Treating sponsorships like advertising is like using an iPhone as a paperweight. Your iPhone will hold the paper down on a desk, but you’ve ignored the real power of this piece of mobile technology.

If I’m an advertiser, I tell you my product is great. I rent someone else’s platform (like a television show or a YouTube video) to share that message. The platform rents access to me according to a formula (like cost-per-thousand / CPM) based on reach (how many eyeballs I can reach) and frequency (how many times I can repeat my message). Neither the platform nor its audience has any relationship with me.

If I’m a sponsor, I create a relationship with a partner who carries my message to its audience. It’s an audience that trusts and likes my partner. It’s not me telling them my product is great. My partner tells its loyal audience that my product is great. This third-party validation supercharges my message and fuels better marketing results for me as a sponsor. By leveraging this power, properties can sell sponsorship for a premium over advertising on an apples-to-apples basis. Call it “CPM plus-plus.”

Last week, a seller posed a frequently asked question to me: “What CPM dollar value should she use when selling sponsorships?” My answer was simple.  “Sell advertising that way, but not sponsorship.”

If I’m selling on a CPM basis, I only communicate the reach and frequency I can deliver for a sponsor. I fail to describe how a sponsorship creates a marketing impact for the prospect. Instead of using CPMs, sponsorship sellers should lead with messages highlighting the potential power of a relationship with the property.

Brand Power

Focus on the impact of the seller’s brand on its audience. Examples from my family come to mind. My youngest son identifies with his favorite Liverpool F.C., wears the Reds’ jersey every Saturday morning, and made a football pilgrimage to England last year. My eldest son lives for college football and regularly takes to social media to defend his Oklahoma Sooners. Liverpool F.C. and Oklahoma football have tremendous brand power in my family. If I’m selling sponsorship for these properties, I will share these types of stories about the impact of my brand on fans’ lives. What sponsor wouldn’t want to tap into those strong audience bonds?

Be True to Your School Sponsor

Focus on the loyalty of the seller’s audience to sponsors. For decades, NASCAR has touted the famous commitment of its fans toward its sponsors. Over half of NASCAR fans will pick a sponsor’s product over its competitors because of the NASCAR sponsorship. This relationship-based loyalty does not exist in advertising.

Prove It

Focus on real-life outcomes. Using case studies and sponsor testimonials will help bring the relationship power of sponsorship to life. For many years, I’ve referenced an aerospace B2B sponsorship where my partner credited $32 million in new aircraft revenue for every $1 million spent on the sponsorship. Past results can be the best way to testify to the value of the sponsorship relationship.

Final Thoughts

Advertising has a valuable role to play in the marketing mix. However, it’s not sponsorship. When selling sponsorship like advertising, it devalues the power of sponsorship. That’s why sponsorship sellers should ditch the CPMs and focus on how this marketing tool creates powerful outcomes for sponsors.

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