By Ken Ungar
Happy New Year, my friends.
As we enter this first week of the new year, we look ahead to a time when our industry can rebuild beyond the pandemic. However, if you’re like me, you also look back and take stock.
I started my sports marketing career at a property. From that experience, I understand the pressure to develop sponsorship revenue as quickly as possible. I learned how the brutal sponsorship sales market could expose my property’s every weakness. Over time, it became clear that veteran sponsorship managers size up properties in the first 60 seconds. They taught me what sponsors value most and what they do not value at all. However, the most important lesson I learned was, “don’t go to market before your property is ready.”
Sponsorship is a buyer’s market. Because there are more seekers than buyers, the onus is on the property to maximize its attractiveness in the marketplace. If a property can stand out as offering great value, it will improve its chances of finding a great partner.
Does your property stand out? As you make plans for the new year, consider the “three B’s” to impress sponsorship prospects.
Be Ready to Sell
An essential rule of sponsorship sales is “first you market, then you sell.” Do everything you can to make your property brand as healthy as possible because sponsors have choices. A sponsorship manager at a large brand may receive hundreds of proposals in a week. Competition in this industry is as intense and cutthroat as any other industry, perhaps more so.
Properties that are not ready to sell sponsorship need to focus on the marketing initiatives that will make the property a success. Then, they need to make those marketing priorities a reality. Examples include the quality of its website and web traffic, its social media engagement rate, and the growing number of attendees as a sign of property brand strength in the sponsorship sales process. However, properties must be ready to sell, then sell.
Be a Consultative Partner
When the property considers itself one of the sponsor’s marketing consultants, the likelihood of continuous improvement and value creation in the relationship increases exponentially. Consulting can take place in the following ways:
- Suggesting new ways to leverage the property
- Providing constructive feedback on how to improve current leverage and activation activities
- Informing the sponsor proactively on changes in the behavior/attitudes of the property’s audience
- Offering best practices data and advice from other sponsors involved in the property
- Sharing useful news or business information relevant to the sponsorship manager’s duties and challenges
- Communicating regularly about the status of programs and opportunities
- Networking with other sponsors to develop future programs with the property.
This type of consultative partnership positively transforms relationships. The property becomes more than a “vendor” to whom a check is cut regularly in the sponsor’s mind. The property becomes part of the brand’s marketing team in the most real sense. Finally, the property benefits from how the sponsorship is embedded in the brand’s integrated marketing plan.
Just as customers expect businesses to be helpful, sponsors often evaluate their partner properties by their degree of helpfulness. But, helpfulness in what areas? In a recent sponsor survey, sponsors viewed the following property assistance as “valuable”: help to measure return on investment, post-event reports sent for fulfillment audits, audience research on attitude and image, and leveraging ideas.
Assistance with leveraging ideas has been an area of interest for me for some time. For many years, I have seen professional sports franchises (i.e., NBA, MLB, NFL, or NHL) and independent event facilities (i.e., music centers or racetracks) court local or regional retail chains as sponsorship partners. These brand partners have marketing teams skilled at their core function: selling goods or services through advertisements, point-of-purchase promotions, or social media. However, these marketers may not deal with sponsorship often.
In the mid-level and smaller-dollar sponsorship markets, properties also lack access to creative marketing services aligned with their sponsorship sales. The result is that both parties would like to entertain sponsorship but do not know how to build one that benefits both sides. Thus, some sponsorship deals do not work out because they cannot agree on how the brand can leverage and activate the sponsorship.
Some properties already recognize this gap in the sponsorship sales process and increasingly include leverage ideas in sponsorship proposals. The survey referenced above noted that a growing number of sponsors found this tactic to be valuable. In some cases, providing leverage ideas as part of a sponsorship proposal may be the difference between closing a deal and not closing one.
New Year, New You
The new year offers opportunities to take your sponsorship program to the next level. From our experience, the three B’s can be valuable in that process. Good luck as you power up your sponsorship in 2021.
For more information about how CHARGE can help make your sponsorships more powerful, contact us to schedule a discovery call.