The normal role of a sponsorship consultant is to offer expert strategic advice, generally based on a reasonably long history of doing good work for good clients. That’s certainly what I do most of the time.
There are, however, other reasons you may want a sponsorship consultant – reasons that are a bit outside the norm, but every bit as strategic. I thought I might run through a few very useful – but somewhat different – ways to use a sponsorship consultant.
Companies can often be insular places, and sometimes, you just need an outside viewpoint.
A good example of this is when doing a sponsorship audit. Without objectivity, your portfolio audit may concentrate on improving what you’ve got – applying tweaks and fixes to maximise results. The problem is, many of the people involved in that audit were probably also involved in selecting and leveraging those sponsorships. I’m not saying that they’re protecting their decisions, but they will likely be bringing the same approach to the audit that they brought to the sponsorship selection and leverage process.
Sometimes you just need someone there to turn that thinking on its head; to say things like…
- The flaw here isn’t in the investment, it’s with the benefits. They’re terrible. We need to renegotiate.
- This sponsorship isn’t delivering because you’ve been leveraging it in the same way for seven years straight. You need to ditch it or reinvent completely.
- Why is that sponsorship with that brand? It’s a much better match with this one.
- What if we just started over? What would the portfolio look like?
There are many instances where that objective, experienced viewpoint can provide the impetus for real change. Another is in helping a brand to understand how their sponsorship approach and results line up against world’s best practice. And yet another, that I’ve been doing just recently, is helping a government organisation understand how to balance governance with the need for commerciality when seeking sponsorship. In that situation, my role is as the “voice of commercial reality”.
Delivering bad news
Come on, do you really want to be the one to tell the CEO that sponsorship of her pet project is a narcissistic crap-heap? I didn’t think so.
Sometimes, everyone but the senior executive or other big wig(s) knows exactly what should be done, but they know actually delivering the bad news would be political suicide. Hiring a consultant to do a one-day strategy session, followed by a written and/or in-person presentation of the recommendation, is often a very viable strategy for presenting that assessment to the powers that be.
A good consultant will be able to make that recommendation without vilifying anyone, and will generally avoid words like “crap-heap”, providing an easy way for the senior executive to authorise a change while saving face.
This strategy will almost certainly be cheaper than continuing on with whatever counter-productive approach or sponsorship you may be dealing with, but do understand if the consultant wants to be paid up-front. I had one Managing Director tell me that I wouldn’t be paid to provide advice like that – perfectly legitimate advice that was eventually taken, mind you – but I had thankfully already been paid.
Related to the above, some companies simply have an organisational culture that values outside consultants’ opinions more than the opinions of their own, very talented people. That’s really unfortunate, but a good consultant can be helpful in a few ways:
- Reviewing and endorsing a strategy that has already been developed.
- Developing a strategy collaboratively with the in-house team.
- Delivering that strategy in a way that makes staff the heroes.
- Helping the company structure, and endorsing, a “brains trust”, building credibility for future strategic work done in-house.
If you’re going to use a consultant to bring credibility to a strategy, spend your money on that credibility (experience, profile), not on hours. Use that consultant judiciously. A good consultant will understand her role and help you to develop the right framework and brief for the job.
Building external credibility
This is really one for sponsorship seekers, rather than sponsors, but I’m seeing a fair bit of it these days. If a rightsholder has been historically seen as a bit old-school, part of the role of a consultant could be to be included in conversations with current and potential sponsors…
This does, of course, mean that the consultant is providing some kind of advice, as well. But in some situations, the ability to say you’ve got a credible, best practice adviser on board is almost as important as the advice you’re getting.
Need more assistance?
For all sponsors need to know about best practice sponsorship selection, leverage, measurement, management, and more, you may want to get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit. If you’re a rightsholder, you can find all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing in The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.
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This blog was fully updated in 2019. It was originally posted in 2014.
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.
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