We Have Met the Enemy of Best Practice Sponsorship, and it is “Standardisation”

I was recently – and frustratingly – involved in a string of responses to a blog built on the premise that sponsorship seekers should be standardising the data around what they are offering, allowing sponsors to compare properties on an apples-to-apples basis.

On one hand, the approach wasn’t surprising, as the company putting forth this premise is a company that offers a sponsorship listing service where old-school metrics of household income and impressions are front and centre. Standardising data would make it easier for more events to use their service.

On the other hand, the whole idea is so backward it makes me want to repeatedly thump my head on the desk.

Just so I make myself perfectly clear:

Standardisation is the enemy of best practice sponsorship.

I believe with every fibre of my being and all of my experience, that whether we’re talking about standardising the sponsorship offer, pricing, or measurement, “standardisation” means only one of two things: The proponents either need some education as to what sponsorship is really about; or they’re trying to sell you a formula or service that is based on this outmoded, least-common-denominator view of sponsorship.

Putting perfectly good information and wonderful creative ideas through a meat grinder until they all look the same is NOT progress. It’s like turning a five-star meal into a smoothie so it can be compared with other five star meals with the least possible number of variables. Not to put too fine a point on it, but yuck! And standardisation in sponsorship is no more palatable.

Restaurants are not reviewed based on data that is irrelevant, but easily standardised, like how many chairs they have and what colour linen they use. They are judged on substance and creativity, suitability and the recommendations of prior customers, the degree to which they focus on your needs and the passion that they bring to the experience.

The same is true of sponsorship. It is absolutely possible to make an objective assessment over the suitability or performance of a sponsorship, but standardised? No. Business plans are not standardised. Marketing objectives are not standardised. Market conditions are not standardised. No one is telling CMOs that they have 15 objectives to choose from and they should tick boxes next to the ones that interest them. Sponsor needs are far ranging and nuanced. A formula will never reflect their objectives, and a formulaic solution will never meet their needs.

I have been in this industry for 24 years. In that time, I’ve seen it rise from a visibility-driven commodity to a powerful, accountable, consumer/customer-driven marketing tool. It’s exciting and gratifying to be part of an industry that has become a shining example of what marketing can and should be. There is nothing – not one argument – that would convince me that going back to an era of less (bordering on “no”) sophistication and less accountability is a good idea for the industry.

© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.

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