Sponsorship Multi-Tools: The Holy Grail for Sponsors

Gerber multitoolIf I had to hazard a guess, I’d say almost all of us has at least one multi-tool. I’ve got a much-loved, 20-year old Gerber that lives in the house, and is pressed into duty anytime I can’t be arsed going outside and unlocking the tool shed… which is a lot. I’ve done and fixed all manner of things with that one tool, and am constantly figuring out new ways to use it. If I could only have one tool, my Gerber would be it.

What I want you to think about is how you can apply that thinking to sponsorship, and start identifying properties that can provide the same kind of flexibility and broad-ranging usefulness as your trusty multi-tool. There are specific hallmarks and management techniques for sponsorship multi-tools, which I’ve outlined below, but once you start thinking about your opportunities this way, you’ll find it to be an absolute essential for portfolio management.

Before you get defensive about your current sponsorships – and plenty of sponsors do, when we start talking about multi-tools – I’m not actually bagging the stuff you’re doing now. Just like we still own other tools – tools that do specific jobs – there is no reason you can’t have other sponsorships for specific objectives, markets, timeframes, or even departments. Plus, once you adopt a multi-tool mindset, you may see multi-tool potential in many of your current investments.

What is a sponsorship multi-tool?

A sponsorship multi-tool is sponsorship that can be leveraged…

  • In many different ways
  • By many different departments or business units
  • Over a long period of time, if not perpetually
  • Across geographic regions
  • Across multiple target markets, which could include end-users, internal markets, intermediary markets, enterprise/VIP markets, and others
  • Differently across years
  • To create durable content

How can you recognise a potential sponsorship multi-tool?

This type of sponsorship requires a critical mass of people who care – fans. Importantly, these fans don’t need to be fans of the specific thing you sponsor, but could be fans of the broader theme. For instance, you could sponsor a major children’s hospital serving one large city. The number of people using and supporting that specific children’s hospital may be geographically limited, but the number of people who care about the health and wellbeing of children isn’t. You could absolutely leverage across both groups, although those leverage plans would likely have different focal points.

You could sponsor a food and wine festival in one region, but if it’s credible, it’s going to have relevance with foodies. Ditto if the festival has an interesting focal point, like oysters. Either way, you could parlay content and crowdsourcing and so much more across markets that are geographically distant, as well as locals who, for whatever reason, won’t be attending.

In addition, a sponsorship multi-tool will have at least several existing or potential epicentres of activity – something topical, on which you can build leverage activities. For a science museum, it could be around various exhibits, topical advances in science (space milestone, release of new climate research, etc), school holiday activities, or their periodic access to rock-star scientists.

Does the property have to be big?

Absolutely not!

A sponsorship doesn’t have to be national to be credible, and it doesn’t have to have thousands upon thousands of attendees to be credible.

In order to be a multi-tool, it has to have credibility and a critical mass of fans – whether of the property itself or the larger themes. If it has that credibility and relevance, you can use it as sponsorship multi-tool.

A sponsorship doesn’t have to be national to be credible, and it doesn’t have to have thousands of attendees to be credible. Case in point: Conferences. Just because only 300 people rock up doesn’t mean it’s only relevant to those people. There could be thousands of people for whom the subject matter and experts have relevance, and you can leverage across all of them.

For more on this, see “It’s Not the Size of the Sponsorship, It’s What You Do with It“.

Does your investment have to be big?

Again, no. The beauty in a sponsorship multi-tool is in all the ways you can use it, not how big or flashy it is. I’ve worked with dozens of sponsors to turn tiny sponsorships of often large properties into incredibly powerful sponsorship multi-tools.

All you need to ensure is that you’ve negotiated for the right benefits to suit your leverage plans. If you’ve got those, Bob’s your uncle (as we say in Australia).

How do you make the most of a sponsorship multi-tool?

It’s no use owning a multi-tool if you don’t put it to work, and the same goes for a sponsorship multi-tool. It’s got to be on your stakeholders’ radar, so anytime they have an objective to achieve or a target market they’re trying to get closer to, they think about whether this supremely flexible investment can help.

You don’t do that by making that investment unilaterally, negotiating stock-standard benefits, and then letting them know. You can spearhead it, but the whole process has to be collaborative.

You can and should do the first-pass vetting, but don’t commit until your stakeholders agree that they can all see how they will be able to use it. You do that by working with them to create a leverage plan – coming up with a range of ways that your stakeholders will use the sponsorship to achieve their goals – BEFORE negotiating the sponsorship. If they don’t have the vision, and won’t commit to using it, either don’t invest, or understand that its returns will be limited.

You want to work with those stakeholders to determine the relevant target markets and objectives they’d like to achieve with this investment. From there, do a directed brainstorm process to come up with a range of creative leverage ideas.

Once you’ve honed your leverage ideas, determine exactly what benefits you need to make all of those ideas happen, and which benefits on offer you are willing to forego. Do you really need eight ten-metre signs at the stadium? Would four be sufficient? (Hint: Yes.) How many tickets do you really need to make this work? Get very specific.

Still with those stakeholders, determine how each of them will measure the results of their involvement, and from what benchmarks.

How do you sell this thinking up the chain?

If you’re considering a sponsorship multi-tool, and either the investment itself, or the way you’ll be using it, is a big departure from what you’ve been doing, you need to ensure that senior executives understand the rationale.

For instance, if you’ve spent a bit of money on charity sponsorships before, but hardly leveraged them, it will probably come as quite a shock if you are suddenly spending a lot more money on just one charity that you’ve identified as a multi-tool.

You should put together a two-page document that outlines…

  • The objectives you intend to achieve with this sponsorship
  • The target markets to whom it’s relevant
  • Your leverage plan – no need to go overboard, but list each planned initiative
  • Which stakeholders have been involved
  • Your measurement plan – how are those stakeholders going to measure results, and from what benchmarks

Once they see that a) some rigour has been put into the decision; and, b) the right people are involved, they should stand back and let you get on with it.

The upshot

Once your organisation adopts this mindset, your whole portfolio will look different to you. It won’t be about the size of an investment, or its sexiness, but about its usefulness – the flexibility and broad relevance. You’ll see marketing beauty in places you didn’t see it before, and will likely start seeing the limitations of at least one of your big, expensive investments.

All this reminds me… I have to install a new doorbell. Time to bust out the Gerber!

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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