If You Can’t Explain Sponsorship to Your Grandma, You’ve Got It All Wrong

If You Can’t Explain Sponsorship to Your Grandma, You’ve Got It All Wrong“If you can’t explain it to your grandmother, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

I love that quote, and it is so appropriate for our industry. We so often overcomplicate what we do, but in my experience, the people only overcomplicate sponsorship when they don’t really understand how it works. I like to imagine the conversation with Grandma…

Grandma: How does sponsorship work?

You: People see the brand associated with something they like, and they like the brand.

Grandma: Why?

You: They see the signs and it sticks in their head and they like it better.

Grandma: There are a lot of signs. Do people like all those brands better?

You: Uhh… in theory… well, they should.

About that time, your whole argument will fall in a heap. You’ll start talking in circles, with the clear subtext that it works “just because”. How do I know? Because I’ve heard this conversation hundreds of times, oftentimes with a c-level playing the role of Grandma.

It’s a whole different conversation when you get the basics of best practice sponsorship.

Grandma: How does sponsorship work?

You: Brands can show people that they understand their customers and care about what they care about.

Grandma: Is that it?

You: And those sponsors do things to make the events and such that people love even better.

Grandma: Got it.

The biggest area of overcomplication in our industry is in sponsorship leverage – what a sponsor does with a sponsorship after they’ve done the deal. I do a fair bit of air travel, and one of the airlines I travel the most is the grand champion of needlessly overcomplicating sponsorship leverage. Here’s how it goes…

I’m waiting in the jetway to board the plane and happen to turn over my boarding card. On the back side (always partly obscured by the baggage claim sticker stuck right in the middle), there is an offer. If you go to some specific web page and enter your details and frequent flyer number, from then on, every time you fly during that month – AFTER this flight – you go into a draw to win one of four pairs of tickets to the ballet (or whatever). And I think to myself, “WHY must it be so complicated?”

  • They are asking me to keep my boarding pass and remember to go to a web page to register. I’m travelling. I’ve got other things on my mind, so this is unlikely to be a priority. By the time I unearth the damned thing from the bottom of my bag, the month is likely to be over.
  • The offer is printed on the back of a boarding pass that already has my frequent flyer number on the other side. They know I’m flying with them. Why can’t they just automatically enter me? How are they telling me I’m valued if they can’t even recognise that I’m flying today?
  • As today’s trip apparently doesn’t count, the only reason I would even consider going through the effort is if I’m planning to travel on their airline again within the month, and the prize certainly isn’t worth shifting to that airline for another chance to go into the draw if another airline is cheaper or more convenient for the trip.
  • Only four people are going to win, and even if I did enter, I wouldn’t be one of them. Millions of people will be flying that month, and there will be a handful of ballet obsessives who fly a lot, and one of them will win. (Not necessarily true, but my perception.)
  • And when it comes right down to it, for all the effort they’re expecting, the prize they’re offering is lame: Two economy class tickets to Melbourne, a night in a hotel, and two tickets to the ballet. It is hardly a what-money-can’t-buy experience, and the frequent flyers they seem to be trying to influence will either have the ability and cash to get their own selves to Melbourne for the ballet, if they want to (probably on points), or are so sick of travelling that all they want to do is stay home on the weekends. If they want me to keep track of a boarding pass, go to their website, register, then commit to travel with them again within a calendar month, for a miniscule chance of winning, they’d better be offering a trip to the Moon.

I have to ask myself, if they know that a significant number of their frequent flyers are fans of the ballet, why don’t they just offer early ticketing for a ballet season for upper tier frequent flyers? Or valet parking at the ballet? Or a VIP lounge? The options are endless, but what they’re not is complicated.

Sponsorship leverage should benefit a significant number of a target market – giving them all a win – and it should be simple. It’s about demonstrating genuine alignment with a target market, and adding value by making the bad stuff about an experience better, and making good stuff about the experience even better.

Next time you feel like you may be slipping down the track of overcomplication, ask yourself how you would explain this to your grandma. If you can picture her eyes glazing over by the second sentence, you know you’ve got it wrong.

For more on the (simple!) basics of best practice sponsorship, download my white paper, “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux”.

Need more assistance?

You may also be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive Sponsorship Systems Design service for large, diverse, and decentralised organisations.

Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

© 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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