Weeding Your Sponsorship Portfolio

Is Your Sponsorship Portfolio an Overgrown Garden?

While some think of flowers and a green lawn as a sign of Spring, I note the rise of dandelions, crabgrass, and clover as a signal that Winter is in the rearview mirror.

Many sponsorship managers feel the same when looking at their current sponsorship portfolio. While specific sponsorships may be valued as flower gardens, other partnerships feel more like a bundle of weeds.

If you feel this way about your sponsorship portfolio, here are a few thoughts about weeding that cluttered garden.

The Strategy Review: confirming your overall sponsorship strategy

Portfolios get cluttered for many reasons. Some sponsorships come as legacy relationships from previous brand management teams. Other partnerships seemed like a good idea then but never quite panned out.  Whatever the reasons, an overall sponsorship strategy serves as the first screen to weed out sponsorships off-strategy.

For instance, we’ve seen sponsors move from music strategies to sports to esports. Many times, sponsors renew older legacy deals even when their strategy has shifted. The Strategy Review allows sponsors to press the pause button, reassess whether the sponsorships match the plan, and make necessary changes to improve alignment.

The Audience Review: double-checking the match between sponsorship and properties

Much of a sponsorship’s success hinges on the strong alignment between the sponsor’s customer base and the property’s audience. Because change is the only thing constant in business, it’s essential to recognize that audiences evolve. For instance, the sponsor’s customer base may become younger and more diverse, while the property’s event attendees may become older over time.

When in weeding mode, consider whether the audience match is as strong today as it was at the sponsorship’s inception. This may be the reason why sponsorship return on investment weakens over time. For this reason, it’s essential to confirm that audience mismatch is not the cause.

Total Portfolio Review: ensuring that sponsorship properties align with each other

A single sponsorship says a lot about a sponsor. We have written about sponsorship fit because it impacts the relationship’s success. That’s why we don’t see a lot of youth brands hanging around at Baby Boomer events.

However, the connection between properties within a sponsor’s portfolio also communicates something about the sponsor. For example, you’d commonly consider energy drinks to align well with action, adventure, and extreme sports properties.  However, consumers would scratch their heads at the brand inconsistency if that energy drink sponsor had wildly diverse relationships with snowboarding, a symphony orchestra, a crafts show, and a mixed martial arts promoter. (Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it.)

A brand-consistent portfolio of properties that aligns well with consumers creates an added benefit to the sponsor’s perception. Think of the Total Portfolio Review in this way: If the sponsor hosted a dinner party and all its properties attended, would they find common topics to discuss, or would it feel odd?  If it feels strange, it’s time to weed.

It’s Never Too Late to Weed

Whether it’s Spring or Fall, it’s never too late to weed. While many sponsors wait until a sponsorship is about to expire, weeding should occur periodically to support long-term sponsorship portfolio growth and success. After all, if you do a lot of yard work, who really likes to see crabgrass on their lawn?

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