It’s Not the Size of the Sponsorship, It’s What You Do with It

It's not the size of the sponsorship, it's what you do with it“We sponsor a great little organisation, but their reach is so small, how do we make this work for our brand?”

“Our event is smallish and local, but we really need sponsorship. How do we get big sponsors interested?”

“Our music festival is great, but it’s just one day. Sponsors are telling us they want to sponsor properties with more longevity. What do we do?

Good questions. Important questions. And questions I hear a lot. Fortunately, the answer isn’t really that complicated. Here’s the thing – and it’s equally important for both sponsors and rightsholders:

It’s not the size of the property that matters,
it’s the relevance to the sponsor’s target markets.

Take a look at the graphic, paying attention to the overlap. Most sponsorship is sold based on the overlap – the proportion of the property’s fans that a sponsor is targeting. Often, this represents just a tiny sliver of the sponsor’s overall target markets. But when brands focus on that overlap, they’re severely and unnecessarily limiting the impact of the sponsorship. When rightsholders pitch the overlap, they’re completely missing the power and flexibility of sponsorship.

Focusing on the overlap is even worse for the fans, as sponsors fall over themselves to hammer fans with marketing messages and activities, in a fevered attempt to achieve their marketing goals within the constraints of that overlap.

For the good of sponsors, rightsholders, and fans, learning how to increase that overlap is a winning proposition.

Increasing the overlap for brands

Let’s just say for a moment that you’re a new sponsorship or brand manager, and when you review the portfolio, you see that your company is sponsoring a depression charity serving one smaller city. Your first impression might be, “We’re a national brand. What am I supposed to do with this?” But you’d be overlooking a potentially great opportunity.

Why? Because although the number of people that the charity serves may be relatively limited, and the donor list the same, the proportion of your brand’s national target market that is affected in some way by depression would be substantial. The question then shifts from, “What do we do with this sponsorship?”, to “How do we use this sponsorship to help our target markets?”. Given the amount of expertise your partner has, chances are, you could do quite a lot.

You could provide credible advice and coping skills in your employee communications, information about how to recognise depression on your website or monthly statements or product packaging. There are all manner of useful angles and advice you could explore. It won’t matter that the information is coming from a local organisation, so long as it is strong and credible.

You can take the same approach when sponsoring a marathon or conference or minor league baseball team. Think about what the property knows or has that would be meaningful to your larger target market. How to choose or train for your first marathon? Industry trends from a heavy-hitting conference keynote? A funny, gritty series of “stories from the road” from that baseball team? Again, the angles are limited only by your creativity.

The upshot for sponsors is that you should stop worrying about the size of what you’re sponsoring – it’s geographic footprint or time frame. If it is both credible and relevant to your market, use well-selected IP and sponsorship-driven content that uses that broader relevance, and direct it back through your own marketing channels. This will increase the functional overlap, and even a very small, very short term sponsorship can deliver for your brand and target markets, as if it were much bigger.

Increasing the overlap for rightsholders

Run a high-end food festival? What can you provide that will be relevant to the larger audience of foodies that a sponsor is targeting?

For smaller, or more localised, rightsholders wondering how to tap major sponsors, learning to increase that functional overlap is critical to maximising revenue. And the first thing you need to do to get there, is to stop talking about your target market as the be-all and end-all, because that barely scratches the surface of what the right sponsor could do with it, with some strategic thinking and creativity.

Instead, talk about how whatever it is that you do is interesting and relevant to to a broader target market. Run a high-end food festival? What can you provide that will be relevant to the larger audience of foodies that a sponsor is targeting? Make access to exclusive content and IP – your expertise, advice, behind-the-scenes information, experts/ambassadors, or whatever – your biggest selling point. Give the sponsor creative ideas for how they can use that relevance, IP, and content in their channels – across a much larger geography and time frame – and watch your value soar.

Need more assistance?

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 with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building service for large and/or diverse 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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