Bridgehampton Grows with the Hampton Classic
Kevin O’Connor, CEO of Bridgehampton Bank, a $3.7 billion financial services organization with 40 locations in New York, has been a sponsor of the Hampton Classic since 2008, the first full year O’Connor became CEO. The end-of-summer eight-day equestrian event, which takes place on Long Island, 100 miles east of Manhattan, doesn’t draw a huge audience. However it’s the quality of the audience that attracts sponsors. Event attendees, including equestrians, their families and guests of sponsors, include many business owners, CEOs and influential celebrities.
This regional event gives O’Connor the opportunity to engage customers, prospects, directors and employees one-on-one. He makes the most of the visibility and positioning that comes with the sponsorship. Their participation year after year, in growing numbers, testifies to their enjoying the experience, O’Connor said.
O’Connor got involved because the bank—historically a strong local financial institution—had begun repositioning itself as a regional bank and commercial lender serving “Manhattan to Montauk,” as he puts it. The Hampton Classic’s demographics, which boast a large number of high net-worth, Manhattan-based individuals who summer or visit in the Hamptons, synchronized with the bank’s growth strategy.
Bridgehampton’s first sponsorship effort attracted about 65 guests to its chalet for the event’s championship finale. That number has gone up every year, O’Connor said. This year, he and his staff entertained more than 200 people, many of them guests of branch heads and business-development managers. In addition to providing coveted views of the jumps taking place just yards away, the chalet offers prime networking opportunities for guests as well.
“The Hampton Classic is a good match with our brand image,” O’Connor said. “It is an upscale event that ties together the cachet of the Hamptons with our efforts to build a community-based organization.” Like many long-term participants, O’Connor describes the annual week-long competition as a “community that comes together every year” where business people reconnect with old friends. “We have the wonderful annual opportunity to solidify relationships. I’m delighted that the welcome to our chalet has become a highly sought-after invitation. That’s because the personal connection is all important.”
How to Maximize your Sponsorship Opportunities
Shanette Barth Cohen, executive director of the Hampton Classic, offers CEOs 3 tips for creating more effective sponsorships.
1. Focus on demographics. “Find out from event organizers who will be attending the program.They should reflect the people you do business with. Learn about the different groups that will be present at the event, for example chief executives or their children, and how you can connect with each of the groups.”
2. Clarify your motives. “Focus on what you want the outcome to be” from sponsorship. “If you’re looking to connect with other CEOs or to launch a brand extension, ask the property to create a package for you.”
3. Differentiate yourself. “Look for ways to customize your package. Be creative. Consider tie-ins to other sponsors and create strategic partnerships that build new relationships.”
The best sponsorship packages connect your brand with your market in localized ways. It’s about people meeting, interacting and building personal connections. So while your business may span hundreds of markets, treating each event with an emphasis on local relationships in that particular market can maximize returns.