Sponsorship Seekers: Five Phrases You Should Say More Often (and a Couple You Should Ban)

We’ve done the “five phrases” for sponsors. Now, it’s the sponsorship seekers’ turn!

Why do people care about our event? What do they love/hate about it?

I am continually astonished by the lack of knowledge some organisations have about their events (events, charities, teams, etc). If I ask a charity why people donate, they invariably list “because we’re a good cause” and “because we’re tax deductible” at the top of the list. Yeah… you and tens of thousands of other charities!

The likelihood is that different groups – or segments – of your audience will donate, attend, join, whatever for different reasons. They will have different priorities and want different things from you. All of those reasons, priorities, needs, and motivations are hot buttons you can push to get them to do what you want them to do. But if you don’t know what they are, the best you can do is try to be all things to all people – a “tax deductible good cause” – and hope for the best.

We’ve done some research on your brand

Sponsors hate generic, search-and-replace proposals more than almost anything else. This phrase is the antithesis, indicating that you have spent some time and effort getting to know who they are, what they need, what you can offer, and – armed with all that information – what kind of leverage they might do around it. Yes, it’s more work, but you will have an immensely better chance of getting the sponsor. And even if you don’t, taking the approach that lies behind this phrase will ensure that your proposal will stand out and that the sponsor will probably be happy to hear from you again in future.

Are the sponsorship benefits we’re providing appropriate for your needs?

Whether you’re nearing renewal or in the middle of a contract, this is a very, very powerful question. It speaks to your willingness to be flexible, creative, and more strategic than you may have been in the past. Tell the sponsor that you make no guarantees that you can do everything, but that you want to know what benefits they would want from your event, if they could have anything. Brainstorm with them. Come up with some ideas for how they can use various benefits to meet their needs. Then put your money where your mouth is and be prepared to swap some underperforming benefits for benefits that are more appropriate.

We’ve come up with some creative ideas for leverage you may want to consider

Following on from the previous two points, all sponsors are busy – sometimes too busy to be creative, some are not particularly skilled at best practice, and a few are plain flat lazy. And yet, if they don’t create and implement a strong leverage plan, their returns are going to be very limited. This is where you come in. Although it is not your responsibility, it is in your best interest to provide some creative ideas for leverage. It makes sponsors much more likely to say “yes”, and it makes your current sponsors much more likely to get a good return and renew.

How will you be measuring the results of this investment?

This is all about putting the measurement ball in your sponsor’s court. While it is possible for you to come up with some excellent leverage ideas, it is impossible for you to measure the results of those leverage ideas against theirobjectives and benchmarks. How could you? This phrase needs to form a thread through the entire course of your relationship, holding them accountable for their own results and setting realistic expectations about the depth of measurement information you’re going to be able to provide.

The Sponsorship Seeker's Toolkit 4th EditionAnd a couple of phrases to lose:

How much sponsorship do we need?

While you may be raising sponsorship to fill a gap between the cost of running whatever event or program you have and the other income sources, please understand this: The likelihood that the commercial value of your event and the amount you need are going to be the same is extremely low. That is, your event may have the scope to raise a lot more sponsorship than you need to run the event, or a lot less. Those figures are not related.

Think instead about the commercial potential of each event or program. Concentrate your efforts on those with great commercial potential and raise as much sponsorship as you can. Don’t put much effort into the ones that aren’t commercial. Then shift the money around to where it is needed. And don’t worry about sponsors. They are not giving you money to underwrite specific costs, they are investing in marketing opportunity. It’s worth what it’s worth. Don’t tell them where the money is being spent, because it’s none of their business.

Great! Now I just need to run it past my boss/board.

If you cut a deal with a sponsor and end the conversation with this phrase, you will look like a powerless, time-wasting chump. If you need approvals, get them before the meeting.

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.

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