I get this question quite a bit. Is it better to have fewer, larger sponsor or more, smaller sponsors? The implication is that the choice is to go for lots of easy “yesses” or work hard for a few big “yesses”.
The problem with that is that, in many cases, it isn’t any easier getting a “yes” for a small sponsorship than it is for a larger one. If you’re asking for really low dollars, you may be dealing with someone who can only approve really low dollars. Or the dollar figure may be so low that the potential sponsors are devaluing what you have to offer. Or they may see the dollar figure and think you don’t know what you’re doing or what you’re worth. In other words, going for very low sponsorship really makes a rod for your own back.
Yeah, sure… there are those tiny little rats-and-mice sponsorship that say “yes” every year at a super-low level. But, chances are, those companies are considering that as one of three things:
- Go-away money – They give you a tiny bit of money so you stop bothering them about real money. This happens a lot with charitable and community organisations, where they don’t want to say “no”, so they give you a token, instead.
- Cost-of-doing-business money – They sponsor something at a very low level, simply because they think they have to be represented at some event or be conspicuous by their absence. This is very common with association, conference, and industry expo sponsorships.
- Defensive sponsorship – This money is spent with one thing in mind: Getting an exclusivity clause that stops you selling a substantial sponsorship to one of their competitors.
While I will never tell you to turn down a cheque if you need cash flow, honestly, you can do better.
So, if you’re considering moving to a fewer-larger sponsorship model, I’ve outlined some of the pros and cons below. Please note, none of these pros or cons are hard-and-fast. There are exceptions to everything, but this is the way it tends to go.
- You’ll have fewer relationships to manage. As you’ve probably realised, servicing small sponsors can be just as draining as servicing big ones.
- Bigger sponsors are more likely to leverage their sponsorships for a strong result. Strong results create more likelihood of renewal and case studies you can use to sell more sponsorship.
- Bigger sponsors are more likely to sign multi-year contracts, assuring your cash flow for longer.
- You can sell bigger sponsorships across multiple events or properties at the same time, creating value and consistency for them, and less sponsor management and admin for you.
- Bigger sponsors tend to be bigger companies, with some experience in making sponsorship work, so the relationships are often smoother than with smaller sponsorships from less experienced companies who may have no idea.
- Bigger sponsors know other big sponsors, creating the potential for advocacy.
- To attract more big sponsors, you may have to upskill, get some training, or get some coaching, any of which is a great investment in your position and good for your career.
- When you’re dealing with sponsors who want an actual return, not just sponsors giving you token amounts as a cost of doing business, you’ll have to work a lot harder for the money.
- Bigger sponsors will expect more from you – better skills, more creativity, and a much higher degree of sophistication.
- To attract more big sponsors, you may have to upskill, get some training, or get some coaching, all of which take time and/or money that your senior executives or board may not support.
As you can see, I tend to come down firmly on the side of fewer-larger sponsorships. It may take a little while to transition your portfolio, but it is definitely doable. Good luck! It’s a bit of work, but well worth it in the end.
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, 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
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