The New Swear Words of Sponsorship: Sponsor Edition

A while back, I wrote a blog on The New Swear Words of Sponsorship for sponsorship seekers. Since then, I’ve been in a lot of meetings and training with sponsors, and realised that they have their own swear words – words that are totally counterproductive to getting good sponsorship results, but somehow continue to be in heavy rotation at sponsors around the world. So, in the interests of fairness, here they are.

“Seen to be…”

“We want to be seen to be giving back to the community.”

“We want to be seen to be a friendly, helpful brand.”

“We want to be seen to be a big player.”

MAN, I hate that phrase! The implication is that either the sponsor expects their sponsorships to make them look like something they’re not, or that the brand is more concerned with posturing than creating genuine connections and alignment with their target markets.

Don’t say it. Seriously, don’t. Instead, you should be saying, “How can we sponsor in a way that is consistent with our brand personality? That genuinely reflects the passions and interests of our customers and the fans?” The name of the game is authenticity, not posturing.

  • If your brand is friendly and helpful, how can you leverage the sponsorship in a way that is helpful to the fan experience? (Sports, arts, charities, festivals, whatever… they all have “fans”.)
  • Is your brand a positive part of the community? How can you leverage this sponsorship to benefit the larger community?
  • Want to be seen as a big player? Go all out on leverage execution – be bold, be innovative, and add big value to the fan experience.

“Data acquisition”

Your mission is to be the natural choice for your target markets. I hate to break it to you, but that doesn’t actually require all of their email addresses, Facebook likes, Instagram and Twitter follows, card scan data, their membership profile, and the answers to a sixty-question survey.

I’m not saying that opening those marketing channels, and being able to parse them into complete a customer profile isn’t useful, but it’s really just building another marketing mechanism. But, sponsorship already IS a powerful marketing channel. Your first priority should be… you know… marketing – changing the perceptions and behaviours of your target markets. You do that by aligning with what they care about and adding value to their fan experience.

And the thing is, if you add that value and show genuine interest in their passions, they’re much, much more likely to want to continue a relationship with your brand and volunteer their data to you. Boom.

“Just send me something”

We’ve all said this to a sponsorship seeker. We’ve all answered the phone and regretted it, or been cornered at a function with a rapid-fire pitch, and we’ve blurted this out just to make it end. You may think this is saving you time, but it’s not, because you will spend the next four months fielding voicemails and emails chasing it up.

If you don’t have any interest in the property or in working with that organisation, just tell them it’s not a good fit and you don’t want them to waste their time. Period.

If you do have some interest – even passing – spend the four or five minutes it might take to fill them in on your priorities, needs, and major objectives, so that they can create a proposal that is pretty close to what you want, saving you endless back-and-forth trying to get a proposal you can sell internally. Doing this does not commit you to saying “yes”, it simply gets you a much better proposal from a reasonable match.

“Proud sponsor of….”

I’ve already addressed this one specifically, but it still belongs on this list.

This is a real wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap phrase. It means nothing – zero. It’s a throwaway phrase used by sponsors who can’t be arsed to do or say anything more meaningful.

Are you proud? Really?? Then take a page out of Air New Zealand’s book and act like it. They own the brand-as-fan positioning, and if you want to see it in action, just follow them on Facebook for a couple of weeks. They have the same tone and enthusiasm as their fans, and I can’t imagine them ever being “proud sponsors of”.

The upshot

The words you and your team use matter. Use the wrong words and your sponsorship program loses direction and specificity, effectiveness and power. No sponsor wants that, particularly when it’s this easy to change.

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 consultingsponsorship training, and strategy sessions. Please drop me a line to discuss.

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


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