This now fully updated blog has been the most popular blog on this website since it was first posted.
Meeting with, and getting your offer to, the right person is a combination of knowing what roles to target, and finding their contact information. This blog is a starting point. Do NOT just gather a bunch of names and emails and spam them all with offers. That’s akin to shooting yourself in the foot, while in a flaming dumpster, on a burning bridge.
Use the resources listed below – particularly The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit and/or Getting to “Yes” – to ensure you don’t just approach the right person, but that you’re doing it in a way that gives you the best possible chance at getting a “yes”.
The first consideration is who you should target for your offer, and there are definitely roles you should avoid and roles that will be much more productive.
Sponsorship manager – You’d think somebody called the “sponsorship manager” should be right person to receive your sponsorship proposal. That’s just what the company is hoping you’ll think, as one of the sponsorship manager’s biggest roles is that of gatekeeper – keeping you away from the real decision-makers. Yes, there are a few exceptions to this, but not enough to make this a good first entry into a company.
Online sponsorship submission forms – These are nothing but automated gatekeepers and don’t give you the scope to showcase what you really have to offer. Avoid them at all costs.
Agencies – It’s just not a good idea to volunteer to put a third party between you and the decision-maker. Stories of this working are rare, and I’ve never seen it happen myself.
CEO/MD/President – Please hear me when I tell you this: The CEO is not going to say “yes” to you. They aren’t going to say “no” to you, either. They’ll pass your proposal down the line until it gets to the sponsorship manager and then s/he’ll say “no”. Meanwhile, you’ve burned a ton of time.
Brand manager (or a member of the brand team) – In most companies, this is who has the authority, flexibility, and budget to say “yes” to you, and is who you need to target. As a bonus, because so many rightsholders are wasting their time with the CEO and the sponsorship manager, very few are targeting the brand manager.
General manager – This is often the right person to target in a smaller company, particularly a local or regional company. The good news is that you can call to confirm, as smaller companies tend to be less cagey about providing details to rightsholders.
Regional marketing manager – If what you’re offering has a primarily local or regional focus, you could opt to approach the regional marketing manager. S/he may have the budget and authority locally, and can be a strong advocate in home office if your offer outstrips their budget. Even if your property may have broader geographic relevance, starting with your regional marketing manager can be a great idea. They’re usually quite accessible, can give you all the background you need, and if you get them a great proposal, they’ll take it into headquarters for you.
If you contact one of these people and are referred to the sponsorship manager, an agency, or an online form, you’re going to need to accept that you’ve probably just been told “no”. For more on that, you may want to read, “Six Signs a Sponsor is Just Not That Into You”.
There are a lot of strategies for learning who to approach and how to contact her/him. How you go about it is a matter of the resources you have available and your own personal style. These are a few of the strategies you can use.
Sponsorship isn’t anywhere near six degrees of separation. Chances are, you’ll only be a couple of degrees away from someone who can tell you who the actual decision-maker is and how to reach her/him.
Most corporate websites have a media centre, featuring their media releases from recent months or years. Find that page and scan for releases having to do with brand announcements. Chances are, there will be a quote from the brand manager in charge of that brand and voila, you have the name and correct title.
You should also note if there is an email address for the media contact, as the syntax will likely be the same for the brand manager (eg, [email protected]).
If you are selling a significant number and amount of sponsorships, you need to subscribe to your national advertising/marketing weekly – or at least their email alerts. Examples are AdAge, Adweek, AdNews, Media, and more around the world. Why? Because every time a new marketing initiative is announced for a major brand, it will be covered in one of those publications and will feature a quote from the brand manager in charge. Pro tip: Subscribe to the free bulletins and direct them into a subfolder of your inbox. That way, you can just search the folder, if you need someone’s name.
LinkedIn is a good way to find out the correct name and title for the brand manager, as well as some background information that may assist you with preparing for a meeting or phone call. I’m not convinced, however, that LinkedIn messaging is a great way to introduce yourself. Ditto asking someone that you have never done business with to make a LinkedIn introduction. I get asked this all of the time, but if I don’t have personal experience working with you, sorry, but I’m not going to vouch.
There are several services that do the same thing, but this is my favourite. Go to VoilaNorbert.com, enter the name of your contact and the domain name, and it will try to find the right email for you. It’s not perfect, but can get quite a lot of them. Your first 50 searches are free with an account.
If all else fails, call the switchboard and ask for the name of the [insert brand here] brand manager. Don’t then ask to be put through. You need to prepare before you make that call.
I am aware there are some directories available, but their value is really patchy. If it’s sponsorship-oriented, it’s the sponsorship manager (gatekeeper) that is usually listed. There are more general directories, listing brand managers. The biggest problem with directories, though, is that the turnover in marketing roles is high and the lists go out of date quickly. This is my least favourite option.
Once you’ve got the correct name, title, some background, and possibly an email address, you still have quite a lot to do before you’re ready to make contact. Don’t screw it up. Read the blogs, “Your First Sponsor Meeting (and How Not to Make an Idiot of Yourself)” and “Don’t Send a Sponsorship Proposal until You Read This”.
You may 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.
If you’re interested in a self-paced, online sponsorship training course, with lots of inclusions, check out Getting to “Yes”.
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.
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.