For most sponsors, decisions to invest in or renew a sponsorship are based primarily on analysis against a set of criteria. This may seem sensible, and bean counters love this approach, but it doesn’t actually work very well with sponsorship. I’ll go so far as to say that using analysis to drive your decisions is consigning your results to mediocrity, and the only way to achieve truly outstanding sponsorship is if the decisions around it are primarily process-driven.
Below, I’ve outlined the typical, analysis-driven approach to sponsorship decisions, the far more effective and powerful process-driven approach, and some steps so that you can apply it within your own organisation.
For new sponsorship investments, there is a predictable analytic track:
If you’re looking at a renewal, you’d analyse most of the above, plus…
There also might be some kind of visibility or recall report to waste your time analysing.
And then there’s my analysis pet-hate: The matrix. You rate various aspects of the offer or renewal on a scale of one to ten, add them up, and if it gets to a certain number, you’ll seriously consider it. This is analysis gone mad. Rather than seeking the answer to the various questions, you’re going to guess at some arbitrary number – one that is likely different for everyone who analyses it.
I’m hoping some of you would have read this thinking, “Where’s the measurement of results?” Measurement is an absolute necessity, but doing it properly is actually part of a larger process.
The above may seem uncomfortably familiar to you, and I’m not saying that there isn’t a role for analysis in sponsorship decisions. The thing is, making your decisions based on analysing the offer is inherently flawed and counterproductive, because it has nothing to do with what makes a sponsorship great. Instead, consider analysis to be about threshold needs; telling you more about whether you shouldn’t do something than whether you should.
Process-driven sponsorship takes an entirely different approach to making decisions, drawing out the most important factors that go into top-performing sponsorship:
These are not factors that fit into checkboxes or some kind of matrix. This is about organisational belief and commitment, and the only way you’ll know if you’ve got that is if you follow a collaborative process to build vision, commitment, and consensus. And if the investment isn’t right for you, that process will shake out all of the strategic reasons you need to say “no”.
Here’s an overview of the process-driven approach I take my clients through.
You need to get rid of the obvious losers, which will probably account for most of the unsolicited approaches you get. (See… there is a role for analysis.)
Identify the likely stakeholders who could benefit from this investment and schedule a group meeting. Better yet, schedule regular meetings with this group and put opportunities with some potential on the agenda.
Stakeholders should include decision-makers or decision-influencers from departments across your company – social media to HR to sales to brand management, and more.
There are several steps to this. You need to do them all, and in this order. This may seem like overkill, but you will make much better decisions about your sponsorship investments, if you do it this way. And when we’re talking about the most powerful marketing tool in the toolbox, it’s important to get it right!
There is certainly a lot more to it, but this is a good overview of what you need to do to build vision, buy-in, and a draft leverage and measurement plan. On the other hand, you may very clearly identify a lack of vision and buy-in, which will doom your results, no matter how good your analysis makes the sponsorship out to be.
You can easily adapt this process for renewals, giving you a way to rejuvenate or reinvent your investments. It will also be obvious if it’s time to move on.
If you’re already doing a strong, multifaceted job of measurement, you’d include discussion of the results and the factors that contributed to anything unexpected. If your measurement has been more about getting a post-event report from your partner – about mechanisms, not results – then there won’t be much meaningful to discuss.
I’ve lost track of the consulting clients who contact me years, and sometimes several jobs later, just to tell me how much this approach has changed their results, their jobs, and even their career trajectory. I get emails from people after attending my workshops, telling me that shifting to process-driven decision-making has rejuvenated their whole portfolios, and finally given them a politically astute way to exit historic and chairman’s choice sponsorships.
There are plenty of areas of sponsorship that benefit from analysis, checklists, and matrixes, so if that’s how your brain organises things, you can still get your fix. But the biggest decisions you’ll make – should we invest or reinvest, what will we do with it, and why – are only served when your organisation embraces collaboration and creativity and the
chaos robust discussion that goes along with it.
You may be interested in my white papers, “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “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.
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