As I observe the evolution of marketing and advertising, I am convinced that 'sponsorships' will become one of the most important ways for companies to gain and keep awareness among a target audience. Sponsorships take the pressue off a company to talk too much about itself (or theirselves, I guess). Your audience is interested in what you can do for them, but not in much else going on in the company. Unless your have employees who are particularly entertaining...if not, you can hire some entertainment by sponsoring a professional entertainer.
For instance, Hewlett-Packard is sponsoring the online airing of The Beautiful Life, a cancelled TV series produced by Ashton Kutcher. The really entertaining part is that HP is not promoting computers but a charity drive, and now the show's stars have to participate. Looks to me like a clever variety of product placement.
Hewlett-Packard is presuming that Kutcher and his supermodel stars will attract traffice, but Toyota's Scion brand is taking a different tact. They are helping their audience discover emerging artists in music and the visual arts, in keeping with their brand promise to help people express themselves. After sponsoring hundreds of performances and exhibitions, they have launched www.ScionAV.com to make sure their audience realizes they support many artists across many genres.
So Hewlett-Packard is 'borrowing fame' and Scion has its 'heart on its sleeve'--two ways you can use sponsorships to keep your market engaged.