That was the question I had to address at a conference last week. My opinion? Of course sponsors can help teams sell tickets! Great sponsors are not only adding value to the event experience, but they’re engendering advocacy for that experience – both critical factors for developing and growing an audience.
That said, I think most teams who want to go down this track are setting themselves up for failure. There are three key reasons:
Let’s be honest here. More often than not, teams are happy to put a price tag on all manner of intrusive, disrespectful sponsorship “benefits”. You want to scream at our fans during a critical juncture in the game? Sure, if the cheque’s big enough. You want to insist our fans use your credit card to buy their season tickets? Absolutely, but it will cost you. You want to put lit up, moving signage right next to the field or court during play? Of course – as long as we can make a buck out of it, we’re happy to allow our sponsors to diminish the event experience!
Like the Hippocratic Oath says, “First, do no harm”. If you want your sponsors to build your audience, don’t allow them to diminish the experience.
I could write pages and pages on all of the times I’ve gone with a corporate client to a team with some amazing leverage ideas – ideas that would benefit the sponsor, the team, and the audience – and been met with either a “that’s not how we do things” or the request for an inordinate amount of extra money for the one or two benefits we needed to make it happen.
If you want a sponsor to go the extra mile and help you to achieve your marketing goals, you need to be flexible. Don’t charge extra for a couple of benefits that underpin an idea that is good for everyone. Don’t tell a sponsor they can’t implement a big leverage idea that achieves their marketing objectives, and then ask them to help you with yours.
Many teams have become maestros at social media. The ideas showcased at last week’s conference were amazing in both creativity and execution. But the problem is, they are aimed at people who are already fans and bought-in enough to engage in social media with the team. In other words, they are preaching to the converted!
As I listened to these ideas being presented, I couldn’t help but think how much more powerful they would have been if some of them had been flicked to sponsors – both as amazing leverage ideas and as a shrewd way to extend that audience-building into the new markets that the sponsors can bring.
The upshot is that sponsors can absolutely help teams engender interest and loyalty, ultimately selling tickets. But teams are their own worst enemy, and until that changes, sponsors will have neither the interest nor the ability to make any real dent in any team’s ticket sales.
You may be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.
Rightsholders, 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.
If you need professional assistance with sponsorship, 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/or decentralised organisations.
Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.