This is another total rewrite of a very popular blog from a few years ago, and while the advice from back then still holds, my top five priorities for sponsorship selection have changed over the years.
So, for all of you sponsors still looking for bargains on same-old same-old benefits, for all you sponsors focusing on reach instead of meaning, this is for you.
When you invest in sponsorship, you’re investing in opportunity. It’s what you do with it – the leverage activities you undertake – that will provide you with results. The most efficient and effective way to leverage a sponsorship is to integrate it across activities that are already budgeted. Alternatively, you may be able to replace some of your already budgeted activities with sponsorship-driven leverage.
What this all requires is buy-in, as those activities are unlikely to be managed by just one person or division, so you need buy-in, and you are much more likely to get that buy-in if they have a) input on the sponsorship before you commit; and b) you negotiate for exactly the benefits they need to achieve their goals.
For a sponsorship to be effective, people need to care about what you’re sponsoring. They need to have some passion for it. I don’t care how many eyeballs could potentially hit your logo. That’s not what delivers for your brand. That care – that passion – is what gives sponsorship its power.
You want to know who cares, why they care, and how they engage. In that, you’ll find ways to connect and nurture relationships with these fans, building consideration, preference, and particularly advocacy.
If the sponsorship seeker can’t tell you who the fans are and, particularly, why they care, that should be a huge red flag. With all the choices you have, don’t invest in something where this basic building block is missing.
You should also be able to identify some relevant, larger themes of what you’re sponsoring, because that will open up a much larger leverageable audience.
There will be runners who are preparing for their first marathon, who really couldn’t give a rat’s bum about that specific marathon you sponsor. There will be foodies who love experimenting with new ingredients who won’t make it to that amazing food festival you sponsor. There will be people who are incredibly invested in the well-being of children who live nowhere near the Children’s Hospital you’ve been sponsoring for years.
Find the relevance, so you can use your marketing channels to leverage to exponentially more people. Do that, and suddenly something that might have looked like a lot of money for a short event or local charity, could become a bargain against what you can accomplish with it.
For more on this, read: It’s Not the Size of the Sponsorship, It’s What You Do with It
You want a partner that gets it. You want a partner who understands your brand, your objectives, and your markets, and has put in some effort to come up with creative leverage ideas on your behalf. Those ideas don’t have to all be fantastic, but it demonstrates that they know what goes into making a sponsorship work, they’ve done their homework, and they’re willing to be flexible.
If you don’t have enough lead time to plan and implement leverage, you have to say “no”.
Okay, you could say “yes”, but you need to do it with the full understanding that the first few months or the first event is going to be largely a write-off against your objectives. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that just being there and getting exposure in that first year is going to accomplish anything. No leverage means no results.
How much is enough lead time? That varies a lot, but the average is around six months. If your company is really bureaucratic, or the sponsorship is huge and/or multinational, it could be a lot longer. If you’ve got a tight, nimble marketing team, it could be shorter. Personally, I hate going any shorter than about three months, as there are things you just can’t make happen faster than that.
You may be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.
If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building service for large and/or diverse organisations.
Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.