A few months ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Asking the wrong questions: Sponsorship by the numbers”. Ever since, I have had a steady stream of people requesting the questions sponsorship professionals should ask. So, I’ve now done a sponsorship SAQ (should-ask questions) for both sponsors and sponsorship seekers, covering the most important questions our industry tend to ignore.
Questions sponsors should ask, but usually don’t…
Why are we sponsoring this? Why are we sponsoring anything?
This is THE big question, and while many sponsors do ask it, most don’t really dig for the answer.
If you answer this question with anything having to do with the sponsorship itself, you’ve got it wrong. You aren’t sponsoring it for awareness. You aren’t sponsoring it because it’s a good cause. You aren’t sponsoring it because it’s a bargain. You aren’t sponsoring it because it’s iconic or prestigious or well-matched. You are sponsoring for only two reasons:
- To change people’s behaviours
- To change people’s perceptions
Everything, EVERYTHING you do with sponsorship – as a whole and individually – is about one or both of those things. If you can specify exactly what you are trying to change – all tying back to your overall brand or company objectives – suddenly, everything else will fall into place. You’ll know how to leverage your investments. You’ll know how to measure the results.
Do we have the resources to make the most of this investment?
When most people think of “resources”, they are really thinking “money”. Honestly, money is the least of your concerns, as it is possible to leverage sponsorship fantastically for far less money than you probably think (10-25% of the value of the fee, in most cases). Instead, you really need to think in terms of all of the resources you’re going to need:
- Lead time – Do you have the lead time to plan and implement a strong leverage plan?
- Human resources – Do you have the people and the hours to make the most of this investment?
- Buy-in – Do the stakeholders within your company see the potential? Are they keen to use it across what they do?
- Budget – Do you have (or can you access from other budgets) enough to make the investment and leverage it?
Does this sponsorship have the critical mass of care to leverage effectively?
This is another big question. A sponsorship doesn’t have to be huge to work, it has to have a critical mass of care and interest. Your target markets have to care, and if they care a lot, it’s a big opportunity. You will be able to do a lot with it, including extending the meaningful timeframe and the geographic footprint. On the other hand, if they’re indifferent, or they couldn’t give a rat’s bum, your leverage plan simply won’t work.
How do we engender more internal buy-in for our investments?
Buy-in is like a magic potion for sponsorship. It multiplies results, shortens required lead-times, amplifies creativity, and spotlights potential issues before they undo you. The problem is that you have to get the stakeholders on-side, and after decades of the typical sponsorship being not very good, there is often little understanding of the real power and potential of the medium.
The answer to this question will be different from one sponsor to another, but in my experience, it comes down to one or a combination of these things:
- Education – Hold a workshop and/or strategy session with someone who really understands best practice sponsorship and include a larger stakeholder group.
- Get input – They won’t be open to you if you don’t listen to them. Ask what they need. Ask what their perfect sponsorship would look like. Make them feel like they are heard and part of the process.
- Plant seeds – Distribute articles, blogs, case studies, and whatever else you can find that will get the light bulbs lit.
- Pick your targets – Within each business unit, there will probably be one or more decision-makers or major decision-influencers who are a bit more creative and open to new ideas. And nurture that person to fly the sponsorship flag for you.
How can we reflect the real value of our sponsorship investments?
Going back to the “why do we do this” question, the real value of your investment(s) can only be reflected by measuring changes in perceptions and behaviours. I’ve written reams on measurement in this blog, so I’m not going to repeat myself. Have a look through, and you should also check out my tutorial, “Sponsorship Measurement Basics in About 10 Minutes”. You’re welcome.
Questions sponsorship seekers should ask, but usually don’t…
Where is our real commercial value?
Many sponsorship seekers concentrate on getting sponsorship for the programs or events where there is a revenue shortfall. This really is folly, as is packaging the same old benefits because you always have.
Where a sponsor will see value may be very, very different than where you think it is. You need to figure out:
- What are your most commercially attractive properties? Sell, sell, sell these and use the excess to underwrite your less commercial programs.
- What are your most desirable benefits? Hint: It’s not visibility, tickets, or probably hospitality.
Two tools that can help you are…
- This blog: “Sponsorship Rule #1: Sell What Sells, Not What You Need Money For”
- This template: “Generic Inventory” (an inventory of everything you can sell around a property)
If I were the sponsor, why would I be interested in this sponsorship? What would I do with it?
This is THE question for sponsorship seekers. You need to get out of your headspace and into the specific sponsor’s that you’re targeting. What if you owned that company and could do anything? What would you do with it? How would you use it to change perceptions and behaviours? The answers to those questions will form the core premise of your offer. Everything else – including the highly customised benefits list – will be built from those big ideas.
You may want to see my tutorial, “Sponsorship Proposal Basics in About 10 Minutes” for more on this process.
How can we get our sponsors to leverage their investments better?
This is a big problem, but one that is not that difficult to solve. It’s going to take proactivity and creativity on your part, but one or more of the following four strategies should move most sponsors.
- Feed them great ideas – Do it in the proposal. Do it after the sale.
- Hold a leverage brainstorm session with them.
- Seek out case studies and feed them into the sponsors.
- Get your best sponsors to present case studies to the rest of your sponsors.
- Educate them (a great start would be to send them white paper, “Last Generation Sponsorship“)
If you have a sponsor who is simply not interested, take their money, keep trying, but resign yourself to the fact that they may eventually leave you because they’re not getting what they need from the sponsorship. It will be their own fault, but use the money while you’ve got it.
These are hard questions, but they are the questions that must be asked by sponsorship professionals if you want to get the most out of your efforts. Anything less and you’re letting yourself down.
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