I see too many one-year proposals. Way too many. For many, it seems to be a flow on effect from annual budgeting. And some sponsorship seekers seem to be under the impression that it will be easier for a sponsor to say “yes” to the lower commitment of a one-year deal. In reality, sponsors say “yes” to offers that fit their target markets and brand and offer creative ideas for leverage. Of course, if what you’re selling is only happening once, it makes perfect sense to do a short-term proposal, but the majority of opportunities out there don’t fit into that category.
I also see way too many sponsors who commit to single years. On one hand, I can see how it might be appealing to try out a sponsorship for a year to see if it works for the brand. On the other hand… how do I put this nicely… how about just doing your freaking homework, picking investments that are great strategic fits, and leveraging them properly? Dabbling here and there is treating sponsorship like it’s a risky proposition, when it’s not – if you know what you’re doing.
So, in an effort to shift both sponsors and sponsorship seekers away from this short-term thinking, I’m outlining some of the best reasons you should all want multi-year deals.
Your brand has a personality and a voice. You may do different takes on that for different strategic and tactical reasons, but when it comes right down to it, you are striving for a degree of consistency over time to build and maintain your brand.
Having major turnover in your sponsorship proposal undermines that proposition. It turns sponsorship into the schizophrenic cousin to your sensible, stable marketing plan.
Consistency is absolutely critical, if you subscribe to the concept of best practice, Last Generation Sponsorship and the principle tenet of win-win-win. That third win is for the target markets, and adding real, meaningful value to a target market over time is going to have much more sustained impact than just making a gesture and moving on.
Like so many things, a sponsorship lifecycle works on a bell curve. Sure, you can do a great leverage program and get fantastic results in the first year, but if you tweak it and keep it fresh, you’ll get even better results in years two and three.
Sampling – especially if you are expecting the kind of results in year one that other sponsors are enjoying in year three – never allows the sponsorship to really hit its straps. In many cases, a successful first year will compel more of your internal stakeholders to get involved in future years, using the sponsorship as a catalyst to make money they’re already spending go further.
One of the best ways you can extend the geographic reach and timeframe of a sponsorship is through content creation –content you’ve created, your target markets’ content, and exclusive content provided by your partner.
Frankly, you can be shrewd and create a lot of content in one year that you’ll be able to use until the end of the contract. But, if the contract is longer, you continue using – or repurpose – that earlier content throughout the duration of the contract.
You should be doing research, your partners should be doing research, and you should be using that research to hone and improve your sponsorships from one year to the next.
If you know what the best and worst things are about the event experience, you know how to amplify the good stuff and ameliorate the bad stuff, creating amazing scope for creating those third wins.
If you find out what the main motivations for people rocking up the event are, you can hook into those motivations to align your brand with that target market.
Corporate sponsorship managers and brand managers tend to have a high turnover. It’s just the nature of the job. The problem is that every time someone new sits behind that desk, they will have their own view of what is and isn’t worth sponsoring, and will want to put their own stamp on the portfolio. The worst thing for you is if you are nearing renewal when your key contact changes. It’s a lot better if you have some time to run on a contract, allowing you to continue to get runs on the board for the sponsor, proving your strategic worth and dramatically improving your chances for a renewal.
One of the saving graces for our industry, during the Global Financial Crisis, is that most significant investments are on multi-year deals. This saw many contracts through the GFC, or at least through the period where companies were making knee-jerk decisions.
There are also periodic controversies that can scare off sponsors on renewal. For instance, if you have a team and one of your players behaves badly, sponsors on renewal may make a snap decision to go elsewhere, while contracts that still have some time to run will see out the issue. Providing you handle it well and expediently, the controversy will likely be a thing of the past by the time renewal comes up.
Renewals are basically like going through the sales process all over again, and honestly, who would volunteer to go through all that every year, if you didn’t really have to. The time and energy it entails could be so much better used elsewhere. Imagine if you could spend all the time you might spend justifying your existence, instead, working on an amazing leverage program with your sponsor?
The upshot for sponsors is simple: If you’re going to make a commitment, make a bloody commitment. (I just started humming “Put a Ring on It” as I was typing this!) You are marketing professionals, you should know how to spot a real opportunity for your brand, and when you do spot one, don’t mess around. Give it your absolute best effort to perform for your brand, and that takes time.
The upshot for sponsorship seekers is equally simple: If you’ve done your research and provided an excellent business case for how the sponsor can use your property to advance their relationships with target markets and enhance their brand, why wouldn’t that be more valuable to them over more time? Back yourself. Do multi-year proposals. You can always downgrade it to a single year, if the sponsor isn’t game. The only way to guarantee you’re not going to get a multi-year deal, though, is if you don’t ask for it.
You may be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.
If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building service for large and/or diverse organisations.
Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.