If you read my previous post, you would have seen that I was inspired, after watching the movie fab, retro movie, Boogie Nights, to write The Boogie Nights Guide to Sponsorship. Following on from that, here are some lessons for sponsorship seekers starting, again, with Boogie Nights.
From Boogie Nights: If you take an old-school approach, you’re doomed to fail
Sponsorship sophistication used to be on a pretty steady upward arc – that is, until the Global Financial Crisis. Increasing accountability put a rocket under that sophistication, accelerating the uptake of best practice. That has made life very difficult for sponsorship seekers who weren’t prepared to approach them at this new level of sophistication, and has given sponsorship seekers with great skills a marked edge.
The good news is that it’s not too late for any sponsorship seeker to raise their game. That doesn’t guarantee your success, but an old-school approach virtually guarantees your failure.
A good resource is The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition, which will take you through the whole process, step-by-step. If you don’t want to pay the money, just check out the blogs in the category of “sponsorship sales” and you will get a much better idea about what sponsors want and how to deliver it. Another good resource is “Sponsorship Proposal Basics in About 10 Minutes” on the Power Sponsorship YouTube Channel.
From Raiders of the Lost Ark: If you can just find the right button, everything will work out fine
Creating an offer is no longer about showcasing your property, it’s about showcasing your understanding of a specific sponsor’s needs and markets – their hot buttons – and crafting an offer that gives them concrete ideas for how they can make the sponsorship work for them.
Yes, we’re talking about leverage again. And while leverage planning is definitely a sponsor’s responsibility, including those ideas in your proposal makes it much easier for them to see the value to their brand and say yes to you. And, frankly, even if they don’t or can’t say “yes” this time, making the proposal about them, and not about you, will mean they will be happy to hear from you again.
From The King’s Speech: Your presentation doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you’re inspiring and you make a good case
People often ask me questions about the design and length of a sponsorship proposal, but they are usually focussed on the wrong thing. A proposal doesn’t have to be pretty, it has to be professional and make a business case.
Don’t worry about major graphic work. A graphic designer will not be the difference between “yes” and “no”, and PowerPoint slides don’t have room for the amount of information a sponsor needs to make a decision. What is important?
- Building a business case – Telling the story of how it works for the sponsor, why it is relevant to their target market(s), and how they can take the raw materials you’re selling them and leverage them into a result for their brand.
- Sensible formatting – Making it easy to follow the story and find the key information they need.
- Good spelling and grammar – Everyone makes mistakes, but a proposal riddled with terrible spelling or punctuation will undermine your credibility. So, grammar isn’t your strong suit. Get someone to proof it or write it for you.
- Honesty – Sponsors tend to be hype-averse. If you over-sell, it will turn them off.
From The Terminator: Don’t rely too heavily on technology
If you are relying on PowerPoint, SlideShare, a YouTube video, or a leave-behind USB stick to sell your property for you, you’re unlikely to get the result you want. Those things are flashy, but are either inherently uncustomised or don’t provide enough information. Give them something that is complete, and that they can print out and mark notes on. Even if your in-person presentation is on PowerPoint, your leave-behind still needs to tell the whole story in complete sentences.
And then there are those sponsor-matching sites. If you list your property on one of them and then just expect sponsors to come knocking at your door, or for them to just snap up whatever standard package you’re offering, I think you’re misguided. Treat them a bit like computer dating – it might get you talking, but it’s how you relate, understand one another, and adapt that will get you to a commitment.
From The Full Monty: The anticipation is probably worse than actually doing it
Sponsorship sales is hard work, especially because even great sponsorship seekers will hear “no” more often than “yes”. It also now requires a lot more background research and preparation to create customised offers. Many sponsorship seekers know what they need to do, but are so daunted by it, they fall back on old habits and send out 200 search-and-replace, gold-silver-bronze proposals and spend the next four months leaving voicemails.
It’s not that bad. Really. Changing your game to best practice actually makes selling easier, because you’re not pitching your property, you’re helping a brand to achieve their goals. The focus goes off of whether your property is big/sporty/sexy enough, and squarely onto strategic fit and specific brand benefit. The starting place is, “this is what we understand about your brand and markets” and the logical next step is, “this is how you can use this sponsorship to increase your relevance and deepen your relationship with those markets”. It’s a whole different animal. You’re no longer a salesperson, but a collaborator and problem solver.
From Predator: You ain’t got time to bleed
So, you’ve heard “no”. So, you haven’t hit your target. So, your board just doesn’t get how hard sponsorship is and keeps raising the bar. Well, chin up, Princess, because to quote Jessie the Body Ventura, “you ain’t got time to bleed”.
Every sponsorship you’re selling has a finite window in which to sell it. That window closes at the point when a sponsor would no longer have enough time to plan and implement their leverage before your event starts. You need to start your sales early and you just need to keep going, even when things aren’t going your way.
If you’re really struggling on a consistent basis, take that as a sign that you need to change your approach, but don’t wait. Buy the book. Take the workshop. Read the blogs. Do whatever you need to do to get a better handle on what it takes to sell sponsorship, but do it now. Your sales window won’t stay open forever.
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.