Sponsorship Proposal Hack: The Invention Test

Sponsorship Proposal Hack: The “Invention Test”I love Masterchef, and one of my favourite challenges is the invention test. If you’re not a cooking nerd, like I am, the invention test is when all of the competitors get the same main ingredient and are challenged to come up with the most innovative and delicious dish. It results in all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas, which got me thinking about how you can use a similar technique to come up with a lot of great leverage ideas very quickly.

Why are leverage ideas important? Every sponsorship proposal needs to be based around several leverage ideas – ideas about how a sponsorship can use the raw materials you’re offering to create the results they need. This is the most important part of the sponsorship proposal by far. It creates a vision for the sponsor, makes it much easier for them to sell the sponsorship internally, does half of their planning for them, and increases your value. The downside is that coming up with those ideas takes a lot of time and effort, and sometimes you’re short on one or both.

This is a very handy technique if you need to jump start the sales process, particularly if you are the only one selling sponsorship, or head a very small team. Let’s face it; it’s hard to do a cold brainstorm by yourself.

This process can also be a lifesaver if you’re running short on time. Cards on the table, I hate when organisations put themselves in the position of having to sell sponsorship with a short lead-time, but I am a realist and know it does happen. It could be that the property itself transpired with a short lead-time. You could be trying to recover from staffing or management issues that stagnated the sales process. Your sales could have been so slow you realised you needed to overhaul your approach late in the piece.

Whatever the reason, you may not have the time to do a full deliberation on each and every potential sponsor, or the size of your team may present a challenge. That’s not saying that you don’t customise each and every significant sponsorship, because you still need to. What this does, however, is give you a big selection of go-to ideas that you can use as-is, adjust for specific needs, deconstruct and reassemble, or use as inspiration – “Well, this idea wouldn’t really work, but it gives me another idea. How about if we…?”

Here are the steps to conduct your own “invention test”:

Identify key categories for sponsorship

Do a rough list of categories and/or specific sponsors you’d like to approach for sponsorship. This does not mean you will necessarily approach all of them or that there aren’t plenty of other categories you’ll be exploring. Our goal here is to generate a lot of creative ideas, not to create specific offers. (In a perfect world, you would have the time and team to do this process for each specific offer. This is not the perfect situation.)

Assemble your group

If you’re trying to sell sponsorship on a short lead-time, or need to kick start your offer development, it should be all hands on deck. I really don’t give a crap about job descriptions – you need help from anyone available to give it. Schedule them for about 90 minutes and outfit the room with lots of whiteboards and/or butcher paper.

Give them a little homework

Send them each a copy of “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and ask them to review it before the session. It takes maybe 15 minutes to read. This will give them the basics of best practice sponsorship, so they have some context for the exercise.

Create teams

Once you get them into the room, break the group into 3-5 teams. You want at least three people per team. Assign one potential sponsor company to each team. Spread those companies across a broad range of genuine categories. For instance, you may choose a health insurance company, a retailer, a cereal company, and a car company. They key is that you want to pick a few genuine potential sponsors that are very different from each other.

It is important to explain that your goal is to create a large bank of creative ideas, not to come up with the perfect offer on the spot.

They own the companies

For the rest of the exercise, your teams should pretend they own the company they’ve been assigned. Give them a few minutes to define their target markets, marketing priorities, and objectives. You may even get them to do five minutes of internet research in the room, just to get their head around what they’re trying to do. Also, ask them to do a quick list of all the ways they market their brand – social media, advertising, product packaging, direct marketing, hold messaging, etc.

I’ve actually got a pretty involved process here, but I’m going to give you the high points. Ask these questions:

  1. If you could do anything with this sponsorship to add value – create a third “win” – with your target market, what would you do?
  2. If you could do anything to achieve your marketing objectives, what would you do?
  3. How can you integrate this sponsorship across all of the ways that you already market your brand?

Again, I ask a lot more questions and direct it a lot more, as my goal when doing this is to create actual offers. Your goal is to create lots of ideas.


Have each team choose their best ideas, their easiest ideas, and their fastest ideas. Mark them B, E, and F, where some ideas may have two or three categories. You should then get them to share with the larger group and you should take lots of notes.

You will find that using the same main ingredient – your property – each team will come up with a very different complement of ideas. The invention test works!

What now?

From this exercise, you could have forty, fifty, or more solid leverage ideas. Consider this a menu of options and inspiration. You still have to create your real hit list. You still have to research their brands, markets, and needs. And you still have to create customised offers, anchored on a selection of leverage ideas.

For more on offer development and creating proposals, here are some resources:

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. You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.

I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

If you need additional assistance, 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.

Please note, I do not offer a sponsorship broker service, and can’t sell sponsorship on your behalf. You may find someone appropriate on my sponsorship broker registry.

© 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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