Fear Factor: Five Reasons Sponsors Resist Change

TarantulaI meet a lot of sponsors, and something that strikes me with alarming frequency is the fact that so many of them are quite aware of what best practice sponsorship is about, and the benefits of doing it, but haven’t taken any steps to elevate their sponsorship approach to that level.

Why would so many sponsors bother to talk such a good game, when they have no apparent interest in playing it? What is stopping them from taking the steps necessary to benefit their brand using a more strategic approach? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s fear. Below, I’ve outlined the five biggest fears I see all the time.

They’re afraid it will be more work

This is actually right. Getting sponsorship to really fly does require a lot of work. The good news is that best practice sponsorship spreads that load to the most sensible people, so your workload is likely to be different, but not bigger.

Here’s the thing, sponsorship does not work in a vacuum. To get the most out of it, it should be used as a catalyst – integrated across your other marketing and business activities. That means, you will be working with decision-makers from across your company and, newsflash, they are all better at their jobs than you are.

Got a sponsorship with a social media angle? Work with your in-house (or contracted) expert to develop the plan and then – yay! – they implement it. Got an employee angle? That’s where the employee experts, HR, come in. Sales? Your sales team is much better placed to develop the promotions and get retail buy-in than you are. The list goes on and on.

If you do sponsorship right, your job changes from “doer” to “wrangler”, as you manage the process through the different departments. And because those departments are already experts, they will be able to accomplish a lot and do it both expertly and efficiently.

They’re afraid of the higher bar

What if you make some changes and, lo and behold, they actually work? Suddenly the bar may be raised on everything you do!

While some corporate managers relish in meeting higher expectations, not everyone is in that category. Let’s face it, some would rather coast.

The thing about best practice sponsorship is that once someone – read: your boss – sees how smart, effective, and creative it is, they will become best practice true believers and you will be a star. And yes, that means higher expectations.

The good news is that once you know how to construct a best practice sponsorship leverage and measurement program, it is easy to replicate the process for the rest of your portfolio. It’s creative, it’s fun, and so very gratifying. Thinking that you shouldn’t make the first jump because the bar will eventually go up is silly and self-defeating.

They’re afraid that if you take a different approach, it will make you look like you were dumb before

I see this one a lot. A sponsorship manager or team wants to make a change, but they don’t want to admit to colleagues and bosses that they had it wrong – or at least not right – before.

Here’s the good news: You have a window of opportunity. Best practice sponsorship is not so common that you will look like you were late to the party. It is new enough that you can say you’ve been doing some research on global best practice and you want to overhaul the approach. There is absolutely no shame in that, so take ownership and lead the process. Be the spearhead. You’ll look like a visionary.

They’re afraid the sell-in will be tough

This is a valid fear. Sometimes corporate cultures just don’t readily embrace change and knowing you have to fight inertia is enough to stymie any attempts at progress.

Education is your friend. Distribute white papers (“Last Generation Sponsorship” is a great start). Involve colleagues in leverage brainstorms. The fastest thing you can do, however, is to host some in-house training with someone who really knows best practice sponsorship and how to teach it. Show your colleagues the light and they will see the possibilities for your own brands.

They’re afraid the perks will dry up

Sponsorship managers – particularly at bigger companies – are on a pretty good wicket. They get invited to a lot of events and get a lot of tickets that mere mortals dream about. It’s so good, that it is perfectly understandable that you don’t want to change anything, just in case you miss out.

It won’t happen. There is every chance that your portfolio may change to better reflect brand and target market needs, but you’re still going to get all the good invitations. As long as you still have a hand in decisions, you will not miss out.

There you go. Five fears you really don’t need to have. There are no excuses. Get out there and embrace best practice – for your brands, your career, and yourself. You won’t regret it.

For all you need to know about best practice sponsorship selection, leverage, measurement, management, and more, you may want to get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.

Need more assistance?

If you need any assistance, I am available for consulting and strategy sessions. Just drop me a line and we can discuss your needs and what I can do for you.

Kim Skildum-Reid
AU: +61 2 9559 6444
US: +1 612 326 5265


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