Why Having a Strong Marketing Plan is Critical for Sponsorship Sales Success

Why a strong marketing plan is critical to sponsorship sales successI can hear you. You’re asking yourself what a marketing plan has to do with sponsorship sales. And I’m here to tell you that it has everything to do with sponsorship sales.

A strong marketing plan is the foundation upon which you can build your sponsorship success, and the raw materials to make you more effective and efficient, to create real differentiation with sponsors, and to demonstrate your professionalism. More specifically…

You will be better able to target the right sponsors

Most sponsorship hit lists are created by one of two processes:

  • Listing all of the biggest companies and/or the ones who sponsor the most, regardless of whether there is any relevance to your property at all, resulting in a list that is too big, devoid of focus, and destined to fail.
  • Listing all of the categories of sponsor who are materially involved in whatever it is you do. You’re in motorsport? Tyres, fuel, oil, protective clothing, car parts… err… running out of ideas here. And that’s what happens – your list is too short, too obvious, and you’ll be competing with every other property in your category.

But if you have a strong marketing plan, two of the most important components will be your brand architecture and your target market segmentation, and therein lies the ingredients for the perfect hit list.

  • What brands would naturally fit into the lives of our target market segments? This is a question you can only answer if you understand your various target markets and their lifestyles, and it’s only by putting some rigour around market segmentation that you’ll get that understanding.
  • What brands are a natural fit with the attributes of our property? It’s only by understanding the myriad of traits that go into the brand architecture of your property – in other words, the personality of your property – that you can build a list of brands that are natural fits across that whole spectrum.

Please don’t get hung up on the lingo. “Segmentation” and “brand architecture” aren’t actually complicated to understand or create. There’s more on those ideas below. There is also a step-by-step process for creating both in The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition. But whether you use that resource or not, you need to have these two things. They are the two most critical parts of your marketing plan, both to your sponsorship and larger marketing success.

Psychographics showcases what your property means to fans

I know, I know… more lingo. This one is easy.

Demographics are hard information about a person: Age, gender, socio-economic status, education, geography, etc. It represents what a person is.

Psychographics are like psychological demographics: Priorities, motivations, self-definitions, and lifestyle factors. It’s not what a person is, it’s who a person is and it drives the decisions they make. It’s why they care about what you do, it’s why and how they choose to get involved in what you do, and it’s how they choose the brands they use.

Your primary segmentation tool needs to be psychographics. If there are three main reasons people come to your event, then those are your three segments. For instance, a conference run by a professional association may get people attending primarily for professional development, primarily for networking, and some may be there primarily because they want to take a trip and socialise on their employers’ tabs. There may be some crossover, but for every person attending, there will be a primary reason, and that’s their segment.

If your goal is bums on seats, you wouldn’t market to all of those segments in the same way, and psychographic segmentation tells you what messages will have meaning to each group.

That’s the key: Meaning. Meaning is now a major sponsorship driver for sponsors. They know that sponsorship provides them with the privilege of connecting with fans through something that already has meaning to them, and they won’t commit unless they understand why people care about what you’re doing and what it means to them. Your segmentation makes that clear.

For more on psychographics, see “Psychographics: A Critical Building Block for Rightsholders“. I know it doesn’t sound interesting, but I promise you’re going to get a lot from this read.

Psychographics are a hotbed for leverage ideas

It is widely understood that sponsorship has to be win-win-win in order to be successful. That third “win” is for the fans, with the goal being that sponsors will provide small, meaningful wins for lots of people. This is often referred to as “adding value to the fan experience”.

The problem is that, in order for them to add that value and create that third “win”, they need to know what’s going to be meaningful to your various markets. If they understand those markets and their fan experiences, it becomes relatively straightforward to develop creative ideas for leveraging the sponsorship that will work for fans and their brand.

Even better, use that understanding of market segments to come up with some leverage ideas on the sponsor’s behalf, incorporating that into your sponsorship proposal. That makes you look like a genius and does half of the sponsor’s job for them, making it much easier for them to say “yes”.

It demonstrates professionalism

When you have a marketing plan, you are suddenly talking the sponsor’s language. They use sponsorship as part of their marketing plans, so talk about segmentation and attribute matches, and how to add value that will have some meaning.

Another strategy that elevates your professionalism is to outline your target market segments and your marketing plan in your proposals. That right there will put you ahead of 99% of sponsorship seekers, because you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.

If sponsors understand your marketing plan, they can extend it

I’ve already outlined a number of ways that having a good marketing plan will help you to sell sponsorship, but there’s another big benefit of sharing at least an overview of your marketing plan with sponsors: They can add to it.

If a sponsor understands what your marketing objectives are – bums on seats, early membership renewals, launching a new initiative, or whatever – there is every chance that you can work together to create a leverage plan that not only achieves brand goals and adds value to the fan experience, but extends your marketing plan. They may have access to markets you don’t. They may have a database of customers or members. They probably have a big social media presence. Some may even own their own media – magazines, newsletters, apps, etc. All of that can benefit your organisation and make your marketing efforts more effective.

And of course…

If you have a strong marketing plan, you’ll be more successful marketers. And if that grows your fan base, that’s good for you and increases your value to future sponsors.

But what if your marketing team doesn’t play well with others?

Occasionally, I’ll have someone say that the sponsorship sales team and marketing team are different and don’t collaborate. If that’s your situation, tell your bosses from me that this is extremely unproductive and makes sponsorship sales more difficult!

If there’s really nothing you can do, and your marketing department either won’t supply or doesn’t have the information you need, that doesn’t get you off the hook. You and your team still need to go through the marketing plan process, if only just to get you the raw materials you need to be more effective at sponsorship. This is not optional.

The upshot

Trying to sell sponsorship without a good marketing plan is like trying to win the Super Bowl without having the fundamental skills.

If you don’t know where to start, there is a big section – almost sixty pages – of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition devoted to creating a marketing plan. It has all of the checklists and templates you’ll need. In fact, it outlines the whole sponsorship sales and servicing process.

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“.

If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building 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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