I’ve blogged about Sponzillas – sponsors who bully – and in the spirit of fairness, I need to say that there are also some bullies on the other side of the equation.
There is an echelon of very desirable properties that can – and sometimes do – bully potential sponsors. They know that if that sponsor doesn’t pay the money for whatever is on offer, someone else will.
They offer standard, uninspired packages and refuse to offer anything creative, even if specifically requested by a potential sponsor. In their boldest manoeuvre, they may charge additional fees for bolt-on “benefits” that really only benefit the property. An example would be if an elite sports property required sponsorship of a development program – underwriting their own costs for the program, whether it suited the sponsor’s strategic needs or not. Another classic is when a seeker charges a substantial additional fee for “leverage”, often using that money for production of the ads, signage, etc after offering the opportunity to advertise in the program, etc, as part of the benefits package. For the record, that’s not leverage – it’s exploiting the grey areas in a benefits package for further financial gain.
In all of this, the undertone is a very clear, “This is the offer. Take it or bugger off.” Or worse, “Take it or we’ll go straight to your competition.”
If you’re a sponsor in this position, my inclination is to tell you to just to bugger off. I do know, however, that there are instances where a sponsorship is just perfect for the brand and you don’t want to let it go. You may also be dealing with internal political pressure to do a deal, no matter what. In those cases, my advice is to grit your teeth, consider the sum total to be the price of entry, and then recreate the sponsorship into what you really need via a highly strategic leverage program.
Realistically, most sponsorship seekers are not in a position to push around a new sponsor. When it comes to current sponsors, however, sponsees of all types can abuse the relationship. This happens in any number of ways, including being unresponsive, inflexible, laying on the guilt, refusing to approve creative leverage activities, and generally treating sponsors like a necessary evil from the moment they sign the contract. Thankfully, this type of behaviour on the part of sponsorship seekers is relatively rare.
A sponsor in this position has plenty of options. I’ve worked with my clients to do all of the following at one time or another:
- You can tell them you will not be renewing if the situation does not improve. (Note, don’t make this threat unless you mean it.)
- You can escalate the situation to the CEO or Board.
- You can work with the other sponsors and address the issue together. (When you can see them mentally calculating all of your sponsorships, you know you’ve got their attention.)
- You can approach the sponsorship like an ambusher – using ambush techniques to make the sponsorship work for you by working around the sponsee.
- You can walk.
In any case, what you don’t want to do is create an adversarial situation. It’s not worth the stress and nobody wins. If it’s going that way, you really are better off just bailing out.
Need more assistance?
For all you 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 need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting, sponsorship training, and strategy sessions. Please drop me a line to discuss.
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