Most sponsorship proposals are total crap.
They are all about the sponsorship seeker, not taking the sponsor’s needs or markets into consideration at all. They are totally uncustomised – making full use of the search-and-replace function (hated by sponsors everywhere) – which is inexcusable, given the technology at hand to give you the insight you need.
If you want to create a customised offer for a sponsor – one that will grab their imagination and showcase how they can use this investment to get closer to their customers and achieve their specific objectives – you need information, and plenty of it.
This is the type of information you must know about a brand before you’re ready to create an offer:
- Name and title of the brand manager
- Specific brand(s) that are best matched to the sponsorship opportunity. Note, the various brands do not have to have different brand names, for instance, if you are targeting a bank, “mortgages” is a different brand than “credit cards”.
- Target markets for the brand(s) you are targeting
- Overall marketing objectives for the brand(s) you are targeting
- How they use sponsorship to achieve their objectives
- Whether they have any sponsorship exclusions (eg, they don’t sponsor motorsports)
- How much lead time they need before the sponsorship opportunity starts
For a more in-depth checklist, you will find the Sponsor Information Checklist in The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.
The question is, then, how do you get this information. There are two phases, doing your homework and talking to the sponsor. In this post we’ll talk about doing your homework. If you do all of this, you will be fully prepared to have an in-depth conversation about the sponsor’s needs and priorities, fine-tuning what you know, so you can create a fantastic offer. You’ll also be showcasing that you actually care about their brand needs and results, which almost nobody who contacts them does. You’ll be a breath of fresh air, and you’ll get their attention, which is half the battle.
Step 1 – Website
Go to the global and your country’s websites for each brand (as appropriate).
- Look to see if they have any sponsorship guidelines. They are often buried somewhere within their “About Us” or “Community” pages. If they have sponsorship guidelines, the usefulness may be patchy. Some are very good and provide all the information you need. Others are marked by vague, corporate-speak with no real insights as to their markets or needs. In other words, just because they have them doesn’t mean they’re useful.
- Take note of the brands, products, or initiatives they are most heavily promoting on the site
- Who does their site seem to be talking to? Does it have a discernible voice?
- Take note of their emphases. Are they trying to drive sales with offers? Position the brand? Drive you into stores?
- Try to pull out their most likely objectives. One hint: If they sell through retailers – and flagship stores don’t count – “increasing retail support” is always an objective. Same goes for any brand selling through middlemen – car dealerships, computer resellers, mortgage brokers, etc.
- Check out their press releases, which will be in a list somewhere on their site. Have they recently launched any new initiatives that are relevant to what you’re doing, or that you can hook into? (Note: If it’s recent, they may not be using it in their marketing activities yet.)
Step 2 – Social media
Now, head to their social media pages. They will generally have links to their most active social media accounts on their brand home page. Again, look for their global social media, as well as anything specific to your country or region.
- Take note of their overall voice. Is their tone helpful? Inspiring? Ultra-cool? Do they champion their amazing staff? Showcase their customers?
- What about their tone around sponsorships? Is their approach to sound and act like a fan? Or is it more stuffy and corporate?
- Who are they talking to? What kind of people?
- What are their key messages? What brand(s) or product lines are they emphasising?
- Is their focus with promotions about small wins for lots of people? Or are they all about the one big prize for one person?
Now, you’re ready for Google.
Step 3 – News reports and advertising
Search for the brand and your country or region, such as “Pepsi Finland”. This will find news reports and blogs referencing their recent activities. Hint: Use the advanced search features to limit your search to only pages updated in the past year.
Search for the brand and “advertising”. There are lots of websites that host television ads from around the world. Recent advertising – which you may not have seen – can give you a lot of insight into their priorities, objectives, and markets. Note: You may find some of their ads on their website, as well. It is still worth searching a bit more broadly.
When you find examples of advertising – whether print or television – ask yourself two questions:
- To whom is this ad directed? Not what age and gender, but what kinds of people – young, urban trendsetters? Global citizens? Aspiring jetsetters?
- What is the message? It may or may not articulate the actual message. Read between the lines. What do they want people to take away from the ad?
The answers to those questions will take you a long way toward understanding the brand and their priorities.
Step 4 – ABI/Inform Full-Text Online
This is one of my favourite research tools: ABI/Inform Full-Text Online.
You can enter – Google-style – keywords and it will search the full text of articles on thousands of business publications around the world and bring you back the whole articles. These include industry publications, which often offer insights not published in broader business media. You can mark the ones that are interesting to you and e-mail them to yourself. The kind of things you will find:
- Examples of best practice sponsorship
- Examples of interesting, out-of-the-box partnerships
- Examples of interesting, out-of-the-box sponsorship benefits
- Precedent to add weight to that great sponsorship idea you have
- Background on how other sponsors use their sponsorships of art galleries/festivals/whatever
- Background on what multinational sponsors do in other countries (you’ll make yourself look really smart if you do this!)
The kicker is that mostly only university and major public libraries have a license to this. The good news is that you should be able to get a library card and pin number to remotely log into the online materials from your office. That’s what I do with the State Library of NSW. Just call and ask your closest major library about the process to get a card and pin number because you want to access ProQuest databases from home (ABI/Inform is a ProQuest service). Note, do say “home”, not “work”.
For the purposes of background research, search for the brand name and “corporate sponsorship”. You should also look for the company name and “corporate sponsorship”. Only look 2-3 years back, maximum. Depending on the brand, there may be heaps or just a handful of articles.
If you take these steps, you will have most of the information you need to develop a customised sponsorship proposal. You will have all of the information you need to have a fruitful, break-the-mould conversation with the sponsor.
For more on that, see “The First Sponsor Meeting (And How Not to Make an Idiot of Yourself)”.
Need more assistance?
For all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing, you may want to get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.
If you could use some additional support, I provide sponsorship coaching, sponsorship consulting, sponsorship training, and if you need a fast, cost-effective start, you might look into the Jump Start program. If you’re interested in any of these services, please review the materials and drop me a line to discuss:
AU: +61 2 9559 6444
US: +1 612 326 5265
This blog was originally written in 2010, but was fully updated in September 2016.
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.