I had a very typical situation today that took an almost surreal turn. Last night, I was on television being interviewed about sponsorship. By the time I got home, I had an email from somebody who had seen me. He asked me to review his proposal and show it to any of my clients that might be pertinent. This is normal enough. I get this kind of email all the time.
I politely responded as I always respond: That I don’t take unsolicited proposals to my clients – it’s not my role. That’s true. Even if his proposal wasn’t abjectly awful – and it was – I still wouldn’t present it to my clients. That’s where it all got a little weird.
He emailed me “perplexed”. He couldn’t believe my attitude. How would I ever know what opportunities are “out there” if I don’t review and pass along unsolicited proposals? I responded “networking and research”. Not satisfied, he phoned me, and what a display of snarky self-righteousness that was.
It’s not that I can’t see the appeal of approaching corporate sponsors through agencies or consultants. We’re often more accessible than corporate decision-makers and you think we’ll be your advocate and march your proposal to the right person. The reality is totally different. We’re not your ally, and trying to sell through us is unlikely to net you the result you’re looking for.
So, in an effort to clarify why it’s a bad idea to send your proposal to consultant and agencies, I’ve outlined five reasons you shouldn’t.
You’re asking us to do your job for you
Selling sponsorship is hard work. There is no question about that. But I already have a job and I’m not going to do yours for you.
- You should be targeting the brands that are best matched.
- You should be doing your own research.
- You should be contacting the sponsor.
- You should be creating compelling business cases.
- You should be fully customising proposals, including bespoke leverage ideas.
By sending me your generic proposal, you’re asking me to do all of the most important parts of your sponsorship sales job for you.
It’s our reputation
You want me to take your proposal to my clients? Mate, they pay me for expert advice and I don’t know you. Why would I endorse what you’re offering?
Using your network is a great idea when selling sponsorship, but introducing you to a sponsor is a huge ask, and not something you should ask of someone who doesn’t know you and your track record well. Seeing me on television or following me on Twitter does not put me in that category.
You’re showcasing unsophistication
Great sponsorship seekers know the value of showcasing their target market and brand relevance to the decision-makers. They know that creating that business case, including leverage ideas that will help the sponsor achieve their specific goals, is a requirement of most significant sponsorship decisions.
Any strategy that involves a generic, often old-school and self-centred, proposal is one that shows unsophistication on the part of the sponsorship seekers. Consultants want their clients to work with great partners, and there are a lot of great options out there. We’re not going to champion an organisation that is broadcasting a lack of sophistication in giant neon letters. And the second you cop an attitude about how I owe it to my clients to bring them such a sensational opportunity, is the second I know you’d be a nightmare for my client to work with.
We don’t “represent” the clients
Consultants and agencies are generally behind-the-scenes operators. We offer advice and expertise and analysis that are in the best interest of the client, but we don’t represent the client. (To be fair, there is a minority of companies that outsource their sponsorship vetting process to agencies that represent them, but these people are gatekeepers, not your friends.)
If you submit a proposal to one of my clients, and they think it has some potential, there is every chance they will get me involved in the assessment and possibly negotiation. But, you don’t make that decision, they do.
Sending a proposal to a third party is a bad idea
Putting all the rest of this to the side, volunteering to put a third-party between you and the decision-maker is never a good idea. Go directly to the brand manager with a great, customised proposal. Don’t know the brand manager? Do your homework.
You’re not doing consultants and agencies a favour by sending them your proposal to distribute to their clientele, and you’re not doing yourself one, either. It may look like a shortcut, but there are no shortcuts. Nothing will replace learning the skills to develop offers and sell them, and nothing will replace hard work and diligence.
If you need a process, templates, etc, check out these resources:
- The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition
- Blog: 20+ Proposal Development Resources for Sponsorship Seekers (updated)
- Blog: 18+ Sponsorship Sales Resources for Sponsorship Seekers (updated)
- Video tutorial: Sponsorship Proposal Basics in About 10 Minutes