Bidding on Sponsorship? A Very Bad Idea

I have a confession. I love eBay. Most recent score: Outdoor couch for about 75% off. Yay!

The thing is, I knew what I was getting. I had checked out the same style of couch in a shop, and the manufacturer would have made thousands of them, so one was as good as the other. It was a commodity – a lovely, comfy commodity – and the perfect thing to auction.

Which brings me to a terrible thing to auction: Sponsorship.

When the first announcement for one of the new sponsorship bidding websites hit my inbox, my gut reaction was a big, fat “uh oh”. After decades of diligent work, shifting sponsorship away from being a commodity and into the sophisticated, highly customised marketing media it is, we’re being betrayed from within. Okay, maybe “betrayed” is the wrong word, as it implies intent, but either way, this is a very bad idea.

With best practice sponsorship, there is a collaborative process for offer development. It starts with the sponsorship seeker researching brand needs and discussing those needs with the sponsor. Only then is the sponsorship seeker ready to create a sponsorship offer, which should be anchored on creative leverage ideas developed specifically for that sponsor. (For more on this process, see “Don’t Send Another Sponsorship Proposal Until You Read This”.)

How, exactly, do you auction that?? You simply can’t. The only way you would be able to auction a sponsorship is if you dialled back time oh, about 20 years, and put together some old school offer made up of the world’s most uninspired benefits: Logos on things, tickets to things, some kind of hospitality, and some kind of official designation.

Sponsors, don’t take part in sponsorship bidding unless it is for one very discrete benefit, like a hospitality package or exclusive sales rights at an event (eg, beer pourage). If you are after a true sponsorship – something you can leverage into a multi-faceted result for your brand – you won’t get what you need from a commoditised package.

Sponsorship seekers, I know times have been tough (but thankfully improving), and it’s tempting to try everything you can to sell the sponsorships you have. Please, take this on board: The best thing you can do to hear “yes” more often and to increase your value to sponsors is to offer highly customised packages based on bespoke leverage ideas. THAT will set you apart. THAT will get a sponsor’s attention. Sponsorship bidding sites will not.

For those of you running, or contemplating starting, as sponsorship bidding site, there is no harm intended by any of this. But, as sponsor expectations and accountability continue to rise at a steep rate, what you’re doing is counterproductive. Sponsorship seekers will not become more successful by being less strategic and responsive to sponsor needs.

© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.

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