A little while back, I wrote a blog about the role of a corporate sponsorship manager, which should be a much broader role than it’s usually specced. But sponsors are by no means alone in defining sponsorship roles too narrowly.
When we look at the other side of the equation – when we look at rightsholders – the job of a sponsorship sales manager is often defined as strictly a sales job. It’s about picking up the phone and sending emails, getting proposals out the door, and closing deals. And certainly, there are those aspects, but if that’s all the job is about – how many calls, how many proposals, closing percentage – it’s unlikely to result in a big success.
No, in this day and age, sponsorship sales is a field driven by research, analysis, empathy, and creativity, so sponsorship sales managers need to have a much broader job definition and skill set.
So with that, here are the seven other hats sponsorship sales managers need to wear.
Sponsorship is no longer about selling benefits, but selling vision. It’s not, “These are the benefits you get for your investment”, but, “This is what you can accomplish with this investment”.
This approach shifts the sale from a commodity-driven transaction to a meaning-driven partnership. The skill level and legwork required to get a sale is higher, but value of the sale to both your organisation and your fans is also much greater.
There are two sides to marketing that a sponsorship sales manager has to embrace, and the first is about marketing to the fans – the people that care about your property. Even if you have a whole separate team doing the marketing for your property or properties, you still need to be across some very specific aspects of marketing:
Why do you need this information? Because you can’t create a well-matched hit list of potential sponsors unless you understand both your target markets and all of the attributes, values, and hot buttons that form your property’s brand. You also need to be able to articulate why your fans care, as meaning is the crux of modern sponsorship. Finally, being able to provide an overview of your marketing plan in the proposal shows professionalism, and gives sponsors a deeper understanding of your markets and capabilities.
If you need a process for developing a marketing plan, check out, Short Course: Marketing Plans for Rightsholders. Even better, do the comprehensive online course, Getting to “Yes”, which includes Marketing Plans, as part of the whole sponsorship process.
Sponsorship sales is about understanding and being responsive to brand needs. You can’t create a compelling, customised proposal, if you don’t understand their overall marketing objectives, priorities, target markets, and industry.
The best salespeople in the industry know that, and spend a significant amount of time digging into the marketing (advertising, social) of a potential sponsor before contacting them or starting to craft a proposal. They know that the best way to get a sponsor’s attention, and get sponsors to invite a proposal, is to demonstrate that they’ve done their homework.
You need to be a creative. I’m not kidding. You need to get yourself into a headspace where you can translate the background information you’ve got about the brand, your understanding of the big marketing trends, and your deep understanding of the fans, the fan experience, and what has meaning to them, into a raft of creative ideas. These are the leverage ideas you’ll use in your proposals, which will create the vision for your contacts, and anyone else they need to sell in on the sponsorship.
It’s these ideas, not the benefits, that sell modern sponsorship. If you’re uncomfortable with the creative part of the role, you need to assemble some creative firepower around you, because this part of the job is no longer optional.
If you want to understand how to find those creative ideas, check out, Short Course: Offer Development and Sponsorship Sales Essentials. Even better, do the comprehensive online course, Getting to “Yes”, which includes Offer Development and Sponsorship Sales Essentials and a LOT more.
I know… another marketing role. But this is different.
You don’t need to be a brand guru, but you do need to be conversant in brand marketing trends, terms, and metrics. This will allow for a deeper understanding of what brands are trying to accomplish and why, and how to talk about these factors in a way that positions you as a clued-up peer.
Being able to look at your property from the sponsor’s point of view is also a critical factor in coming up with creative leverage ideas. If you were the sponsor, what would you do with the property to achieve brand goals? Nurture target market relationships? Increase brand alignment? This requires both an understanding of the brand, and a working understanding of brand marketing.
I suggest you read my white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship”, which draws straight lines between cutting edge marketing trends and best practice sponsorship.
The fans are the most important party to any sponsorship equation, but they’re not involved in the sales process. That means that the sponsorship sales manager needs to be a fan advocate – promoting their best interest, like sponsors adding value to the fan experience, and protecting those fans from sponsorship deals that disrespect the fan experience.
Doing sponsorship well requires whole-of-organisation participation, both in the approach to sponsorship, and the delivery of sponsorship. It’s no good selling a benefit that your producer can’t deliver. It’s no good crafting a beautiful proposal, only to have your chief executive do a handshake deal with a buddy for way less than it’s worth. And getting the fan marketing information you need to sell sponsorship is infinitely easier, if you’re working in tandem with the marketing team.
As a sponsorship sales manager, you’re likely to be the one – or at least part of the team – spearheading buy-in for best practice sponsorship across your organisation. You’re the one liaising with operations about what is and isn’t feasible to deliver to a sponsor. You’ll be the one making the case to marketing about the need for specific components of the marketing plan. And you’ll be managing this whole process with people who probably don’t answer to you.
Selling sponsorship is tough, and getting tougher, as sponsor expectations go nowhere but up. Without this well-rounded, creative, and empathetic approach to your job, you’re not positioned to meet those expectations.
Some suggested further reading:
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 white papers, “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “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.
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.