How NOT to Sell a Major Sports Sponsorship

Your_Logo_Here“Lower Back Jersey Partner”

Those were the only four words on an ad featured in an industry newsletter. This is where we’re going to put your logo, with the added benefit of time travel back to 1996. Ugh.

We’re talking about a professional sports team that people LOVE 365 days a year. We’re talking about a team that elicits joy and tears and PASSION from their fans; a team full of heroes and larrikins and huge personalities. This is a team with a TRIBE of true blue fans, and respect from all sports fans. All of that – some of the most powerful factors that can be put to work to get a brand closer to a target market – and it’s being sold like a bloody billboard!

*thumps head on desk*

In stark contrast, this ad sits right next to an ad from another team – in a different professional sport – with a photo of the team and the words, “Your new business partners are waiting”. Whether you like the specific wording or that type of advertising for sponsors or not, that’s still an infinitely more appealing angle for today’s sophisticated sponsors.

So, for all of the teams that understand that the passion and tribalism and multitude of fan experiences is what you’re really offering to sponsors, congratulations. Your sponsors likely understand that what they’ve got is the privilege to connect with people through a team and a sport that people care about, and they leverage it to add value to that fan experience. They’re reaping measurable returns for their brands and their businesses, and yay for that.

But to all you teams who are still selling sponsorship based upon the size and placement of the logo, it’s time to grow up. You’re hurting yourselves, limiting your value, and limiting the appeal of your sponsorship to companies who don’t get it – a rapidly diminishing pool.

You’re also hurting our industry. We still have critics, many of whom see our sexy, growing marketing media as a direct threat to their business models, and point to things like major sport selling “lower back jersey sponsorship” as examples of how shallow and unaccountable sponsorship is – a totally unfair and inaccurate assessment.

Yes, a major or principal sponsorship can include a big, fat logo on the back of a jersey, but that’s not even close to the most meaningful or valuable aspect of that sponsorship. For a rundown on what does have meaning, check out this blog:

Sponsorship Benefits Every Sponsorship Should Want

Your biggest sponsors should get more of these flexible, leverageable, eminently valuable benefits than everyone else. They will almost certainly get more hygiene benefits, as well – logos, tickets, hospitality – but they’re just commodities and not nearly as powerful or meaningful as other things you can do.

Need more assistance?

For all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing, you may want to get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.

If you could use some additional support, I provide sponsorship coaching, sponsorship consulting, sponsorship training, and if you need a fast, cost-effective start, the Jump Start program. If you’re interested in any of these services, please review the materials and drop me a line to discuss:

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


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