Don’t Send a Sponsorship Proposal Until You Read This

Don’t Send a Sponsorship Proposal Until You Read ThisMost sponsorship proposals are total crap.

They are all about the rightsholder, not taking the sponsor’s needs or markets into consideration at all. They are totally uncustomised – making full use of the search-and-replace function (hated by sponsors everywhere) – which is inexcusable, given the technology at hand to give you the insight you need.

If you want to create a customised offer for a sponsor – one that will grab their imagination and showcase how they can use this investment to get closer to their customers and achieve their specific objectives – you need information, and plenty of it.

This is the type of information you must know about a brand before you’re ready to create an offer:

  • Name and title of the brand manager
  • Specific brand(s) that are best matched to the sponsorship opportunity. Note, the various brands do not have to have different brand names, for instance, if you are targeting a bank, “mortgages” is a different brand than “credit cards”.
  • Target markets for the brand(s)
  • Overall marketing objectives for the brand(s)
  • How they use sponsorship to achieve their objectives
  • Whether they have any sponsorship exclusions (eg, they don’t sponsor motorsports)
  • How much lead time they need before the sponsorship opportunity starts

For a more in-depth checklist, you will find the Sponsor Information Checklist in The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.

The question is, then, how do you get this information? There are two phases, doing your homework and talking to the sponsor. In this post we’ll talk about doing your homework. If you do all of this, you will be fully prepared to have an in-depth conversation about the sponsor’s needs and priorities, fine-tuning what you know, so you can create a fantastic offer. You’ll also be showcasing that you actually care about their brand needs and results, which almost nobody who contacts them does. You’ll be a breath of fresh air, and you’ll get their attention, which is half the battle. A link to the blog about what happens in that first meeting is at the end of this blog.

The steps I’m outlining here might take you 30 minutes per sponsor, but some of the research will be the same across a whole category, so researching subsequent athletic apparel brands or cereal brands or whatever will be a lot faster.

Step 1 – Brand website

Go to the global and your country’s websites for each brand (as appropriate).

If they sell through retailers – and flagship stores don’t count – “increasing retail support” is always an objective.
  • Look to see if they have any sponsorship guidelines. They are often buried somewhere within their “About Us” or “Community” pages. If they have sponsorship guidelines, the usefulness may be patchy. Some are very good and provide all the information you need, as outlined above. Others are marked by vague, corporate-speak with no real insights as to their markets or needs. In other words, just because they have them doesn’t mean they’re useful.
  • Take note of the product lines or initiatives they are most heavily promoting on the site
  • Who does their site seem to be talking to? Not age and gender – what kind of people? Does it have a discernible voice?
  • Take note of their emphases. Are they trying to drive sales with offers? Position the brand? Drive you into stores?
  • Try to pull out their most likely objectives. One hint: If they sell through retailers – and flagship stores don’t count – “increasing retail support” is always an objective. Same goes for any brand selling through middlemen – car dealerships, computer resellers, mortgage brokers, etc.
  • Check out their press releases, which will probably be in a list somewhere on their site. Have they recently launched any new initiatives that are relevant to what you’re doing, or that you can hook into? (Note: If it’s recent, they may not be using it in their marketing activities yet.)

Step 2 – Social media

Now, head to their social media. They will generally have links to their most active social media accounts on their brand home page. Again, look for their global social media, as well as anything specific to your country or region.

  • Take note of their overall voice. Is their tone helpful? Inspiring? Ultra-cool? Do they champion their amazing staff? Showcase their customers?
  • Are they storytellers? Whose stories are they telling?
  • What about their tone around sponsorships? Is their approach to sound and act like a fan? Or is it more stuffy and corporate?
  • Who are they talking to? What kind of people?
  • What are their key messages? What initiatives or product lines are they emphasising?
  • Is their focus with promotions about small wins for lots of people? Or are they all about the one big prize for one person?

Now, you’re ready for Google.

Step 3 – Brand advertising and articles

Search for the brand and your country or region, such as “Pepsi Finland”. This will find industry articles and blogs referencing their recent activities. Hint: Use the advanced search features to limit your search to only pages updated in the past year.

Search for the brand and “advertising”. There are lots of websites that host television ads from around the world. Recent advertising – which you may not have seen – can give you a lot of insight into their priorities, objectives, and markets. Note: You may find some of their ads on their website, as well. It is still worth searching a bit more broadly.

Brands will often roll out new initiatives in their home or largest markets, before rolling them out to other markets.

When you find examples of advertising – whether print or television – ask yourself two questions:

  • To whom is this ad directed? Again, not what age and gender, but what kinds of people – young, urban trendsetters? Global citizens? Aspiring jetsetters?
  • What is the message? It may or may not articulate the actual message. Read between the lines. What do they want people to take away from the ad?

Be sure to look for ads and industry articles in the home country of the brand and/or their biggest markets. For instance, Pepsi is based in the US, so google “Pepsi advertising USA”. Brands will often roll out new initiatives in their home or largest markets, before rolling them out to other markets. If there’s something cool happening for that brand overseas, you might be able to use that information, when crafting your offer.

The answers to those questions will take you a long way toward understanding the brand and their priorities.

Step 4 – Brand sponsorship research

Now, search for “[brand] corporate sponsorship”. This will give you an understanding of…

  • What the brand sponsors, locally and overseas
  • How the brand uses those sponsorships
  • The rationale for those sponsorships – what they’re trying to accomplish, and with whom (you’ll often get this from articles in marketing media)

This kind of information will make you look like a bloody genius, when you start talking to the sponsor!

Step 5 – Industry sponsorship research

Finally, search for content about sponsorship in the category. For instance, “soft drink sponsorship Scandinavia” or “bank sponsorship Kenya”. Then, do a search on category case studies, such as “soft drink sponsorship case studies”. I’d tend to focus on case studies from the past five years.

With these searches, you should find a lot of broader information on how that category of sponsors uses their investments. You’ll find background information, such as…

  • Examples of interesting, out-of-the-box partnerships in the category
  • Examples of interesting, out-of-the-box sponsorship benefits
  • What the potential sponsor’s competition is doing with sponsorship, locally and overseas
  • Precedent to add weight to that great sponsorship idea you have

The upshot

If you take these steps, you will have most of the information you need to develop a customised sponsorship proposal. You will have all of the information you need to have a fruitful, break-the-mould conversation with the sponsor.

For more on that, see “The First Sponsor Meeting (And How Not to Make an Idiot of Yourself)”.

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 white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“. Want to build your sponsorship skills and strategies fast? I’ve got comprehensive online sponsorship training for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

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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