What You Need Before You Seek Sponsorship

What You Need Before You Seek Sponsorship“I want to know how you can help me get sponsorship.”

That’s it. No “hello”, no name, nothing – just one sentence sent from a Hotmail address referencing what I have to assume is the sender’s favourite cocktail, and closed out with a “Sent from iPhone” message at the bottom.

I get that kind of email all the time, so normally I wouldn’t be so irritated, but this particular one followed hot on the heels of my third email from a guy insisting that his great idea for an event should be all that’s required to get sponsorship, and once he got the money, he’d do all the “admin”. Yeah, good luck with that.

What these – and so many approaches I get and sponsors get – have in common is an alarming degree of nonchalance, unprofessionalism, and a total lack of understanding of how difficult and competitive seeking sponsorship is. I’m busy. Brand managers are busy. Everyone in this industry is busy. Nobody is going to give you time, advice, or especially money, if that’s the best you’re prepared to do.

Here’s the thing, you are trying to elicit serious money from corporate marketing budgets. They expect you to be professional and they expect you to be prepared. If you treat this process nonchalantly, there is no way you’ll be successful. This isn’t free money and it isn’t easy. You’re not only competing with other rightsholders for a sponsor’s investment, you’re competing for their time. And because sponsorship is incredibly integrated across a number of business units, the person you reach out to will have to sell any good opportunity in to those business units. They won’t put their reputations on the line for an organisation that appears patently amateurish. Not a chance.

So, what do you need before you can even start the sponsorship seeking process?

A date and location

If you don’t know where or when your event or other property is either taking place or launching, you can’t sell sponsorship for it. You simply aren’t far enough along the planning process for any sponsor to take you seriously.

Skin in the game

If your property is new, sponsors need to know that you’ve got skin in the game – that you’ve already invested a lot of time, effort, and money into it the property – because if you don’t, you’re asking them to take a risk, when you haven’t taken one. It doesn’t matter how good your idea is, a sponsor is simply not going to be interested.


Sponsors need time to consider the opportunity, sell it internally, make a decision, plan leverage, and implement that leverage – all before you launch whatever it is you’re doing. Because it’s leverage that turns the opportunity you’re selling into the result they need, if you don’t give them ample lead-time, you’re asking for money with no chance for them to get a result. How much time? At least several months and up to a year or more.

For more on this, read “Tick Tock: The Most Precious Resource in Sponsorship is Time“.

Marketing plan

You need a complete, formalised marketing plan. You can’t entice sponsors if you can’t tell them what your positioning is, how that’s different from other competing properties, who will be interested, why they’ll be interested, and how you are going to build and maintain your relationship with those markets. This is the crux of your value to a sponsor. If you can’t be arsed to do it, you can’t effectively sell.

Need a marketing plan template? Get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.


It doesn’t have to be massive, but you do need a website. Look at other sites in your space. Consider them the threshold for professionalism. Ideally, you will make your mark with a unique look and feel or some amazing content. What you don’t want is to look like the least professional option of everything in your category in which a sponsor could invest, and with so many great website templates available, there’s really no excuse.

No, a Facebook page is not good enough. Why? Because having only a free, chit-chatty Facebook page shows no commitment to what you’re doing. Again, no sponsor is going to invest in what you’re doing, if you look like you’ve got no skin in the game.

Professional email address and setup

You should have either an email address that matches your website or maybe (not ideally) a Gmail address using your organisation’s name. Not Hotmail or Yahoo or Me.com or your generic ISP email and, god forbid, not AOL.

Your emails should have a signature block with all of your details. Even if you do send from your phone, ensure it doesn’t say it at the bottom. Don’t send emails in goofy fonts or with background images.

Proofreader… and manners

If you send emails in text-speak, that will get you deleted by all who receive them before the end of the first line. Wuzzup, indeed.

If your grammar and spelling isn’t the best, or you don’t know how to format professionally, you need someone else to either write your proposal, emails, etc for you or you need them proofread. Corporate marketers are not going to trust the professionalism or detail-orientation of any organisation that doesn’t get this right.

The first time you contact an organisation about sponsorship, address it to the brand manager by name and customise the message. Sponsors and consultants can spot copy-paste a hundred kilometres away. Never send one-sentence “introductory” emails addressed to no one. Just because you know how to do a copy-paste doesn’t mean you should. You only get one chance to make an impression, and it will stick.

And for all you people – so many people! – who send me emails in text-speak, those will get you deleted by all who receive them before the end of the first line. Wuzzup, indeed.

But wait… there’s more

Once you’ve done all of this, you still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before you’ll create a proposal that will get a “yes”. I suggest taking a look at these resources:

Need more assistance?

You may also be interested in my white papers, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better” and “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux“. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive Sponsorship Systems Design 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.

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