I 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…
Most sponsorship hit lists are created by one of two processes:
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 latest white paper, “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.