I have worked with a lot of big rightsholders, and one of their biggest challenges is how to get the regional offices to deliver national sponsorships on a consistent basis.
This becomes even more complex when the structure is federated and the offices are operating as independent businesses. They have their own sponsors to look after, and may not be interested in delivering national sponsorships that they see as having limited benefit to them. Or worse, they may be resentful that the national sponsorships mean they can’t sell sponsorship in those categories because of promised exclusivity.
While this is a challenge, it is far from insurmountable, and I offer a few strategies that may help you to manage this often complex situation.
Before you can get your regions on-side, you need to understand the issues surrounding why they are they unwilling or unable to deliver a national sponsorship well.
In my experience, it is usually one or a combination of the above. Once you’ve let them unload – which may not be pleasant – you need to develop a strategy that allows sponsorship to work better for everyone.
Many regional offices could use some education on the basics of best practice sponsorship, and some organisation-wide training can be a very high-leverage investment for many reasons: Your regions will be more confident, have greater capacity to raise sponsorship themselves, and a greater understanding of what sponsorship can do for them.
To address this specific issue, you want to ensure that you also include topics such as:
It takes a lot of time and costs money to deliver a sponsorship. You know it. I know it. And your regions know it. Why, then, do so many national offices expect that the regions will simply deliver their national sponsorship for no real benefit to their bottom line?
Depending on your structure, the way you handle national sponsorship income will be different. For instance, if your national office is raising sponsorship purely for national programs that are carried out 100% by the national office, you may retain all of the associated sponsorship revenue. If your national office is mainly administrative, and all events and initiatives are carried out at the regional or grassroots level, the proportion of national sponsorship income you retain will be smaller. If you are running major programs and events out of your national office, but regional offices are handling grassroots implementation, you will need to balance the sponsorship income to cover your administrative and program costs, as well as the regions’.
If you use my sponsorship pricing methodology as a starting point, you will need to work with your regions to determine how much it will cost them to deliver the promised benefits to national sponsors. Then, you should offer them more than that – at least double, ideally triple – to do it. If you don’t have enough revenue from that sponsor to pay that to the organisations delivering much of the value, you are either undervaluing what you’re delivering or have some other flaw in your pricing methodology. You may want to review “Sponsorship Pricing Basics”.
What is the national office going to sell and what is the regional office going to sell? That can be a very tricky question. I’ve seen some national offices define their sponsorship “jurisdiction” so broadly that the regions have virtually no relevant categories left to pursue. I’ve seen others determine that the national office will approach national companies, while the regional offices can approach only regionally-based sponsors. This would seem to be straightforward enough, but is all about delineation and doesn’t take into account the sponsor’s needs at all. What if, for instance, a major bank is expanding their footprint in one region and wants to focus their sponsorship there? What if a national company is headquartered in one of your regions, and concentrates their sponsorships there?
There are always going to be exceptions, but in general terms, you should define some parameters around what types of sponsors the national office will pursue and what types the regions will pursue, always ensuring there are ample, relevant categories at the regional level.
You should define the sponsor categories that are most appropriately sold by the national office. These are likely to be major sponsor categories that are equally relevant across regions and dominated by national companies. Anything outside of those categories should be fair game for the regions to pursue.
The most important thing that needs to be determined is whether the category exclusivity offered to national sponsors extends to regional events, programs, or other properties. For instance, if a charity has a national partnership with Target Stores, could a region run an event in partnership with another retailer or their local shopping mall? If national exclusivity is going to extend across local and regional events, that could preclude a lot of revenue for the regions, so it will need to be priced, and revenue distributed,accordingly.
There are going to be instances where the above just doesn’t apply. Let’s say there is a professional services association. They are approached by a new, cloud-based accounting software company for a national sponsorship. Sounds great, but one or more of your regions is already sponsored by a different accounting software company. What do you do? You could:
In all of these cases, there needs to be open communications between the regions and national office. In cases where there are complications, I suggest the national office should prepare a one-sheeter outlining the benefits to the overall organisation and regions and suggest a way forward. If there are any concerns, either individual meetings or a group videoconference could be held to work out the issues.
Truth be told, this is a post that sat half-written for months, because this is a complicated area fraught with politics and egos and often wildly varying capabilities. It’s difficult to stick a stake in the sand and say, “You need to do it this way”, because there is no one right way. What I’ve tried to do is highlight some of the most common issues and a number of the ways they can be addressed. Good luck.
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“.
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.
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