We Only Sponsor if We Can Get Naming Rights

differentI hear that phrase with alarming regularity, and it takes every fibre of self-control I have not to just tell those sponsors to put it back in their pants. Come to think of it, I probably have said that to sponsors once or twice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking naming rights sponsorship – in the right circumstances, and for the right reasons. But as a blanket strategy, you’ve lost me.

If you find naming rights to be the default position, or the position that your company is focussed on far too often, there are some strategies that can put naming rights back in the category of “option”.

Create a sponsorship group

Much of this thinking emanates from corporate ego, and much of that comes from the top. Rather than risking your job telling c-levels they’ve got their priorities wrong, I suggest you take a more strategic approach.

Create a sponsorship think tank, comprising decision-makers from across your company. Meet monthly on the following topics:

  • Developing leverage plans.
  • Developing measurement plans.
  • Making decisions on (vetted and shortlisted) sponsorship investments.
  • Creating negotiation strategies.

If the group can’t make the decisions, they should be making recommendations to your senior executives.

The thing is, if you discuss what those decision-makers really need, and how they’ll use those benefits, chances are they won’t put “naming rights” at the top of the list – at least not very often. And if the senior executives see a well thought-out recommendation and plan from those decision-makers, chances are, they’ll back the recommendation.

Negotiate only for what you need

Following on from the above, my strong recommendation is to plan your leverage before you negotiate the sponsorship That way, your focus will be on getting the specific benefits you need to support that plan, not the biggest, flashiest benefits you can afford. Forego benefits you really don’t need, even if you’ve always had them in the past. Do you really need 100 tickets to every performance? Or do you only need tickets to the opening? Think hard before you say yes to a package that includes a bunch of benefits that have little strategic value to you.

Ambush up

A technique that I often advocate is that of ambushing up – that is, taking the smallest sponsorship that will provide the benefits you need, and using ambush marketing techniques to make the sponsorship deliver (and appear) like a much larger sponsorship.

For more on this technique, check out my blog, “In Praise of Ambushing Up” or my book, The Ambush Marketing Toolkit. You don’t have to be an ambusher to learn from ambushers.

Think of the money

Naming rights comes at a premium – often a big premium. Before you commit, just think of what you could do with the money you’d save if you dropped even just one level. And what if you adopted an ambushing-up strategy?

You could invest in some leverage infrastructure – a micro-site, online game, or some such. You could invest in some related sponsorships, embarking on a vertically integrated or umbrella strategy (see “How to Structure a Sponsorship Portfolio” for more on these). There are so many options.

…which brings me back to options. That’s what naming rights should be, not a default position.

For 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.

Need more help?

If you need help getting your sponsorship leverage or portfolio structure right, I am available for consulting and strategy sessions. Just drop me a line and we can discuss your needs and what I can do for you.

Kim Skildum-Reid
AU: +61 2 9559 6444
US: +1 612 326 5265


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