Keys to Sponsorship Success
By Tom Hickman
The total value of sponsorships sold in North America will be right at $20 billion in 2013 and the rate of increase of spending in this medium continues to grow at about 5 percent annually. Nevertheless, the vast majority of sponsorship proposals do an inadequate job of communicating the potential value of the sponsorship to prospective sponsors. When your event or organization pitches sponsorship opportunities to businesses, several steps can help you get the sponsorship rights fees that you should command.
Too many organizations offering sponsorship opportunities do not make a strong case from a business perspective. Instead, the organization talks about how the sponsoring firm will get to have their company's logo on things, receive tickets to the event and obtain some type of hospitality benefits along with the designation as official sponsor. When you focus on these four facets of sponsorship, you are selling sponsorship like a commodity and you are not positioning your offer as a valuable business opportunity to prospective firms. If you want to be successful in selling your sponsorship opportunities, that strategy must change.
The Game Plan to a Successful Proposal
To successfully sell your sponsorship opportunity, you must first identify sponsors that have a target market overlap with the attendees of your event. This will allow you to tailor offers to potential sponsors by allowing them to see how the sponsorship can benefit them from a business point of view. The steps that follow will explicitly give you a formula to do just that.
Step 1 Create a professional proposal that begins with a cover page stating exactly what you are selling. There are three possible designations: naming rights to the event, presenting rights, and all other levels of sponsorship. The next page should have a photo of the event and one or two compelling statistics that are meaningful to that particular sponsor. This is where the customization begins. You must understand what is meaningful to each prospective sponsor and demonstrate how your event can work for each organization through one or two hard-hitting pieces of key information.
Step 2 Now your proposal needs to explain the event experience to the sponsor. You should write about what your attendees like about the event, what they like to see and how they like to spend their money. Position your event as a worthy cause or refer to specific financial needs you want to meet. You are not in the business of portraying yourself as a charity case that deserves someone else's money. You are selling potential sponsors opportunities to spend their marketing dollars in a way that is going to benefit their business—treat it that way.
Step 3 The proposal should then describe your own marketing activities in a way that is meaningful to the sponsor. Start with a fact sheet that describes key information such as the date of the event, the location and estimated attendance. Potential sponsors also want to know the types of people that come to your event. You should profile your attendees and help the sponsor to understand the psychographic characteristics (lifestyle, self-concept, and self-values) of your target market.
Example: If you are selling sponsorships to a marathon, an obvious psychographic is a healthy-living orientation. Organizations such as sporting goods stores and firms selling nutritional supplements would be likely sponsorship candidates. Interestingly, marathon runners are also much more likely to be planners and are driven by goal attainment. This makes financial institutions selling retirement plans excellent candidates for marathon sponsorship.
The key is that you have to understand the psychographic characteristics of your target market and then determine which potential sponsors have a target market of their own that overlaps with one or more of those characteristics. You must also take the time to explain how you are going to reach the attendance goals that you outlined on your fact sheet. Give a clear indication that you know how to get people to come to your event and what media will cover it. Potential sponsors will want to know what they can expect from an exposure standpoint above and beyond the actual event.
Step 4 Explain creative leveraging ideas for the sponsor. Leveraging is the set of initiatives that are designed to support and enhance the sponsorship. Your objective at this stage of the proposal is to demonstrate how the sponsor is going to connect with the target market in a way that is more personal than other forms of marketing. You are giving them the opportunity to build their brand in a way that their customers will value.
Example: Reese's leverages its social media platform to remind customers of its role as the Official Candy Partner of the NCAA and provides them with tailgating tips using Reese's products.
Example: At the Kansas City Chiefs home games, Hy-Vee hosts the Hy-Vee Hot Zone that features live music before every game. This additional attendee experience is separate from the main event and provides customers a more personal, entertaining experience with the brand.
Step 5 You should then provide the prospective sponsor with a comprehensive list of benefits they will receive as a sponsor. The emphasis should be on the target market overlap your event has with their business and how they can leverage the sponsorship into a successful investment. Tickets to the event, hospitality benefits and the rights to use the event's official logos on merchandise should be mentioned but certainly not given center stage.
Step 6 Finally, you should conclude with the investment required to sponsor your event. This typically takes two forms: money and in-kind donations. You can also consider including a leveraging budget in the sponsorship contract. For example, you may build in 10 percent of the rights fees being returned to the sponsor to help them leverage their new investment. Include examples of how other sponsors of your event have succeeded and how other companies have made the most of sponsorship opportunities similar to the one you are offering.
Overall, your objective should be to present a case to prospective sponsors that you have a unique business opportunity that will benefit their organization. Help them to see how the sponsorship can assist them in meeting their goals. Successful sponsorship targeting requires work on the front-end to determine which businesses have target market overlap with the attendees of your event. Demonstrate to the sponsors that you understand their target market and give them three or four creative ideas to help them understand how to leverage the sponsorship to connect with their audience in a way that will help their business. TK