Why You Should Never Use a Scorecard to Assess Sponsorships

why you should never use a scorecard to assess sponsorshipIf you read this blog with any frequency, it won’t come as any surprise that I have a few sponsorship-related pet peeves. One of my biggest issues on the sponsor side is using scorecards to assess sponsorship opportunities.

The scorecard process generally looks something like this. You’ve got a scorecard with several factors on it. The factors are weighted, so some are more important than others. You score each factor, do any multiplication, add them all up, and voila! If the points are over a certain threshold, you’ll consider the sponsorship.

I understand the desire to inject objectivity into the sponsorship selection process, particularly after so many sponsors spent decades making ad hoc decisions, but using a scorecard isn’t the answer. In this blog, I outline several good reasons not to use a scorecard, and a strong alternative.

Points are not the point!

“Do you want to go sing karaoke with me tonight?”

A normal answer might be, “Sorry, no. I’d love to, but I’m getting over a cold, so my voice is ratty. Plus, I have an early meeting tomorrow.” That answer uses straightforward rationale to frame the decision.

Using a scorecard approach might go something like this: Fun 9 out of 10 (with a weighting of 2x), convenience 2 out of 10, social 8/10, health 3/10, cost 8/10. Total score of 39 out of 60, so the answer is…

This is clearly ridiculous, but so is trying to assign points to aspects of a potential sponsorship, when specific, defensible rationale to take the next step one way or the other is usually staring you right in the face. The points are just an unnecessary detour that does nothing to deepen your understanding of the opportunity at hand.

(BTW, my answer to the karaoke question is almost invariably “yes”.)

It’s not objective

If you were to ask ten sponsorship and/or marketing people in your company to assess one sponsorship on a scorecard, you’d end up with ten different results.

Despite the rationale for a sponsorship scorecard usually being that it’s objective and systematic, it’s not.

If you were to ask ten sponsorship and/or marketing people in your company to assess one sponsorship on a scorecard, you’d end up with ten different results. Why? Because assigning those points is inherently subjective.

People bring their biases and comfort zones. They may be super-busy or in a bad mood. They may be generous by nature, or they may be trying to prove what a hardarse they are. And if you give someone the job of assigning points to something subjective, their priorities and personalities will surely colour their choices.

There’s no room for nuance

The most comprehensive sponsorship selection scorecard I’ve seen was about ten lines. What this means is that, rather than identifying and evaluating critical nuances in the offer, they’re amalgamated into broad concepts. This makes assigning scores even more complicated and subjective.

  • Is 500 tickets and hospitality for 75 a 6 or a 7? What if the hospitality is an 8, but the tickets are a 3? Does that make “tickets and hospitality” a 5.5? Are hospitality and tickets equal, or is one more important? Does that change the score?
  • The proposal is very professional, but not customised at all, so is “professionalism” a 2 for not being customised, or an 8 for being slick and pretty?
  • The offer is a lot of money – a lot more than we would usually pay, so “cost” could be a 2 or 3… or even a 1. Then again, it’s a big sponsorship of a huge event, so maybe it’s worth it. I’m not sure, though. Maybe I’ll just put a 5 in that column, with a question mark.
  • This sponsorship gets a huge overall score, but it’s basically a duplicate of something we’re already sponsoring. How do I even reflect that?

The list could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Sponsorships aren’t apples

Following on from the previous point, one of the biggest arguments for using a scorecard is to get an apples-to-apples comparison of various sponsorship offers, like grinding them through some flawed process to get a score is really going to tell you whether a major sport sponsorship is better or worse for your brand than a mid-level cultural sponsorship.

The fact is that either one could be great for you. Or both. Or neither. But distilling very different opportunities down to weighted scores on a handful of factors isn’t going to tell you about relevance, meaning, leverageability, fit, efficiency, or any of the many threshold needs for you to seriously consider a sponsorship.

Even as a first pass, this approach is fatally flawed

Something I hear from clients is that their scorecard is “just a first pass”, and that no decisions are made to sponsor something until the next stage. They do, however, decline sponsorships based on the scorecard.

Are you sure you’ve never rejected a great sponsorship, because it didn’t perform well against your scorecard?

The issue is, if the scorecard factors are overbroad, there’s no room for nuance, and the scores are subjective, can you really be confident that you’re advancing the best options? That you’ve never rejected a great sponsorship, because it didn’t perform well against your scorecard?

And if you do want to advance a sponsorship to your boss or a brand manager, or a committee, do you just attach the scorecard? Or do you do a briefing with rationale? In my experience, it’s the latter. So, if any sponsorship you want to advance ends up with a rationale cover sheet of some kind, why don’t you just stop with the points and flesh out the rationale from the start?

The alternative

What you need is an assessment process that is strict enough to ensure every sponsorship that makes it through is a strategic fit, but flexible enough that it will accommodate very different types of sponsorships. This has four very straightforward steps.

Step 1: Get better proposals (and free yourself from admin on crap ones)

The very first thing you want to do is reduce the number of proposals you get, and increase their quality, so you get all the information you need to start making decisions. The best tool for that is Sponsorship Guidelines.

Download a copy of my newly-updated Sponsorship Guidelines template, and customise it to your needs. Try to keep it as specific and comprehensive as the template, because as soon as you start to go general or vague, it’s just not going to work.

Put the Sponsorship Guidelines on your website, somewhere easy to find. Give copies to all of your brand and regional managers, the C-suite, and anyone else who gets hit up for sponsorship. Reference them on your website, voicemail, and your sponsorship@ email autoresponder, with wording like this:

“We only consider sponsorship offers that have been prepared in accordance with our Sponsorship Guidelines. If you submit a sponsorship proposal that doesn’t substantially comply with our Guidelines, we will not consider the offer, and you will not receive a response from us.”

Yeah, I know… that last bit is pretty badarse, and you don’t strictly need to include it. But imagine the change in your workload if you don’t have to assess and respond to every terrible proposal you get.

Step 2: Create Preliminary Evaluation Criteria

This is basically an internal version of the Sponsorship Guidelines. I’ve included a strong template for this in my upcoming The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit 2nd Edition, but for now, here are the headings and subjects I like to cover:


  • Annual fee
  • Term
  • Lead time


  • Was the proposal prepared based on Sponsorship Guidelines
  • Was it professionally presented
  • Does it include all the information we need to make a decision

Strategic fit

  • Does it fit within our umbrella portfolio (if applicable) or is it stand-alone?
  • Which of our core (psychographic) target markets is this relevant to?
  • Does it provide category exclusivity? Which categories?
  • Is it a natural value/attribute fit? Which values/attributes from our brand architecture are a strong match?
  • Will they provide exclusive content, IP to create content, and/or access to create content?
  • Do they provide benefits we can pass directly through to our target markets? Which benefits?
  • Does the offer contravene any of our exclusions?


  • Reject
  • Provide with Sponsorship Guidelines and request a stronger proposal
  • Advance to stakeholder group

Step 3: Learn how to evaluate sponsorship proposals

This would seem like a no-brainer, but there actually is a way to evaluate proposals that will very quickly weed out the no-hopers, and – in concert with Preliminary Evaluation Criteria – showcase the offers with potential.

I strongly suggest you read the following blog. It’s written for rightsholders, so they understand how good sponsors evaluate the proposals they send, but will also provide a good roadmap for fine-tuning your evaluation approach.

How Do Sponsors Evaluate Sponsorship Proposals?

Step 4: Bring the shortlisted opportunities to your sponsorship stakeholder group

If you do all of the above steps, very few sponsorships will get through to being shortlisted. What you do next is critical.

DON’T make decisions and/or start negotiations on your own or with your immediate team. You’re not in a position to determine the two biggest factors to your success with a sponsorship:

  • Cross-departmental buy-in
  • Leverageability

With flow-on factors:

  • What benefits do you need to negotiate, so stakeholders have the raw materials they need for leverage?
  • What you’re willing to pay for the specific benefits you’re proposing?

You can only do that with the constructive and creative input of your cross-departmental sponsorship stakeholder group. For more about this whole process, and how to use a sponsorship stakeholder group, read The Best Sponsorship is Process-Driven Sponsorship. This is, without doubt, my favourite underrated blog, and a must-read for sponsors.

The upshot

You’ve got a choice. Do you keep using the ridiculous scorecard, because it looks like you know what you’re doing and your company likes tidy numbers? Or do you trash the scorecard and give the sponsorship selection process the gravitas and respect it deserves?

If your goal is an efficient portfolio full of high-performing sponsorships, there is only one answer, and that answer isn’t a scorecard.

Need more assistance?

You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“. I’ve also got a self-paced, online sponsorship training course for sponsors, covering the whole process of sponsorship strategy, selection, negotiation, leverage, measurement, and management, with lots of inclusions. Interested? Check out the Corporate Sponsorship Masterclass. I’ve also got Getting to “Yes” for rightsholders.

If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer Sponsorship Systems Design for large and/or diverse organisations. Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

© 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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