How to Do a MacGyver on Your Sponsorships

Swiss Army KnifeYou’ve got a sponsorship that may have been relevant to your market and brand at one point, but that relevance has faded.

You’ve just been handed a sponsorship to leverage, and the lead-time is really short.

You’ve got a sponsorship that’s gone so stale you’ve no longer got buy-in, but the bigwigs still expect bang for the buck.

Your CEO has just spent sponsorship money on a pet project that is completely wrong for the brand.

We’ve all been there, and we know these are not good scenarios. But before you hit the big, red panic button, take a deep breath and some inspiration from that master of improvisation, MacGyver. As MacGyver spent the late 80s teaching us, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation – you just need creativity, ingenuity, and a handful of tools.

Three of my favourite tools, when reinvention against all the odds is required, are listed below.


Crowdsourcing is a great option for leverage at any time, but if a sponsorship isn’t great for a target market, it gives you a platform for working with your target markets to reinvent and re-establish some relevance. If you’re going to do this, you need to think laterally and let go of preconceptions. If it’s not relevant to your target markets now, it’s not going to be any more relevant if you push the same angle twice as hard.

Crowdsourcing is not only about working with your target markets to find ideas and a direction for your sponsorship, it is getting them invested in the sponsorship; making them feel a sense of ownership of some of it. And if you’re going to engender that ownership, you need to find an angle that will interest them.

  • Could you commission an artwork where three basic elements of the brief were voted on by your customers? Everyone who voted could maybe get a ticket to the exhibition?
  • Could you connect some element of the property to a charitable donation – like $500 per home run by a minor league team you sponsor – with Facebook likers deciding the charities?
  • Could you make your stage at a children’s festival a Mum’s Choice stage, with mums nominating acts to be considered for performance?

Because decisions relating to the planning of your leverage program are being put into the hands of your target markets, this isn’t a great option if you’re on a short lead-time.

Use consumer-generated content

Another related strategy is using consumer-generated content. That is, you invite your target markets to submit content that is used in a meaningful way to augment the experience.

  • Could people submit video auditions to host some aspect of your leverage program?
  • Could people upload photos of their favourite car/pet/holiday/whatever and some kind of artwork created from it?
  • Could you put out the call to do a mashup of a clip of ballet or dance theatre (with permission, of course) and modern music?

As with crowdsourcing, social media is generally the best tool for this. It’s easy to set up, generally free, and fast.


Have you ever noticed the beauty in the unusual? The way disparate things go together to make something that really works? I have, and this is a technique you can use to repurpose and reinvent sponsorships that aren’t working for you. The basic idea is that you use two or more sponsorships together to create a leverage program that is more effective that one on its own.

You sponsor a flower show? Could you get players from that football team you also sponsor to plant and paint and autograph pots to be displayed at the show? Then auction them for charity? (This really happened. The players planted their pots in their off-season and it was a big hit.)

Sometimes you’ll have a couple of sponsorships that are a natural fit. Sometimes, the best ideas are the most unusual combinations. Write all of your sponsorships on a whiteboard and just throw some ideas around. You’ll be surprised how many crazy – and crazy good – ideas you’ll have.

The upshot

When you’re doing a MacGyver on a sponsorship, you can’t expect sleek, sophisticated perfection. You are, as my grandpa would have put it, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – repurposing something imperfect so that it is at least serviceable. The thing is, sometimes when you allow yourself to pursue those wild, off-kilter ideas, you end up creating something unexpectedly amazing.

Need more assistance?

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.

If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting, sponsorship training, and strategy sessions. Please drop me a line to discuss.

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

- © Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.

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