You’re a brand manager or a sponsorship manager, working in your corporate headquarters. You’re handling the national and/or global sponsorship portfolio, but there are only so many hours in your team’s day, so you are relying on regional management to select and manage local sponsorships. For many of you, that very thought will give you a chill down your spine.
I’ve lost track of the number of corporate clients that have no idea what’s being sponsored at the local level, how it was selected, whether it was leveraged and how, whether it produced any results against objectives, and how much it’s all costing. The regions may be doing great things, or they may be sponsoring their favourite teams and pet projects, but communication and reporting on regional sponsorship can be so bad, who’s to know? The truth is, as sophisticated as we’re all getting at sponsorship, regional offices can still be a law unto themselves. Given the power of sponsorship to either build brands or waste money, with very little middle ground, ensuring every dollar is well spent, well leveraged, and well measured is absolutely critical.
Below, I’ve outlined a few strategies that will help corporate marketers to create a strategic, seamless, and efficient alignment between head office and local sponsorships.
If all of your local sponsorships are strategically aligned, balancing local and national objectives, well leveraged and managed, and communications are seamless, then congratulations, this blog isn’t for you. You may want to keep reading, however, because you’re going to feel pretty damned good about your situation when you hear how so many of your cohorts are faring.
Your approach should definitely be one of making sponsorship more effective, more seamless, and easier at the regional level. This should not be something that head office is inflicting on them, but something that helps them manage what is always an effort-intensive undertaking.
I harp on about education a lot. I know I do. But that’s because effective training is primarily about changing people’s mindsets, and that’s the fastest way to evoke change in an organisation. There’s always more to do, but it starts with education.
If your regional marketers are ever in the same place, hire a good facilitator to teach them best practice skills. You can make it in a workshop format, or you could structure it more as a learn-by-doing session, where a facilitator takes the group through the process of developing leverage and measurement plans for one of their sponsorships right there on the spot. (This is one of my specialties and works really well.)
If they don’t ever get together, you could hold one or more private webinars. By their very nature, these are less interactive, although there is the facility to ask questions. The upside is that they don’t have to travel, they can attend live, they can review or share the webinar recording later, and the content can be divided into 60-90 minute chunks.
Note: I do conduct both in-house training and private webinars, and I’d be delighted to chat with you about delivering some training. That said, if you already work with someone who understands and can teach best practice sponsorship, that’s probably your best bet. If you’re confident and experienced, you may even be able to deliver it yourself, although whether that will work often depends more on your organisational acceptance of in-house expertise than your actual expertise.
If you want to create more integration, communication, and sophistication, your best bet is to make it as easy as possible for your regions to adopt. When I work with corporate clients, I often create a handbook of tools and templates specifically for regional offices. I kick off the handbook with an overview of the larger sponsorship strategy, then include tools like:
This is an external document that is provided to sponsorship seekers, giving them the information they need to create a strategic proposal for you. You may want to create one set for national sponsorships and one for local sponsorships. They would have many of the same objectives, but the local one can include specific local objectives. If your local sponsorships tend to be quite small, you may want to have a normal set of guidelines for national and larger local sponsorships, and a somewhat less stringent set for sponsorships under a certain annual fee, such as $5000.
This is basically an internal (and very stringent) version of the guidelines, helping both your team and regions to make great sponsorship choices. Again, you may have two versions of this.
One of the most critical parts of this tool is the part where they have to list what objectives the sponsorship will achieve. Objectives should be divided into perceptions to change and behaviours to change, keeping regions focused on real marketing objectives, not sponsorship-driven mechanisms.
This is a list of most of the benefits that could have value to your brands. It will assist regions in creating counter-offers for more appropriate and creative benefits that will lend themselves to great leverage plans.
This is a list of many of the things your company can offer – aside from just cash – to pay for a sponsorship. It includes product or services provided in-kind, but should be broader than that. You have expertise, infrastructure, and access to people, discounts, etc that most sponsorship seekers won’t have, and which will have value to them. Document them all.
Make it easy for regions to formalise a relationship properly. Give them a template in plain English and clear instructions for how to use it.
All of these tools and more are available in my new book, The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit. You can also download the Sponsorship Guidelines Template from this website right now for a big running start!
You would ideally provide these alongside some education, but your corporate culture may be such that this is your first step.
Another option is that you can provide your regions with a book that outlines the process of best practice sponsorship step-by-step, such as The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
Again, this works best as an adjunct to other initiatives, such as providing education and/or tools. If you simply send each office a book, the ones that bother to read it will probably have a more sophisticated view and upgrade their approach. That doesn’t mean, however, that their take will align with the larger sponsorship strategy.
You need to try to get a list of your current local sponsorships: What they are, how much, and when they end, at least. Chances are, you won’t get all of them, as some regional management won’t want you to know about some of the lame and/or personally biased sponsorships they’ve done. Even so, you will probably be surprised at how much it all adds up to. If you just imagine what kind of sponsorship you could do with that in your budget, you’ll instantly be able to see the impact that doing regional sponsorship better will have.
Going forward, I suggest that you request a copy of the proposal evaluation checklist from the region for each sponsorship they commit to.
I also strongly suggest that you start using a tool like Trello, Basecamp, or Salesforce to track regional sponsorships. These are project management tools and collaborative workspace that is working a treat for many of my clients. The way we set up regional management is that each region gets a “board”, with the following “lists”:
Every sponsorship under serious consideration gets a “card”, to which any number of documents, checklists, emails, links, images, etc can be attached at any time. As the sponsorship is approved and moves through the process, it is moved down the line. Multiple people can be on every board and tasks/questions/cards can be assigned to people, so if one of your regional offices needs some advice or assistance from your team, they just tag you and you’ll be notified with all of the background info.
That’s it. That’s my advice for managing sponsorship through your regional offices. If you invoke these strategies, you’ll change both the process and the results for the better.
You may be interested in my latest white paper, “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.