By Ken Ungar
Many sponsorship seekers don’t know why they can’t find sponsors. We see this issue all the time. When unsuccessful sellers get to the root of their problem, they’re surprised to learn that it’s not about sponsorship selling. It’s about marketing.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, sponsorship was a buyer’s market. With far more sponsorship seekers than takers, sponsors have their pick of opportunities. When stacking up options for comparison, the most crucial factor is what we call “sponsorship readiness.” Sponsors ask:
- Is the property’s brand strong?
- Does the property have a valuable audience that we want?
- Can the property effectively communicate with that audience on the sponsor’s behalf?
The answer to all three questions must be yes. With three yes’s, the property is sponsorship ready.
Sponsorship readiness does not guarantee success. However, most brand managers will tell you proposals from non-ready properties end up in the trash. So, why do sponsors care so much that a property is sponsorship ready?
A Strong Brand
If an audience thinks a property has a great image, the audience will feel the same about its sponsors. If I love the Chicago Cubs, I love the Cub’s sponsors as well. This “image transfer” represents a significant benefit of sponsorship to sponsors.
If it has a weak or non-existent image, the property cannot offer the sponsor much. The property should build its brand if it hopes to succeed in business or sponsorship. For this reason, properties with weak brands are not sponsorship ready.
A Valuable Audience
All properties have audiences. Sports teams, non-profits, and museums have fans, donors, and attendees, respectively.
Through sponsorship, sponsors want to speak to valuable audiences to enhance a brand image or sell products or services. “Valuable” is relative to the sponsor’s business but can be defined by quality and quantity.
A quality audience cares deeply for the property, engages with its content, and shows up consistently. Quantity refers to the number of fans, attendees, or social media followers who show up. More committed audiences understand the value of sponsorship to their property and show their appreciation by buying sponsor products or holding sponsors in higher regard.
Properties with weak audiences are not sponsorship ready.
Effective communication connects a strong brand to a valuable audience. With a marketing strategy, excellent business communications link with audiences through social media, email, events, public relations, or advertisement.
Without this connection, the property cannot offer the sponsors a useful way to deliver the sponsor’s message. If the audience doesn’t know about the sponsor, the sponsor has little chance to earn a return on investment. Ineffective communicators are not sponsorship ready.
What Can you Do About It?
I always advise sponsorship seekers that “first you market, then you sell.” That means developing a marketing strategy or plan and having the right people and tools to carry out that plan, and the time to build your brand and your audience.
If you want to do this yourself, we’ve curated several sources on the web to get you started. If you need assistance, we can refer you to several great marketing agencies to help.
Also, take CHARGE’s Sponsorship Readiness Assessment to gauge your readiness to sell sponsorship. This survey explores whether you have the proper sales tools to connect with sponsors and explores how sponsors will perceive you.
Use the results of this assessment to build your marketing checklist. Because once you’re sponsorship ready, you’ll be prepared to achieve the sponsorships you deserve.