Some (not all) sponsorship seekers are under some big misconceptions about the sponsors they approach. These misconceptions do nothing to advance the potential for getting a “yes”, and if a sponsor thinks you don’t understand their process and their challenges, it’s unlikely they’ll consider your offer.
My goal with this blog is to give you a heads up about of those misconceptions about sponsors before they hurt your chances.
“This is an opportunity not to be missed!”
“Please support our very worthy cause.”
“I’d like to talk to somebody about sponsorship.”
I could write a list of red flags as long as my arm (and I’m tall, so that’s a long way)!
Most sponsorship seekers don’t understand sponsor needs or expectations at all. They don’t do their homework about the brand or the person they’re contacting. Some of them just write “letters of request”, as if that’s going to get a sponsor to say, “hot damn, let’s send these people a big fat cheque!” A lot of them seem to be looking for free (or virtually free) money.
The problem for the sponsors isn’t saying no, it’s the time it takes to review all of the offers, all the voicemails. Plus, all of these terrible offers make sponsors jaded. They wish for great offers, but they assume yours will be terrible unless you prove otherwise.
The solution: Be the exception. Do your homework. Customise those proposals so that no two are the same. Make sure every word that comes out of your mouth or your computer is about how you’re going to make this work for the sponsor and how you can help them connect with their target markets.
If you are approaching the sponsorship manager, chances are, he or she isn’t the one with the authority to say “yes”. The brand manager is generally that person.
If you are approaching the CEO, they certainly have the ability to say yes, but they usually don’t. Unless it is a pet project, it will probably be sent down the chain to the brand or sponsorship manager.
The upshot of all of this is that, unless you’ve gone straight to the brand manager, it’s going to take some time for your offer to get to the right person, and hounding your primary contact isn’t going to speed it along.
The solution: First and most important, go straight to the brand manager (which requires some research). Second, be patient. Follow up, but don’t hound.
Within corporations, you would have to look far and wide to find someone with a personal agenda regarding direct marketing. The same can’t be said for sponsorship. EVERYONE’s got an agenda when it comes to sponsorship – what the company should sponsor, how they should use it, what matters, what doesn’t, etc. Every decision about investing in or exiting a sponsorship is going to face scrutiny across a range of stakeholders from the bottom to the top of the org chart.
Managing the expectations, critics, and bruised egos (“Ms MD, we have determined that your pet sponsorship is at odds with our brand plan and we recommend an exit”) on the way to building an effective portfolio is really tricky and not always entirely possible.
As a sponsorship seeker, some decisions are just not going to make sense – why they sponsor Event X and say “no” to you, or whatever. You can create an amazing offer and get your contact super-excited and it can go nowhere. There are many reasons this can happen, but a big one that sponsorship seekers don’t always understand is that whatever you offer has to run the gauntlet of internal politics, and it is likely that a lot of people with opinions, but little expertise, will weigh in.
The solution: Sometimes there isn’t a solution. This is an area that is often out of your hands. That said, if you follow the advice, above, and create an offer that works across departments and (if possible) from the local to top level, you are more likely to appeal to the in-house critics.
Whether the actual management of sponsorship properties is being handled by a sponsorship manager or brand team, or some combination, an awful lot of them are handling far too many properties. In my experience, one of two things happen: They burn out or they check out. Neither is the best situation for your fabulous proposal.
The solution: Make their life easier. Make a business case that is easy for them to sell internally. Provide them with creative ideas for leverage, so they don’t have to – plus, it helps them to visualise the possibilities.
A lot of sponsors are struggling with how to measure the real returns of their sponsorship programs, and as costs fall under more scrutiny than ever, it becomes even more important.
Measuring sponsorship is absolutely not your job, but if you can ask some of the right questions and provide some insight as to how they can measure their results, you could add lot of value to the relationship and go a long way toward a renewal.
The solution: If you’re going to talk measurement, you need to understand measurement. There are plenty of blogs here that address it. I have also done a free video tutorial, entitled “Sponsorship Measurement Basics in About 10 Minutes”.
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 latest white paper, “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 capacity-building 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.