A while back, a colleague of mine needed a broker for a great series of events. I has huge potential for the right sponsor, and should have been a plum opportunity for a strong broker. I was able to put him in touch with some brokers, and he chose one, who promptly sold exactly nothing. It was disappointing, but as with all sponsorship sales, factors ranging from economic condition to plain bad luck could have been at play.
The event and broker went their separate ways and my colleague resigned himself to DIY. He got a couple of hot prospects on the line and asked for my help fine-tuning the proposal, which he had based on some of the broker’s proposals. That’s when it all became clear. It was awful. I’m not sure if that broker’s skills really were that bad, or if this was just an epic example of phoning it in. Either way, even if all the other stars had aligned, no sponsor was ever going to buy that first generation pile of hooey.
We worked together and redid the proposal, and while there are never any guarantees, at least he now has a fighting chance.
What this whole exercise illustrated, in technicolour detail, was that all brokers are not created equal, having a big name doesn’t mean you’re any good, and that the people who need brokers the most are probably least equipped to tell the good from the bad.
What you want is someone who will represent your event to its absolute best, to shorten the odds for a sale, to get you bigger and better sponsors than you have the time or skill to get on your own. What you don’t want is someone who has a great contacts list, but skills that are 20 years out of date; someone who doesn’t know the difference between a strategic game and a numbers game.
What I’ve done is to create a “Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Broker” cheat sheet. I recommend that anyone who is considering hiring a broker ask these questions, as the answers will tell you plenty about how it will be to work with them.
I am assuming that your preference is for a broker to take a best practice approach (not sure what that is? Read “Last Generation Sponsorship“.) Sponsorship offers built on best-practice principles create obvious and appealing strategic platforms for the potential sponsors. Also, any proposal built around the basics of best practice sponsorship will immediately get more attention from a potential sponsor.
The upshot is that there are amazing brokers, awful brokers, and plenty in between. If you’re going to hire one, you need to be selective, and that means asking the right questions and reading between the lines. I hope the cheat sheet helps and I wish you great success in raising sponsorship!