How many times will you miss your sponsorship target?
How many times will you scramble for rats and mice sponsorship to make up a shortfall?
How many times will you ask your board to hit up their well-connected friends, because your business case isn’t getting money in the door?
How many times will you point to workload, economic conditions, unreasonable sponsors who “just don’t get it”, or sheer bad luck, when you fail to balance the bottom line?
How many excuses will you make?
At some point, your excuses and workarounds just aren’t going to cut it anymore, and your organisation will need to accept that it’s nobody’s fault but yours. Yeah, I know… sounds harsh. But if any of the above sounds familiar, you need to change your trajectory and change it now.
Nobody has that much bad luck
Even if you do sponsorship perfectly, there will be situations that are out of your control that stop a deal from getting done. There will be some bad luck. It happens.
But when you’re only signing up a small fraction of the sponsors you’re approaching, and there’s always some bad luck reason behind it, it’s a mirage. Nobody has that much bad luck. It’s far more likely that…
- You’re targeting the wrong brands
- You’re not targeting the real decision-makers
- You’re not making any real effort to understand what they’re about, who they target, and what they need
- You’re not making a compelling offer
- You don’t have enough lead time
- You don’t know rejection, when you see it
- You reek of desperation, arrogance, or both
I could go on and on… and on and on and on. It could be any of these things – it could be all of them – but if you are doing any of the above, you’re not going to have any luck. It’s like fishing with no bait on the hook.
Sponsorship isn’t getting harder
Sponsorship isn’t getting harder any more than mobile phones are getting harder.
Sure, you need a different skillset to run your iPhone than you did your old, Nokia dumbphone, but once you have that skillset, all of the advances that have gone into putting that supercomputer in your pocket actually make your life easier.
Sponsorship is exactly the same. Once you’ve embraced the new skillset, selling and servicing sponsorship becomes easier. But if you don’t embrace best practice sponsorship and learn the new skills, you’ll be the rightsholder equivalent of trying to find the number pad on your smartphone, so you can send a text.
Sponsors aren’t getting more demanding, they’re getting smarter
Sponsors do want more from you – more flexibility, creativity, and understanding of their business. They want research and insights, and a proposal they can use to sell internally. And, frankly, they want you to understand where your value lies, because more often than not, it’s not what you’re pitching.
And why do they want all of this? They want all this so they can make the fan experience better for your fans. They want all this so they can leverage in potentially dozens of meaningful ways. They want all this so they can get great returns across many objectives, many markets, and a long time-frame. In short, everything a best practice sponsor does to extract value from a sponsorship is also good for you.
But make no mistake about it; sponsors aren’t playing with this hard-fought sophistication. They’ve got thousands upon thousands of options for sponsorship, and they’re not going to mess around with a partner whose skills aren’t up-to-date. They know that equates to more time, more resources, and lower returns.
Up your game or lower your targets
When it comes right down to it, your organisation has only two choices:
- Lower your sponsorship targets, and be prepared to keep lowering them. This is a fundamental change in how sponsorship is done, not a pendulum that’s going to swing back to old-school strategies.
- Accept that it’s not the sponsors, the economy, or bad luck that’s making your sponsorship targets more difficult, year-on-year. It’s you. It’s your organisation’s approach, skill-set, and commitment to resourcing sponsorship appropriately, and that it’s time to re-evaluate and rebuild your sponsorship program into something that works for you and for sponsors.
Where to start
Best practice sponsorship makes more sense than any generation that has come before it. It’s more intuitive, multifaceted, and useful, as a marketing tool. It’s more valuable to sponsors, and the right approach will absolutely shift you to a position where you have fewer, bigger sponsors (and won’t that be nice?).
If you’re ready to bite the bullet, here are a few places to start:
- Get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition. This will take you through the whole sponsorship process, supported by lots of templates and tools. Pro tip: Buy the hardcopy, not the ebook. You’ll want it as a desk reference.
- While you’re waiting for the book, read my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship”, for a primer on how sponsorship really works. This could also be a very good tool to shock your senior execs or board into supporting change.
- Watch “Sponsorship Proposal Basics in About 15 Minutes”. Note, fifteen minutes won’t give you all the information you need to develop a compelling offer, but it will show you an outline of how a great proposal is structured, and why.
- Check out the “Best of” blogs for Proposal Development and Sponsorship Sales. There is a ton of good information here, but if you’re a beginner at this best practice caper, you’re likely still going to need a process laid out in order, as it is in the book.
- If you’ve got a team seeking sponsorship, get some high-quality in-house training on sponsorship. It’s often useful to incorporate a short, crash course for your board or executive committee, as well. (Let an outside expert deal with the politics!) If it’s just you, enroll in a quality workshop. For skill-building, a workshop is more appropriate than a conference.
Need more assistance?
If you could use some additional support, I provide sponsorship coaching, sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, and sponsorship training. 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
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.