4 Warning Signs that Your Sponsorship Proposals Suck

4 Warning Signs that Your Sponsorship Proposals SuckI’ve lamented on a few occasions about the bad news I often have to give to rightsholders. A lot of it has to do with the quality of the sponsorship proposals they’re creating, so I’ve decided to do this little self-diagnostic to see if your sponsorship proposals suck. There are a hundred ways to get it wrong, but these are some of the big, structural ones that are both major issues, and indicate that there are likely many other issues that will undermine your success.


Do not EVER reuse a proposal for another sponsor simply by searching for one sponsor name and replacing it with another. It’s a dead giveaway to sponsors that you a) don’t know what you’re doing; and, b) don’t give a crap about what they need to achieve.

Don’t even do it for potential sponsors in the same category. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways don’t need the same thing. Neither do Bupa and Medibank, Brother and Canon, or Ford and Toyota. Their jobs as marketers are to differentiate their brands and encourage preference and loyalty in their target markets. They don’t do that by marketing themselves in the exact same way as their competitors, so at the very least, sending the same proposal counterproductive, and you could well be burning a bridge. Plus, more often than not, you’ll miss one.

More than 25% is about you

If you’re saying to yourself, “Of course it’s about my property. What else would it be about?” you need to pay close attention here. You should only include enough background information about whatever it is that you’re selling so that the proposal has context – usually no more than a couple of pages. After that, the entire proposal needs to be about the sponsor, including…

  • Who your target markets are, why they care about what you’re doing, and how the sponsor can add value to that experience.
  • How the sponsor can achieve their specific objectives – research, research, research – with this sponsorship. That’s right, you need to include creative ideas for leverage.
  • Fully customised benefits list and the investment required.

You use the term “general audience” or “broad audience”

Sponsors don’t want to reach a huge audience of people who don’t really care about what you do, but might cast their eyes on a few logos. They want to connect with an audience that is passionate and involved, as those are the people who will be receptive to win-win-win leverage activities and achieve big results for the sponsors.

Instead, you should be framing the audience in terms of meaning-driven target market segments. More specifically, frame it around the sponsors’ target markets, not yours. For more about who sponsors target vs who you target, check out this blog.

“It’s just a teaser”

I see a lot of uncustomised, often search-and-replace, proposals and letters. Often, the lack of effort put into these unsophisticated offers is dismissed with “It’s just a teaser.” Here’s a bit of insight for you: Sponsors don’t respond to teasing. They’re not going to request a meeting. They probably won’t even respond to your calls. They surely won’t say “yes.”

The mindset behind this is somewhere in the vicinity of wearing sweatpants to your first job interview, with the intent to wear a suit for the second interview. As with job interviews, you get one chance. You need to do your homework and put in your best effort the first time.

How to do better

There are a few resources you should check out if you want to do a better job on your proposals:

Need more assistance?

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. You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive Sponsorship Systems Design service for large, diverse, and decentralised organisations. Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

Please note, I do not offer a sponsorship broker service, and can’t sell sponsorship on your behalf. You may find someone appropriate on my sponsorship broker registry.

© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.

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