You’ve been sponsoring a property for a while and renewal time is coming up. Sometimes, what you need to do is a no-brainer; the experience was either so great or so bad, you know whether to renew or walk away. Not this time, though. You value the opportunity, and may have even achieved great results, but the experience of being a sponsor hasn’t been great. Some of the typical scenarios include:
(For all of you rightsholders reading this and yelling at the screen, “What about all of the crap sponsors?” that’s a different blog.)
If you can see real potential for the sponsorship to help you achieve marketing objectives, and the experience in dealing with the rightsholder hasn’t destroyed your internal buy-in, it may be worthwhile renewing. If so, you need to employ some strategies to ensure you’re not signing up for the same again.
Prior to doing any negotiations, you need to be absolutely straight about what was lacking in your experience as a sponsor. Make it clear that you are ready to make the effort to work with them to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Also make it clear that if at any time during the negotiations, you have any reservations about whether the sponsorship can be put on a more positive track, you will not be renewing. Say it and mean it.
After the above discussion, some rightsholders may have pooped their pants, while others will realise that you’re no longer going to be one of those sponsors that lets them skate along with minimal effort or care. Either way, they are likely to be ready for the next step…
Many sponsors assume their partners understand what they are trying to accomplish. My experience has been, however, that most rightsholders have no idea what their sponsors are trying to achieve or with whom. Whether you’ve never spelled it out clearly, or you have, but they haven’t taken it on board, you need to outline the following:
Your next step is to tell them that your intent is to reinvent this sponsorship in a way that meets your brand needs and is good for everyone, including their fans and organisation. You have two options.
If the rightsholder is less skilled or very stuck in their way of doing things, this is probably your best option.
Go through the sponsorship leverage process with your team, creating a draft leverage plan outlining how you are going to use the sponsorship to achieve your marketing objectives and align with fans. Then, present these ideas, along with a list of the benefits you will need to make those ideas happen, and a list of current benefits that you would be happy to forego. Keep in mind that if you can forego some benefits that are in short supply (eg, part of your ticket, signage, or celebrity appearance allocation), you can put yourself in a very strong position to get the more flexible and creative benefits you will probably need.
At this point, outline out all of the ways your leverage plan benefits the rightsholder and their audience, making it clear that working with you in this way is about way more than cash. You should then indicate your cost expectations, given that you’re basically swapping benefits (not asking for extra), as well as providing marketing value for your partner, and a better fan experience for their audience. After doing all of this, don’t be a jerk on pricing. Unless you are obviously stepping down in the sponsorship hierarchy, put the price point in the realm of what they would want for a straight renewal.
With this process, you have essentially taken control of the relationship and put together a proposal for them. They can always counter-offer, and you can always turn it down.
If you’ve got a partner that knows the relationship hasn’t gone well and is as keen as you are to reinvent, this is a very good option.
With this, you will invite your partner to participate in the leverage planning process with your team. They will be in the room as creative ideas are developed and vetted, and can provide insight on what is and isn’t feasible, and probably some opportunities you hadn’t thought of, live on the spot. They are also likely to get as excited about the potential for the sponsorship for their brand and audience as you are for yours.
Once you’ve culled a whiteboard full of ideas into a strategic leverage plan, work out with your partner what benefits you’ll need from them, then ask them to come back to you with a proposal.
Again, be clear that you are a) very willing to forego some current benefits for the right ones; and b) expecting them to be realistic about the pricing of the package.
At this point, you will probably have better benefits to work with, but you still haven’t addressed any issues with your ongoing working relationship. Work with them to create a plan – which you both agree to stick to – that includes:
With these four steps, you should net a much more strategic set of benefits and a partner that understands what you need and what you expect from them. Together, that will provide you with better raw materials for you to leverage into a far better result.
You may 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.
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