Around mid-2016, I wrote a similar blog for corporate sponsors, giving them the hallmarks of each generation of sponsorship, how that is affecting their results, and what to do about it.
Just like sponsors, a sponsorship seeker’s generation can have a profound effect on how much sponsorship you raise and retain. Your approach will tell a sponsor…
If you’re struggling, chances are it’s because your skills or organisational approach aren’t up to date. This isn’t the end of the world, and it’s not actually difficult to shift to best practice. But before you can power up your sponsorship, you are going to need to rewire – how much or how little will depend on which generation you currently are.
First generation sponsorship is primarily driven by visibility, and as a sponsorship seeker, you’re selling with the mindset that the sponsor will be getting a result just by being there and being visible, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
You are a first generation sponsorship seeker if any of the following are true:
If ANY of this looks familiar, you need a major overhaul of your approach. Sponsors – 99% of them anyway – are way past being preoccupied with visibility. In addition, research has disproven any link between visibility (awareness and/or exposure) and changing perceptions and behaviours – also known as “marketing” – in major academic studies going back to 1991.
So please here me when I say this to you: Visibility is the least valuable thing you can provide to a sponsor, and if it’s a major anchor of your offer, you will look like an unsophisticated, low-value option. When sponsors have so many options, that’s basically signing your sponsorship program’s death warrant.
The major hallmark of second generation sponsorship is short-term thinking, usually focussed on sales. Most second generation sponsorship seekers have some of the first generation hallmarks, mixed with some of these:
It’s a step up from first generation, in that you’re actually recommending doing something with the sponsorship, but if that “something” looks like the above, you’re vastly limiting your value to a sponsor, and sit squarely in second generation.
I’m not saying that a sales promotion is necessarily a bad idea – although one giant prize for one person is definitely not best practice – but what you’re really selling is the opportunity for sponsors to connect with people in a meaningful way through something they already care about. That’s a big deal, and can change people’s perceptions and behaviours over the long term, as well as short. If all you’re pitching is short-term returns, you’re diminishing your value by a long measure.
The major driver for third generation is brand needs. This is a big step up from first or second gen, in that your pitch will likely be customised and have a range of leverage ideas – ideas for how the sponsor can achieve their marketing objectives. These objectives will include both long- and short-term objectives, and may well include fans that don’t attend, as well as those that do.
This is all great, but the issue with third generation is that, at its core, it’s selfish, and every time you sell something to a sponsor that allows them to intrude on or otherwise diminish a fan experience, your fans notice. They don’t appreciate it, they don’t appreciate you, and they don’t appreciate the sponsor. And if you do it enough, and you start alienating fans.
So, if your offers include any of the below, you’ve still got a lot to learn:
Yeah, okay… so it’s fourth generation. But it’s also last, because the focal point is finally in the right place, and that won’t change.
The driving force behind Last Generation Sponsorship is that the fans come first, and your approach as a sponsorship seeker will be built around the following framework:
If this looks like your approach, congratulations. You’re probably converting a much higher proportion of prospects, and retaining a higher proportion of renewals, than most other properties.
If you’ve got through this and realised you need a rewire, don’t delay in doing it. Every day you’re out seeking and managing sponsorship the old way, you’re underselling yourself and making budget targets harder to achieve.
Getting to best practice isn’t actually difficult. You just need to be willing to let go of old habits, and seek out instruction and examples of how it’s done well. A good place to start is this blog, which has over 250 how-to articles. If that seems a little overwhelming, here are two roundups of must-read blogs for sponsorship seekers:
I also recommend a bunch of other great sponsorship bloggers.
For the whole process in step-by-step order, with all the checklists and templates you’ll need, get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition. And if you need a crash course, seek out some top quality sponsorship training. I’ve got workshops coming up in June and you can get more information and download a brochure right here.
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.