The Boogie Nights Guide to Sponsorship – Part 1

Roller SkateI’ve written well over 200 blogs and way too many columns and articles to count, and it never ceases to amaze me some of the odd places I find inspiration. So, last night I was watching Boogie Nights, a wickedly good movie about the porn industry in the 70s, and was once again inspired. So here you go… lessons corporate sponsors can learn from the movies, starting with Boogie Nights. For lessons for sponsorship seekers, check out Part 2.

From Boogie Nights: Big is good, but only if you have the wherewithal to make the most of it

A big sponsorship provides a huge platform for your brand, but it’s not going to deliver on its own. If you’re going to invest in a big sponsorship, or you have one already, here are a few things you should be doing:

  • Get your sponsorship stakeholders from across the company together to create a leverage plan before you do final negotiations. That way, you’ll be able to gauge the degree of buy-in and you can negotiate for the exact benefits you need to make the plan work, not just tweak the benefits they offer.
  • Plan to launch your leverage activities when people’s anticipation starts ramping up. If you’re a sponsor of the London Olympics, you would have been leveraging it in the UK for 2-3 years, already. You’d be launching your global initiatives more like now. Manufacturing early excitement for an event is possible, but it’s rare and requires a third-degree black belt in sponsor sophistication.
  • It only takes an afternoon to create the bones of a great leverage plan with your stakeholder group, but it will take months to check feasibility and implement that plan. Don’t leave it too late.
  • Make sure all of your leverage is win-win-win, with the third “win” being the target market. Big sponsorships give you many opportunities to add that value to people’s experience with your brand and with whatever you’re sponsoring. Provide as many meaningful wins as you realistically can, and your brand will become an intrinsic and valued part of the experience for fans. (For more on this, download “Last Generation Sponsorship”.)

(Wow, did I have to delete a lot of unintentional double-entendres in there. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. Moving on…)

From The Wizard of Oz: You probably have what you need, you just don’t realise it

When a portfolio isn’t delivering, a lot of sponsors will blame the investments, usually claiming their partner isn’t “delivering enough ROI”.

The first red flag is expecting your partner to deliver returns. As noted above, your partners can’t deliver ROI for you. You have to create that return through leverage.

What I’m really trying to get at, though, is that sponsors don’t often see the flexibility inherent in their investments. Sponsorship has an amazing ability to morph into what you need. With a creative, thorough leverage plan, a far-less-than-perfect sponsorship can deliver great results. As long as the general topic of the sponsorship (rugby, contemporary art, etc) is relevant to one of your target markets, you can usually make it work.

From Jurassic Park: Reviving dinosaurs is a bad idea

We have a lot of dinosaurs in our industry – thinking that should have been made extinct a decade or more ago. That said, my quarrel isn’t with sponsors who don’t know better than to use out of date practices. That can be solved with education and case studies and feedback. My issue is when sponsors who do know better – who have sophisticated skills – fall back on old school tactics due to laziness or poor planning. But it happens all the time; a sponsor who has previously done some amazing work, pulls out one of these:

  • Taking up a sponsorship at the very last minute because it’s cheap, but leaving no lead-time to leverage it.
  • Taking up a sponsorship that’s all wrong for the brand, solely to block the competition or as some kind of me-too exercise.
  • Letting workload issues stop you them leveraging, and then falling back on “at least we get a lot of exposure”.

For more on our industry’s many dinosaurs, you may want to read “7 Sponsorship Practices that should be Hit by a Meteor”.

From Groundhog Day: Doing the same thing over and over is not a good thing

A lot of sponsors take a tick-box approach to leverage, doing the same things over and over. While that’s certainly better than not leveraging at all, it’s also not ideal.

What you should be going for are multiple small, meaningful wins for lots of people. The fact that sponsorship gives you lots of options for those wins means that, over the breadth of your portfolio and the course of years, you can do some things consistently and swap other stuff in and out to keep it fresh. For instance, a bank might consistently offer VIP parking at sponsored events and games for customers, but run a highly interactive social media campaign around a team’s season – creating lots of small recognition, input, and showcase-type wins for fans – but do a staff and family day around a zoo sponsorship.

If you keep your thinking squarely in the space of win-win-win, it’s unlikely your sponsorships will stagnate, as there is so much scope. This is more the milieu of older school sponsors, who tend to…

  • Issue a press release (tick)
  • Put a link on the website (tick)
  • Run a retail or sales promotion where one person gets one big prize and nobody else gets anything (tick)
  • Announce the sponsorship in social media… and then announce it again… and again… and again, with no soul or interaction (tick)
  • If the sponsorship is big, put the logo on the letterhead and “proud sponsors of” on the company homepage (tick)
  • Schmooze our big clients in a standard-issue corporate box or at a reception (tick)

When it comes right down to it, sponsorship needs to be based on solid strategy, but the implementation of it is an exercise in creativity. Get your team in the right mindset and aim for win-win-win and you’ll do great.

From Ocean’s Eleven: You need to put together a team you can trust, and they all need to know their roles

Mmm… George Clooney. Oops, just spaced out a bit there. Okay, I’m back.

Jokes aside, a sponsorship or brand manager can’t pull of a strong leverage and measurement plan alone any more than Danny Ocean could pull of a mega-heist on his own. You need specialists that you can trust, who share the vision, and know their jobs.

Gathering specialists from across your company into a sponsorship team means that…

  • You can get and maintain buy-in for sponsorship across the company (and gauge if there is a buy-in problem before you commit to a sponsorship).
  • The specialists are looking after their own areas of the sponsorship leverage plan, and more often than not, those activities will slot right in very smoothly. The sponsorship manager is not the right person to be selling in a retail promotion. The brand manager is not the right person to be managing a sponsorship-related staff program. The sponsorship manager is not the right person to be crafting and communicating the special offer for loyal customers. The list goes on and on.
  • The specialists are measuring results in ways your company has already decided are meaningful, and against accepted benchmarks.
  • You are managing sponsorship leverage, not implementing most of it, making you more effective. And yay for that.

If you’re struggling with any of this, you may benefit from my book, The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.

Want some advice for sponsorship seekers? Check out The Boogie Nights Guide to Sponsorship – Part 2.


© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.

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