We’ve all been there. You’ve got a proposal for a sponsorship with “potential”, but you know getting it over the line will be next to impossible. Maybe there’s a ton of relevance for your target market, but the property is new and untried. Maybe you can think of a million great angles for leverage, but the property isn’t super-sexy. Or maybe your company just has a fixed idea of what a “major sponsorship” looks like.
Some sponsorship opportunities are amazing, with the value absolutely apparent to anyone who sees the proposal. But there are also many diamonds-in-the-rough that could do amazing things for your brand, if you can get the buy in.
What you don’t want to do is commit to a sponsorship that you know will be good without at least some buy-in. A sponsorship’s value to your brand comes from what you do with it, and the only way to be both thorough and cost-effective is to have a range of stakeholders using that sponsorship to add value to what they’re already doing. Below are a few of the strategies I use to get diamonds-in-the-rough across the line.
Do a stakeholder leverage session
If you read my blog at all, you know I love stakeholder leverage sessions. They’ll save you money, make your sponsorships work harder, and solve all manner of problems. This is no exception, and should be your first strategy.
You need as many stakeholders as you can get in a room – decision-makers or –influencers from a range of departments and marketing channels that could benefit from the sponsorship. You’ll need about 90 minutes. Bribe them with sandwiches, if you have to. (Note, you’ll only have to do that once – the process is a lot of fun and they’ll want to do it again.)
Start from the following premise:
- You own the company
- You can do anything with the sponsorship you want
- You can have any benefits from the property you want
From there, you want to do a big brainstorm, anchored on the following questions:
- How can we use this sponsorship to add value to the fan experience – amplify the best stuff and/or fix the worst stuff?
- How can we use this sponsorship to add value to the brand experience – make it more meaningful, make people feel understood, valued?
- How can we use this sponsorship to achieve the overall objectives of each of the stakeholders – brand, sales, HR, loyalty, etc.
You will end up with a whiteboard full of ideas, but more than that, you’ll fill your stakeholders with vision for the sponsorship’s potential!
From there, you want to vet out the best ideas. You can then create a benefits wish list, ensuring you get all of the benefits you need to make those things happen, and counter-offer.
There is definitely more to this process than this, and if you’ve never done a stakeholder leverage session before, it would probably be a good idea to get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit. That book has this process very comprehensively outlined, along with case studies for each step of the process that will give you lots of ideas that you can… ahem… borrow with pride, jump-starting the creative process.
Do a mini-leverage session and “roadshow”
If you can’t get the stakeholders in a room, then just get as many of your colleagues into a room as you can. Try to get at least three of you and go through the process outlined above.
As you’ll be wearing a lot of stakeholder hats, list all of the potential stakeholder areas somewhere you can see them before you start, and you need to be constantly checking in with that list, ensuring that you come up with concepts for everyone.
Once you’ve got a stack of ideas, make individual appointments with the decision-makers for each area, outlining the sponsorship and what it could do against their objectives. This isn’t as efficient as a group brainstorm session, and you won’t get the benefit of the excitement building in the group, but I’ve done this plenty of times and it can work really well.
Get creative with geography
If you’ve got a local or regional sponsorship that could be really good, take it out of its regional “box”. Use the relevance of the broader themes of the sponsorship to create value on a broader geographic level and possibly even accessing funding from a larger budget.
Gourmet festival in wine country? You could negotiate heaps of IP that would be of interest to foodies around the country. Innovative local literacy charity targeting disadvantaged youth? Work with them to create simple ideas you can provide to families, schools, neighbourhoods, and communities across the country to address those issues.
You can take the same approach with the timeframe. Just because an event happens on just one day or weekend or week doesn’t mean it stops being relevant to people.
For more on this approach, read “It’s Not the Size of the Sponsorship, It’s What You Do with It”.
Demonstrate relative efficiency
About every second time I go buy a bag of expensive dog food, they give me a present. I’ve been given a giant pink and black golf umbrella, several dog food bins, a bum bag, a backpack, a pop-up dog sun shelter, and lots more, all with the company name on them in huge letters. All due respect, but I really don’t need or want that stuff, and giving it all away would have cost a fortune.
Companies all over the world spend a ton of money on promotions and discounts and loyalty perks. They spend lots of money on new product launches and product trial. They spend endless amounts of time and money creating compelling content for social media, so people will “like” them. And they spend plenty on staff incentives and team building.
Sponsorship can be an outstanding, and very cost-effective, way of achieving all of these things – and it has built-in relevance to your target markets – and that can be a very compelling argument to your in-house critics.
Cross-pollinate with other sponsorships
This strategy isn’t one that’s likely to work on its own, but I’ve used it in concert with the other ideas on many occasions.
Think about everything else you sponsor. How can you use this new sponsorship to make those other sponsorships – the ones your colleagues already believe in – work even harder?
For how to make this work, read “Sponsorship Leverage Trick: The Aerosmith Technique”.
Undertake one – or several – of these strategies and you’ll demonstrate what a flexible and far-reaching marketing powerhouse that sponsorship is. You are likely to get buy-in, and a commitment to use the sponsorship, from at least some of the key players, and that’s enough to get you started. Once the leverage plans start to fall into place, you’ll likely get more stakeholders on board.
But if you do a number of these things and still can’t drum up interest, my very strong advice is to pass on the opportunity. You don’t want to be committing funds, and your reputation, on a sponsorship that is doomed from the start. And if it’s lacking buy-in, doomed is exactly what it is.
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.
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