similarly, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Ill. sponsored the Waukegan Harbor Arts and Recreation Festival this past summer.

While they may not have the deepest budgets–SWACO, for example, is paying roughly $50,000 total to sponsor the Crew, Blue Jackets and Clippers–waste authorities can provide in-kind support.

For example, SWACO has provided the Crew with 40 recycling bins, a trash compactor and advice on running its recycling program. That has saved the team money, said Eric Olsavsky, the team’s assistant director of corporate sponsorship. “This is an untapped category that offers a lot of potential,” he said.

The partnership has benefited the team in several other ways. First, the team gained new inventory by offering branding on the recycling bins to Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Columbus, one of the team’s major sponsors.

Additionally, the recycling program helps position the team as environmentally conscious. “We want to be seen as a community steward. The program sheds a positive light on us,” Olsavsky said.

SWACO promotes recycling on site through public-address announcements, signage and other channels, said John Remy, the organization’s director of communications.

Properties interested in pitching solid waste authorities should contact their local city governments for contacts, Remy advised. Each authority is typically responsible for a county, he added, noting that Ohio has more than 50 such organizations.