Five Reasons Sponsors Should Consider an Umbrella Portfolio

Five Reasons Sponsors Should Consider an Umbrella PortfolioI love umbrella portfolios. I make no bones about it. They featured heavily in my previous post, “How to Structure a Sponsorship Portfolio”, but I think they’re an important enough element – for both strategic and workflow reasons – that it warranted addressing this portfolio management technique specifically.

1. You only have so much time

It is unrealistic to think that one or two people are going to be able to negotiate, manage relationships, leverage, and measure two hundred, or even one hundred, individual sponsorships. That’s not to mention dealing with all of the unsolicited proposals and voicemails. Streamlining the workload is the only way this is going to work. Well, either that or a wand.

One of the biggest efficiencies you will be able to create is to bundle related sponsorships into an umbrella portfolio and leverage them as if they were one, huge sponsorship. You’ll still have to negotiate and manage the relationship, but developing and implementing leverage and measurement plans is very time-intensive, and with an umbrella portfolio, you only have to do it once.

(Another big streamlining tip: Create and use a set of Sponsorship Guidelines. It will cut the number of proposal you get significantly, and the quality of those that do get to you will be a lot higher. You can download a Sponsorship Guidelines Template here.)

2. No one investment has to be perfect

Have you got a few legacy sponsorships that really don’t work, but for political reasons, you can’t drop? Maybe some senior executive pet projects? Or a couple of badly negotiated deals, where the partner doesn’t give a crap whether the benefits really work for you or not? Or maybe you’ve got a few dozen (or a few hundred) tiny little rats-and-mice sponsorships – those sub-$1000, local sponsorships that you have to do, for whatever reason, but that don’t have the critical mass to be leveraged properly on their own?

Umbrella portfolio to the rescue!

With an umbrella portfolio, you are essentially creating one, large sponsorship around a theme, rather than an individual sponsorship. The whole thing has to work, but the individual components can be a mix of strategic and tactical, national and local, and of varying sizes and shapes. Even sponsorships that are ridiculously wrong can work as part of a larger umbrella, if they fit the theme.

3. Creates consistency over time

When I refer to “picking a theme”, what you’re really doing is basically creating a new brand, and partnering with that. So, instead of partnering with the brand, Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival, you’re partnering with the brand, “blues music” or “music festivals”, and that particular festival fits into that brand.

The number one strategy you can take to create that consistency is to create a micro-site around the chosen theme. That way, you can rotate through, and showcase, a lot of interesting and varied content and promotion, while never veering off strategy. Your micro-site could be part of your normal website, a stand-alone website, or could live on social media, such as Facebook. It could include content such as:

  • Themed brand and product promotions, special offers, launches, etc
  • Aggregated content around your theme (tour dates, list of local hotlines, etc)
  • Exclusive content provided by your partners
  • Content created by your brand
  • Content created by your staff
  • User-generated content (created and submitted by your target markets)
  • Embedded other social media content (Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc)
  • Interactive elements – games, polls, contests, webcasts, web chats, etc
  • Newsletter, alerts, invitations, memberships

As your micro-site evolves, the bank of still-pertinent, legacy content will have target market relevance for years to come.

4. Allows you to create national/global results from local/regional sponsorships

Your brand may need grassroots opportunities. Positioning your brand as having local understanding and relevance could be very important to you. And, frankly, sponsoring a national organisation can be daunting. Don’t get me wrong, they can also be great partners, but some struggle to provide valuable benefits, or administer them, on a local level. And a few national organisations are so big, that they have fallen into the category of extremely self-important and inflexible.

There are lots of reasons you may favour localised sponsorships, but if your brand is national or global, how you reflect that can be a challenge. Again, an umbrella sponsorship can be a strong answer.

Imagine you created an umbrella themed around helping teens in crisis, and put that umbrella over the top of a whole group of charities and projects assisting teens. If there is good, credible content that is useful to a national audience, it doesn’t matter if it came from a teen crisis hotline serving only Cleveland. If one of the organisations you sponsor has a ground-breaking program to deal with bullying, and they’re willing to share advice with your larger audience, it doesn’t matter if the program currently runs only in Reno. If your home office employees participate in a teen homelessness “sleep out” charity event run by your local homeless mission, wouldn’t it be great to feature that to your larger audience?

Using an umbrella program, you don’t have to look for the one or two major, national teen crisis charities, who may or may not be doing anything particularly interesting. You could, instead, make a point of seeking out innovators and outliers who are seeing success.

There is a ton of marketing opportunity with local and grassroots investments. By leveraging them under an umbrella, you not only have the opportunity to create much larger returns for your brand, you are also elevating their organisation to a national stage, which is a big win for many of them.

5. Offers unparalleled flexibility

The upshot from all of this is that your big portfolio of imperfect sponsorships offers you more flexibility than any other single sponsorship you have:

  • You can create leverage programs for staff, customers, potential customers, intermediary markets, or whoever you’re targeting.
  • You can have different marketing, brand, geographic, or promotional focal points from year-to-year, or even at different times of the year. You could even create co-promotions with different retailers at different times of the year.
  • If you have specific strategic, tactical, or regional needs, there is nothing stopping you from leveraging the whole umbrella and selected partnerships under that umbrella.
  • You could give your staff or customers some control over what you sponsor – earmarking a dollar figure and putting it out for nominations and voting.


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?

You may be interested in my latest white paper, “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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