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5 ways to check that you have the right attitude towards finding a sponsor.

We made a presentation recently to a group of NGOs about the difference between a sponsor and donor. The audience comprised sponsorship seekers and/or fundraisers, so the presentation was customised in its content.

It is not our intention to revisit the presentation here, but we would point out that the main discussion running through the session was that of attitude. Our objective was to change the attendees’ attitude towards sponsorship and fundraising by demonstrating the difference between the two.

As a result of our half day session, it appeared that we were successful in that most attendees recognised that sponsorship is a joint marketing activity as opposed to the giving nature of companies supporting a fundraising campaign.

Recently, we wrote a blog post on the topic of sponsorship engagement (here), in which we offered various tips for sponsors and some for sponsees (sponsorship seekers). Today, in this blog post we would like to continue our sponsorship theme by writing about a sponsee’s attitude when approaching potential sponsors.

Let’s start at the beginning. Event owners, in any category, should have one focus only, and that focus should be on producing an event that will keep their audience engaged. Ultimately, it is the consistent positive experience of the audience/attendee that, over time, turns them into appreciative and loyal fans because their passion is being satiated. If the owner then wants to enhance the fan’s experience in some way, they may well search for a sponsor/partner to assist them.

It might be easy to write standard proposals for a Top 100 Companies list, but be warned – this is usually a complete waste of a sponsee’s time, due to lack of relevancy.

Do your homework first.

The very first step for all event owners is to know exactly what type of event they have and what it is that they can offer potential sponsors. The second step, building a target list of prospects, is not an easy one. Our own methodology for this stage is to compile three sub-lists and then merge them into one.

Our lists would include, a) what companies/brands would appear to be a ‘good fit’ with the event from a positioning point of view. The next list, b) is one of personal contacts/relationships that you (or your team), have with the first list of companies particularly, or with any other companies. The third list, c) outlines brands that are currently active in marketing to the same audience as the event

The third step is adopting the right attitude before meeting any potential sponsor. As mentioned above, a sponsorship is a joint marketing activity so here are some tips as to how to have the right business attitude to sponsorship.

  1. Do some background research on each potential sponsor – find out about their culture, product lines, brands, competition, marketing channels.
  2. Prepare to be a valuable business partner by using your experience of the event/fans – match their vision, mission and goals with yours. Understand their audience.
  3. Discover what they are saying in public about their business objectives – if a public company, the annual report is a mine of information; research their social media.
  4. Identify ways for them to turn your event into a business opportunity – the partnership must be a win-win-win for the sponsor, the sponsee and the audience.
  5. Make sure you can show how you will measure success – assign responsibilities, fulfilment reports, benchmarks, audience research etc.

Event owners must be committed to the implementation of activation strategies and to ensuring that the sponsor gets the credit where applicable. In this regard, the importance of a fulfilment report cannot be over emphasised. Not only will it show that agreed milestones have been met but it can also help sponsors justify their investment to an internal audience. Furthermore, it can show where the basic terms were exceeded and it can be used as a basis for renewal discussions.

Determine if your event offers real value to a sponsor.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the sponsor, for a moment. All companies have business objectives and they use various marketing tools to help achieve them and grow their business. Sponsorship remains one of the more useful marketing tools in this regard, in my opinion. This is mainly in response to the fact that customers are expecting more personal engagement from brand touch points.

We all agree that every company wants growth (better results), with minimum costs and in the fastest way possible. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense for event owners to focus on helping companies to make informed decisions on sponsorship opportunities and not just on an event that requires funding?

If a company decides to go the sponsorship route it will be because they perceive some element of real value, by doing so. A real value is where the sponsor believes that they are getting more from the sponsorship than just the financial cost they are paying to be involved.

Typically, a sponsor’s objectives might not have anything to do with the event at all. For example, objectives could be all or any of the following:

  • Awareness, visibility and/or testing of a new product/service
  • Increasing brand loyalty/reinforcing brand values
  • Stimulating sales/meeting trade partners / entertaining prospects
  • Building a relationship with the sponsee / motivating staff

The point here is that generally, the benefits being offered to a sponsor have to be carefully selected so as to match the sponsors’ expressed and unexpressed wishes and expectations.

Doing the homework, as suggested above, will highlight your commitment to the prospect. It will also show that you are interested in their partnership, rather than just their funding. By researching their identity and culture, it demonstrates that they are not being dealt with in a standardised way.  You can be sure that the best sponsors are looking to see that the nature of the event, matches their strategic business objectives.

Tips and Timesavers.

Much time is spent agreeing on the tangible benefits that can be offered to a sponsor in terms of content and value. We list a sample of them below, but the real challenge is to match what you have, with a sponsor that can use them.

  • Naming rights: Can be in the title; a physical section of the event (including online) or even for an agreed length of time.
  • Image rights: If not part of the naming rights it could be the placing of logos, trademarks, signage, clothing, route signage etc.
  • Merchandising: The sponsor can make its products/services available to the event fan base through sampling, demonstration or display.
  • Print and promotions: All print items to support the event should carry the sponsor’s mark and any promotional activity, online or offline should also promote the sponsor.
  • Staff benefits: Staff of the sponsor may receive special offers such as tickets, membership, celebrity introductions etc.
  • Hospitality: Tickets, reservations, green room VIPs, special seating, priority services, exclusive transport, accommodation, celebrity introductions etc.

The potential list of tangible benefits is almost endless, depending on what the sponsor wants/needs. The trick is to be efficient and relevant. Be efficient by offering only those benefits that a sponsor might want and be relevant by matching the benefits with their target audience.

Conclusion.

Looking for a sponsorship has become almost mainstream for many event owners/ organisers. My personal peeve is when I hear some event committee member saying “we need a sponsor to support our event.” These are probably the same people that send out standardised requests to 100 companies and are surprised when nobody replies.

If you want to fundraise for your event, by all means, go ahead and ask for support. If you want a sponsorship partner you’d better be able to deliver on their business objectives.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, here is what we believe a sponsor seeker should do;  understand exactly what your event is and who it will benefit; define a list of benefits that you can offer a sponsor; try to differentiate and offer exclusivity; make your proposal about their business (not your event), and agree a joint plan of activity.

Above all – listen, learn and be professional because these are the things that show you care about a sponsoring partner. Believe us when we say a sponsor knows a good partner when they see one.

“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

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Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we can grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

 

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