Are You Really Selling Sponsorship?

Are You Really Selling Sponsorship?I get dozens of emails and social media approaches every week from people looking for sponsorship of their website, blog, business, television show, documentary, education, or whatever. My issue with this isn’t that they are contacting me – I’m happy to hear from any of you! – but that so many seem to have a misguided notion of what sponsorship is.

In the case of website, blog, television, and documentary “sponsorship”, 99% of the examples I see aren’t sponsorship at all. Offering banner ads, product or logo placement, acknowledgements of support, backlinks, etc does not equate to a sponsorship, but a media buy. (And “sponsoring” the telecast of an event is not the same as sponsoring the event – it’s also just a targeted media buy.) I’m not saying these investments don’t have value, but it really is an entirely different animal.

A sponsorship is a collection of benefits and entitlements that provide a brand with an opportunity to get a marketing result. The way they get that result is through leverage – proactively doing things with the benefits to achieve specific objectives. Leverage could include adding value to their target markets’ event or brand experiences, promotions, involving their staff, integrating with other media activities, creating social media platforms, and much much more. Sponsorship is mutual and about nurturing relationships, and has both the emotional weight – people really caring about what is being sponsored – and the critical mass to be a catalyst for other marketing activities.

A media buy is an outbound communication strategy. It is buying time or space in which to showcase a brand or brand message. Media buys are what they are, and are not leverageable. If you can’t imagine a company running an ad or embarking on a PR campaign or developing a staff program or creating a social media hub around what you’re selling, it’s not sponsorship.

As an example, I was recently approached by someone looking for “sponsorship” of their website. They were offering banner advertising, links, branding all over the site, and participation in the e-newsletter. That may well be a valuable investment, for the right brand, but it’s not leverageable. Seriously, can you imagine any brand taking this up and then running a series of magazine ads themed around their activities on that website? Embarking on a social media campaign? Creating a staff program? Me neither.

Of course there are exceptions, but not very many.

And for all you little companies with great ideas, but no cash, again, that’s not sponsorship. You are looking for a financial backer – an investor, silent partner, or white knight – who will provide some cash in return for (probably) an equity position. And people looking for someone to “sponsor” their educations are looking for benefactors.

Before your organisation looks for corporate sponsorship, you need to ensure that what you are offering really is sponsorship, and the easiest way to find out is to ask yourself whether it is leverageable or not. If it’s not leverageable, it’s not sponsorship, and it’s time to take a different approach.

If you’re really selling a media buy, then those are the sales channels you need to use. If what you really need is a backer, your first call should be to your accountant. Don’t seek sponsorship if that’s not what you’re really selling, or you could waste a lot of time and effort going through a very tough process that is destined to fail.

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 latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.

If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building 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.

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