Sponsors: 8 Ways to Ensure Your Sponsorship Portfolio Underperforms

Sponsors: 8 Ways to Ensure Your Sponsorship Portfolio UnderperformsI’ve blogged on and on about the big issues that affect our industry; about the critical factors that drive sponsorship results. But sometimes, it’s not the big mistakes that trip sponsors up. Sometimes it’s just getting one or two things wrong that undoes every other great thing you try to do. It’s the weak link that will cause the whole system to fail.

Below, I’ve outlined eight mistakes. Do any one of these, and your sponsorship results will suffer. Do a few, and you’ll be lucky to get any results against your objectives at all.

Put decision-making into one person’s hands

I don’t care how much of a genius brand or sponsorship manager you may be, you won’t get top results if you commit to a sponsorship without collaboration.

Part of the beauty of sponsorship is its flexibility to achieve a huge range of objectives, and the ability to impart passion and meaning to marketing activities that might otherwise lack real resonance. You don’t achieve that without buy-in, and you don’t get buy-in when big decisions are made unilaterally.

For more on this, see “The Best Sponsorship is Process-Driven Sponsorship“.

“Support” your sponsorship

Following on from the above point, sponsorship isn’t a marketing expense, to be chased with additional support funding. It’s a marketing catalyst that brings meaning and passion to potentially every other marketing activity you do, and every target market relationship you have.

If the approach to what you do with a sponsorship is of “supporting” it, not leveraging it, the implication is that everything that goes into actually making sponsorship work is a) an afterthought; b) an expense; and usually, c) done by rote.

Sponsorship’s marketing power shouldn’t be taken lightly, and plans shouldn’t be in the form of some tired checklist of things you “should” do, and admin you have to do. And in most cases, it doesn’t need to cost a ton of incremental money.

For more, see “How Much Should You Budget for Sponsorship Leverage“.

Leverage by checklist

If your leverage plan looks the same every time…

Throw away the checklist. Chuck out all the plans you’ve recycled for the umpteenth time. You need some inspiration, you need to create something meaningful for the fans, and you need all the key stakeholders involved.
  • Press release…
  • Queue up a bunch of social media posts about what a proud sponsor you are…
  • Queue up a few more with some giveaway, where one person wins one big prize…
  • Source an ad of some sort that will fit in our spot in the program…
  • Get the VIP ticket allocation to sales…
  • Figure out who’s going to give up their weekend to man the marquee…
  • Line up a CEO photo op…

Then your leverage sucks. You’re leveraging by checklist – phoning it in – and the lack of creativity, inspiration, and vision makes the whole exercise hardly worth doing.

Throw away the checklist. Chuck all the plans you’ve recycled for the umpteenth time. You need some inspiration, you need to create something meaningful for the fans, and you need all the key stakeholders involved. If you don’t know how, then do some training. Heck, get me in and I’ll show you how to do it! At the very least, read this blog: “Favourite Sponsorship Leverage Hack: Don’t Sponsor the Property, Sponsor the Fans“.

Forget the remote fans

When you sponsor something – some game or event or museum – it’s easy to fixate on the fans that attend; the people who rock through the gate and experience it in person. These are the obvious targets, but usually just a small fraction of people who care about what you sponsor and the broader theme.

How many people love an NBA team, but have never attended a game live? How many foodies didn’t get to that organic food expo? How many industry professionals want professional development, but couldn’t make it to the conference?

These are the remote fans – the ones who aren’t there – and if you’re not using the sponsorship to add value to their experience, and align with them, you’re wasting an enormous opportunity.

For more, read “Most Important Post-COVID Sponsorship Strategies for Sponsors“.

Give senior executives free rein

Unfortunately, sponsorship is prone to the personal agendas of people who can commit funds with impunity. Who wouldn’t want to be a bigwig with their favourite team or the ballet or whatnot? Get a board position at their favourite charity? It happens less than it used to, but there are still plenty of examples around.

Sponsorship is very powerful, but just another tool to achieve marketing objectives – to change perceptions, behaviours, and alignment around the brand. So, who exactly, is going to hold that senior executive to account for results against objectives? You?? Good luck with that.

A strong sponsorship policy – ratified by your board or executive committee – is your best bet for prevention. For more, read “Do You Really Need a Sponsorship Policy?

Put someone junior in charge

It’s not strategic, there’s no leadership. It’s not sponsorship management, it’s just sponsorship delivery.

Sponsorship management is not the dirty work that goes along with the glamour and organisational ego of making the investment. Sponsorship is a profession that requires expertise and respect, and with that, will make your sponsorship portfolio perform.

In far too many companies, the sponsorship role is looked upon as something primarily administrative. Someone higher up makes the decision, then the sponsorship manager works their way down the aforementioned checklist.

The position is junior, having none of the respect required to marshal decision-makers from across the company and create something compelling. It’s not strategic, there’s no leadership. It’s not sponsorship management, it’s just sponsorship delivery.

For more, read “What is the Role of a Corporate Sponsorship Manager?”

Disregard lead time

All of this – the buy-in, the planning, the implementation – it takes time. Months, not weeks or days.

There is no such thing as a bargain sponsorship – no such thing as an opportunistic sponsorship – if you don’t have time to turn the opportunity into a result.

For more, read “Tick Tock: The Most Precious Resource in Sponsorship is Time“.

Make measurement an afterthought

If you don’t know how you’re measuring changes in perception and behaviours, and against what benchmarks, you don’t know what you’re working toward. It’s like trying to finish a marathon when you don’t know the route or where the finish line is. You’ll just end up running around randomly for 42 kilometres until you collapse in a heap, having accomplished nothing.

Getting buy-in – marshaling those decision-makers – is only partly about deciding what to sponsor and what to do with it. It’s also about deciding how it will be measured, and putting measurement into the hands of the stakeholders who own the benchmarks and know how to measure against them.

For more, see “Sponsorship Measurement: How to Measure what’s Important“.

Need more assistance?

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 with your sponsorship portfolio, 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.

© 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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