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5 Clichés About Sponsorship You Should Avoid

by | March 19, 2021

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Love is blind. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Actions speak louder than words. Clichés are sometimes true, but more often than that, they’re tired and what’s worse, tiring. Sponsorship companies have been around the block so many times that your clichés might put them to sleep. What are some sponsorship clichés to sidestep?

I’d recommend you avoid these 5 sponsorship clichés especially:

  • Referring to yourself as a “visionary”
  • Telling the sponsor that the deal is a win-win when it is in fact not
  • Talking about nothing but ROI
  • Using “synergy” and other business buzzwords to try to sound important
  • Calling your mistakes the “perfect storm” rather than owning up to them

Some people speak in clichés by default because they think it makes them a smooth business-maker. Others might fall back on clichés when feeling stressed or unsure what to do next. Whichever camp you belong to, I suggest you keep reading to learn why these 5 sponsorship clichés are so damaging. I’ll even recommend what you should start saying or doing instead.

Stop Using These 5 Sponsorship Clichés!

1. What You’re Doing: Referring to Yourself as a Visionary

You don’t like to use the word genius, but visionary is okay. Plus, it just rolls off the tongue much more nicely than saying genius. Personally, you think it isn’t quite as pretentious either. Well, to you maybe. To everyone else, describing yourself as a visionary is as pretentious as can be.

After all, a visionary is someone full of wisdom and imagination who has a clear eye for the future. Visionaries are sometimes even apparitions or supernatural beings. In other words, these are huge shoes to fill! 

What You Should be Doing Instead: Talk Less about Yourself and More about Your Audience/Other Assets

Okay, so if you can’t describe yourself as a visionary to a target sponsor, what should you call yourself?

Nothing. Yes, seriously, nothing. Okay, maybe the founder or CEO of your company or organization, but that’s about it. 

You as an individual do not need sponsorship. Rather, you’re pursuing it on behalf of your company. There’s little need to talk about yourself. Instead, you want to discuss your business and your cause, but not even that much.

If you’ve seen my sponsorship proposal template (and if not, what are you waiting for?), you get one paragraph on the second page to talk about your company or your cause. Then you have another paragraph to describe your event. 

Why so little space? These details on their own don’t impress a target sponsor much. What will impress them is detailed audience research, fairly-priced assets, and a presentable sponsorship proposal. 

If you recall from a recent post, I said the biggest problem with sponsorship is not pricing your assets correctly. Your assets are what will convince the sponsorship to agree to the deal, so if they don’t like what you’re selling, forget it, it’s game over. Even if the sponsor is lured in by your assets but can’t agree to the prices, you’ll again lose out on the deal.

Rather than wasting time coming up with a creative way to refer to yourself such as a genius or visionary, funnel that time into audience research, asset creation, and asset valuation instead. You’ll be so glad you did.

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2. What You’re Doing: Calling Your Sponsorship Materials a Win-Win

Your sponsorship package, if you do say so yourself, is pretty awesome. You’re giving the sponsor booth space and event naming rights at a good price. They get what they want and you get the money your event needs. It truly is a win-win.

You want the sponsor to know that, so you describe your deal as a  win-win about as often as you can. Who doesn’t love seeing and hearing that word? This will certainly earn you the sponsorship deal. 

Except, it might not, and for a few reasons.

What You Should Be Doing Instead: Make Sure You Have Winning Assets

Let’s take it from the top. Is your sponsorship package really a win-win? There are all sorts of mistakes you can make when putting together this package that will make it a lose-lose. For example, when creating your assets list, did you only think about what you perceive as valuable or what the sponsor would deem valuable as well?

Even if a few less-than-great assets squeaked by, once you evaluated them, did you decide to keep them anyway because hey, the sponsor would probably be interested? If you’re pushing assets like logos, even if you’re not charging a premium for them, the sponsor is not going to care. Logos have a negligible value. If you use them at all, they must be only a tiny portion of your assets list.

Rather than assume what the sponsor might like or dislike, you have to talk to them or at least research them. As I wrote about in this post, companies have all sorts of motivations that inspire them to sponsor other businesses. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting a spike in sales, but it’s often much more complex than that.

Maybe the sponsor wants to increase their reach, earn more media exposure, try a new role, boost their own brand awareness, do easy lead gen, or differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Once you understand the sponsor’s motivations, it’s a lot easier to pick and choose the assets that can get the sponsor to the finish line. It almost becomes like putting together a puzzle, as the pieces fit together so much better. They make a picture rather than a jumbled mess. 

Another error that’s not a win-win when it comes to your sponsorship package is using tiered sponsorship levels. Sponsors hate this approach since it forces them to buy assets they usually don’t want. That is, by definition, not a win-win. Sure, you get what you want (money), but the sponsor is left high and dry.

If you really must use words like win-win (which I don’t recommend), then at least make sure what you’re offering truly is mutually beneficial. I’m more of a fan of the cliché that actions speak louder than words, because in this case, it’s true! 

3. What You’re Doing: Dropping ROI References Constantly

Return on investment is important in business. You want the sponsor to know that if they choose to work with you, their higher ROI will have proven the partnership worthwhile. That’s why it seems like every other word out of your mouth is those three little letters: ROI. 

It’s great that you want to show your value to the sponsor, but as I said in the last section, your actions will do the talking, not your words. You seem too try-hard if all you do is chat about what a worthwhile investment your company is. 

What You Should Be Doing Instead: Understand Your Sponsor’s Needs

I have something to tell you that you might find surprising. Sponsor companies don’t only care about money. Other ROI metrics matter to them as well. I discussed this here, so please, before you utter the word ROI to your target sponsor again, give that article a read.

Sponsorship ROI is measurable by increased email open and click-through rates, positive customer feedback, a high net promoter score, increased product sales, more website traffic and social followers, and more customers. 

Does all that have to do with money? Most does, yes, but not all. Thus, if you pursue sponsorship thinking only of how your assets can increase the sponsor’s ROI, you might be missing the mark. 

I can’t stress enough that going into sponsorship without gauging what the target sponsor wants and needs is a huge problem. You end up giving them apples when they wanted oranges. 

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4. What You’re Doing: Speaking in Business Buzzwords

Can you not go a whole meeting without the word “synergy” exiting your lips, maybe even several times? Perhaps you refer to members of your team as “actioneers” or talk about how you’ll “bake in” services like they’re a batch of cookies. 

You care about getting the best “bang for your buck” and “reinventing the wheel.” Maybe you’ve even used the term “punch a puppy,” which yep, is a real business buzzword in 2021.

These types of words might make your boss excited if you’re that kind of company, but they won’t have much of an effect on your sponsor. 

What You Should Be Doing Instead: Using Layman’s Terms

Why do you use buzzwords like a crutch? Be honest with yourself. Is it just your company culture? If so, then scale it back. 

Do you think buzzwords make you sound smart? When used selectively, a big word can almost always boost your perceived intelligence, but not when you use so many that it’s like you’re speaking another language. 

Perhaps that’s why you use buzzwords. You’re hoping to confuse the sponsor and get them to agree to something that they might not otherwise. 

That’s as low as writing contract clauses in very small print so they’re hard to read. Sure, sometimes you can strong arm or mislead a sponsor into an agreement, but you two will never work together again.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a sponsor that you connect with on fundamental levels? I would certainly say so. If you agree, then ditch the buzzwords. 

Speak in layman’s terms so the sponsor has a clear idea of what they’re getting when they agree to fund your event. This is basic respect and human decency, and it’s what any fruitful business relationship deserves.  

5. What You’re Doing: Using Clichés to Separate Yourself from Your Mistakes

Your event is falling apart. You had relied on other members of your team to order signage or put together the booths and it just didn’t work out as intended. You don’t want the sponsor to know you blew it, so you say it was a “perfect storm” of consequences that caused you to not live up to your end of the deal. 

What You Should Be Doing Instead: Taking Responsibility and Preventing Errors

This is a pretty common occurrence, actually. Anytime you see a reference to “acts of God” in a contractual agreement, it’s a company covering its butt in case of an unforeseen circumstance. Due to the act of God, they’d be off the hook.

Listen, sometimes things do come down to an act of God. For example, if yours was an outdoor sporting event and it rains when the forecast called for a sunny day, there’s nothing you can really do about that except postpone. The sponsor will likely be quite understanding.

However, there’s a big difference between a sudden downpour and your team not pulling its weight. It doesn’t matter if something was genuinely forgotten or someone didn’t do what was asked of them. When your sponsor bought your assets, the expectation was they were going to receive what they paid for.

What do you do when something you order online doesn’t show up? That’s right, you get up in arms about it. Your sponsor will do the same to you. You could even be in contractual breach depending on the terms of your arrangement. It’s a whole mess that’s going to severely damage your company’s reputation.

As much as you can, work hard to prevent these kinds of issues. Check in on the progress of other members of your team who are handling event-related tasks. Start earlier than you think you have to. At worst, you’re finished early, which is a good problem to have. Then you have even more time to confirm that all parts of your event are to go on as they should. 

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Whenever you can in life, it’s a good idea to use clichés sparingly, but especially in sponsorship. Be humble about yourself and your cause, know your sponsor and what they care about, and work hard to prevent last-minute issues. Best of luck!