Can’t Keep Up? 5 Ways to Simplify Sponsorship Servicing

Can’t Keep Up? 5 Ways to Simplify Sponsorship ServicingBack when I started in this business, sponsor servicing was almost non-existent. Properties (usually) delivered the benefits, then the next time a sponsor would hear from them was when the renewal request came through. Then, there was a long period when sponsor servicing was primarily about kissing the arse of your key contact. All it required was some VIP invites, a meet-and-greet with someone famous, and a few long lunches and everyone was happy. Until you tried to renew and there was someone new in the role.

Thankfully, a lot has changed, and rightsholders have realised that after-sale servicing is a critical factor for…

  • Ensuring the sponsor gets a great result from the sponsorship
  • Ensuring the sponsor is engaging the fans and their target markets effectively
  • Engendering collaboration between the sponsor and rightsholder
  • Keeping up the information flow between the sponsor and rightsholder
  • Increasing the likelihood of a renewal
  • Increasing the likelihood of up-selling at renewal
  • Engendering advocacy for other potential sponsors

The issue is that the way many properties go about their servicing programs is cumbersome and unfocused, with the result being that it takes up an enormous amount of time and effort, and only some of it provides real strategic value.

With that in mind, I’ve listed a number of strategies that will help you to simplify and streamline your sponsorship servicing, while positioning you as a truly great partner to your sponsor.

Service the objectives, not the individual

If you’re trying to streamline, it’s critical to know what’s important and what isn’t, so you don’t waste time and effort on strategies that don’t serve the purpose.

To a sponsor, the most important thing is that they get good results. The second most important thing is that you make their job as easy as possible. This is where you should be concentrating your servicing effort – providing added-value benefits, resources, and advice that will help them achieve their objectives efficiently and effectively – not on providing non-strategic perks to your key contact.

I’m not saying you can’t buy lunch for your contacts or invite them to your holiday party or otherwise be friendly with them. Go ahead. I’m just saying that shouldn’t be considered a substitute for servicing the objectives.

Still not convinced? The average length of a significant sponsorship contract is three years. The turnover in sponsorship and brand management jobs averages around two years. What this should tell you is that the person who invested in the sponsorship in the first place won’t be the one doing the renewal. If you can demonstrate that you’ve consistently added value to their objectives, that will look good to whoever is sitting in that chair.

Monthly reporting

Stop doing annual sponsorship reports. Seriously, please stop. By the time you get around to producing them, you’ve forgotten half of what’s happened in the past twelve months, and it ends up being padded with a lot of extraneous information about your event or program, not the sponsorship. And after all that work, most sponsors don’t even read them.

The reason many sponsors want annual sponsorship reports is that this is a way they can keep you accountable. The much better and easier answer is to make yourself accountable and provide short, monthly sponsorship reports instead. The important part is that you report on the sponsorship, not on the property, unless the information is specifically germane to the sponsorship. It should be short and sharp, covering the following:

  • Contracted benefits provided to the sponsor in the preceding month
  • Added-value benefits provided to the sponsor in the preceding month (a good reminder you go above and beyond for them!)
  • Overview of sponsorship-driven activities to be undertaken by the rightsholder in the next month
  • Any cash or contra sponsorship payments due in the next month
  • Key dates, meetings, or other activities in the next month
  • Opportunities and/or issues to address

A number of my clients use this method of reporting, using a working document or project management software, like Trello (see below), to jot down notes into a template as they come up, making this whole process very easy at the end of a month.

At the end of the year, you can do a short wrap up outlining the above, adding any pertinent, overarching information, but there will be no need to do a full report, as they’ve got both the information and the accountability they always wanted on a timely basis.

Teach your sponsors to measure

One of the reasons both rightsholders and sponsors think they need to do year-end reports is that there is often an expectation that the rightsholder is going to tell the sponsor what they got for their money. In other words, their results.

Sorry, but that just isn’t going to happen. Sponsorship measurement is about whether a sponsor achieves their marketing and business objectives against their benchmarks. A property simply can’t provide that kind of information, and it’s unreasonable for a sponsor to expect that they can.

The best option for all involved is to get your sponsors to understand that measurement is their responsibility and ensure they know how to do it.

  • Ask them about their objectives, and how they’re going to measure against those objectives, when you start the relationship (or now, if you’ve never had that conversation), and at renewal. This puts the ball firmly in their court.
  • Share resources that showcase sponsor-driven measurement strategies. As a start, you could send them a link to this blog: Sponsorship Measurement: How to Measure what’s Important.
  • Get them all together for a workshop and cover measurement how-to (see below)

Getting sponsors to do their own measurement – as they should – will take a huge amount of unproductive work off of your plate.

Service in groups

In addition to providing added-value benefits, your other biggest go-to strategy for adding value to the sponsor relationship should be doing things that benefit your whole sponsor family at the same time.

Hold an annual sponsor workshop

I’m going to put one caveat on that recommendation, and that is to make it about the sponsors and their results, not about you and your plans. So many times, sponsor get-togethers are nothing more than the property outlining their plans for the future year and a VIP saying thank you to the sponsors, followed by drinks. Don’t do that. Instead, get a credible external sponsorship expert to do a session on creating great leverage plans, or getting measurement right. (I do a lot of this stuff.) Get your most effective sponsors to do case studies. Make it useful!

Sponsor networking

Create some sponsor networking functions that include one or more “getting to know you” exercises, so that sponsors can start to understand who is in the room and what they’re trying to accomplish. In addition to engendering a sense of community around your sponsorship program, this will open up lots of cross-promotional opportunities.

Share fan research

Commission some new research and share the results with all of your sponsors. That audience research will help them to understand the priorities and hot buttons of your fans, as well as the best and worst parts of their fan experience – all ways that a sponsor can add value to that experience.

For more, see “Rightsholder Research that Really Benefits the Sponsor”.

Share industry intelligence

You should be doing regular industry research. Follow #sponsorship on Twitter, as well as some influential sponsorship blogs and podcasts. When you find something that might interest your sponsors, send it along to them. You might even put a list of great new articles or resources at the bottom of your monthly report. This takes something that you should be doing for your job anyway and creates value for your sponsors.

Use online collaboration tools

I’m asked all the time, and I mean ALL the time, to review various pieces of “groundbreaking sponsorship management software”, and I haven’t seen a single one that allows for the flexibility in both structure, sharing, and information capture that you need to track the creative, multi-faceted, and ever-changing needs of sponsorship.

Instead, look at more general collaborative workspaces, which will allow you a LOT more flexibility. My personal favourite, and the one I recommend to clients, is Trello. Create one card for each sponsor, and keep track of all contacts, files, etc on that card. Easy.

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. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses, covering the whole sponsorship process, with lots of inclusions. Interested? Check out the Corporate Sponsorship Masterclass for sponsors and Getting to “Yes” for rightsholders. You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “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 Systems Design 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.

© 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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