If you asked one hundred sponsorship professionals what the most precious resource in our industry is, ninety-nine of them will say “money” – money for fees, for leverage, for cash flow, whatever – and ninety-nine of them would be wrong.
Money is important, no question about it, but it pales in comparison to time.
The tyranny of time for sponsors
The moment a sponsor receives a proposal, the clock starts ticking. Every day a great proposal sits unread in an inbox is a day of leverage planning and implementation you’ll never get back. Every day you put off that leverage planning or you let bureaucracy slow you down, your list of leverage options gets shorter.
It is absolutely imperative that you streamline the selection, leverage and measurement planning, and implementation process, because it will cost you options and it will cost you results if you don’t.
Use sponsorship guidelines to give sponsorship seekers all the information you can about what you need and what they need to provide. This will reduce the number of proposals you receive dramatically, reducing review time, and improve the ones you get out of sight, reducing the back-and-forth required to get a proposal that meets your needs. Need a template? You can download a Sponsorship Guidelines Template or get it (and lots more) in The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
Use proposal evaluation criteria that will allow you to quickly parse proposals – allowing the best opportunities to shine and weeding out the also-rans. There is a template in The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
Don’t meet with stakeholders individually to sell sponsorship internally. Get those stakeholders (or a trusted representative of the division) into one room. Review any super-shortlisted opportunities and do a leverage brainstorm right then – before making a decision and negotiating benefits. This will take about 90 minutes – job done – not weeks or months to get all the right meetings. Need the whole brainstorm process? You guessed it: The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
The tyranny of time for sponsorship seekers
If time is critical for sponsors, it is even more so for sponsorship seekers. Lack of lead time can ruin a sponsorship seeker. Why? When you’re selling sponsorship, you’re selling opportunity. It’s what a sponsor does with it – how they leverage it – that turns the opportunity you’re selling into the results they need. If you don’t give them enough lead time to make the decision, plan leverage, and implement that leverage plan, you are selling them an opportunity with no chance of them getting a result. And don’t think sponsors don’t know that, because they do. Selling too late is not only unlikely to get you the money you want, it damages your credibility.
The critical takeaway is that you need to be selling as far out from your event/season/program/whatever as you possibly can. Put your list of upcoming properties to sell into date order and then let’s get real:
- Put a line across that list 6-8 months from now. If you’ve got a big holiday season in the middle, add another month.
- The first property on that list after that line is the first property you should be putting a huge effort into selling. That’s the timeframe in which you can do it properly.
- Put another line across the list at about four months. Between those lines, you can do some quicker, dirtier sales, but you will probably be sacrificing some cash. Try to sell multi-year deals, so it still makes some financial sense. You’ll find a good trick for shorter lead-time sales in the blog, “Sponsorship Proposal Hack: The Invention Test”.
- Anything above those lines – nearer than 3-4 months from now – write them off. Yes, I know this will hurt, but any effort you put into selling them is unlikely to be fruitful and could harm your organisation. The same effort put into something with more lead time will be more successful and far more professional.
These timeframes are a bit arbitrary, but in my experience, are about right for any significant (read: leverageable) sponsorship. For your top level sponsorships, you’ll most likely need longer.
I am in no way diminishing the roles of money, creativity, human resources, or any other component of sponsorship success. But without enough time, you can have all the rest of those things in the world and your sponsorships still won’t work.
Need more assistance?
For sponsors, all you need to know about best practice sponsorship selection, leverage, measurement, management, and more, you may want to get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit. Sponsorship seekers, you’ll find all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition
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