Sponsors: What If You Could Start Over?

Sponsors: What If You Could Start Over?It’s still early in the year – the time when people wipe the slate, make resolutions, and dedicate themselves to doing better. It’s when people give themselves permission to start over.

What if we applied that thinking to corporate sponsorship? What if sponsors took some time out from dealing with the administration of sponsorship and the improvement of sponsorship, and instead, dedicated themselves to the potential of sponsorship. What if they asked themselves this one question:

If you had the same sponsorship budget, but no commitments,
what would the perfect sponsorship portfolio
for your brand(s) and target markets look like?

I do this for my corporate clients all the time. In its formal iteration, it is called a zero-based audit, and it is often one of the most powerful parts of my recommendation. Strip away the politics, sentiment, history, and headaches, and suddenly my clients can see the true potential of sponsorship. More often than not, a senior decision maker will say, “now, we know what our goal is”. Bingo.

Doing a zero-based audit

That’s your challenge. Whether your budget is $150,000 or $5 million or $50 million, leave the reality of your portfolio behind, work with your team, and ask yourselves these questions:

  • What would you sponsor, if you could sponsor anything?
  • At what level? What unique benefits would you want?
  • Would you create and own any events or programs?
  • Would you create any umbrella programs?
  • How would you leverage your investments to meet brand needs?
  • How would you integrate your investments across your other marketing and business activities?
  • How would you involve your staff and customers in a meaningful way? Create a “win” for the people who are most critical to your success? Make them the heroes?
  • What proportion of your budget would you allocate to rights fees, incremental leverage spend, measurement, and contingencies?

The process is creative and strategic and fun, but the real moment of truth comes when you compare what you could be doing with your money with what you are doing with your money. Suddenly, settling for improving mediocre sponsorships will seem a lot less appealing, and the ambitious goal of an entire portfolio that operates at peak performance will seem a lot more attainable. Mark my words.

The internal sell

I will say that whether you’re doing a straight audit or a zero-based audit, selling them internally can be a political minefield. Everyone has their pet projects and agendas, and none of them want to hear that their favourite is not the bees knees. You’ve really got two options:

Plan A is to enlist a senior executive (ideally, your head of marketing) in the process, as they will be able to navigate the c-level politics better than you will. If you’ve got that support and a team with even a modicum of creativity, you’re all set.

Plan B is to enlist outside help. For larger, more decentralised companies, as well as those with intractable politics, you are probably better off involving a consultant. A good consultant will bring a lot of expertise and ideas to the table, but one of the biggest bonuses is that some companies trust and accept the objective viewpoint of an outsider more than someone internal. They can deliver unpopular news, out-of-the-box solutions, and by virtue of their role, can present a reinvention on a scale that may be hard to accept if it came from inside. I do this kind of work all the time, whether in a big strategy session, or as a critical component to a full sponsorship strategy and review.

Zero-based audit. Think clean slate. Think big. You’ll thank me.

Need more assistance?

You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“. Want to build your sponsorship skills and strategies fast? I’ve got comprehensive online sponsorship training 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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