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7 Things You Should Never Include in a Sponsorship Proposal 

by | May 8, 2023

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The single biggest stumbling block any sponsorship seeker faces is the sponsorship proposal, and not only what to put in there but when to send it. Today, I want to focus on the contents of the proposal. What should you never add?

Here are 7 things to never include in a sponsorship proposal:

  • Gold, silver, and bronze tiers
  • Pages of company background
  • Long descriptions of your cause
  • Broad mentions of audience data
  • Asset and activation pricing
  • A cut-out order sheet
  • Mentions of customization

It’s time to look at your proposal-writing format with a critical eye. After all, if you’re including the above elements in your sponsorship proposal, it’s costing you valuable deals. This guide will go over why each of these elements is so sinful and how you can omit them going forward.

1. Gold, Silver, and Bronze Tiers

Let’s just dive right in with the most egregious inclusion in sponsorship proposals and one that sponsorship seekers add all the time. 

It’s gold, silver, and bronze tiers

As you page through a standard proposal, you’ll eventually see these tiers. It’s inevitable. Sponsorship seekers list all their assets and activations in the tiers, relegating the best stuff to the gold tier.

The decent assets go in the silver tier, then the worst stuff goes in the bronze tier.

The goal of organizing your assets and activations into tiers–at least in the eyes of the sponsorship seeker–is to motivate the sponsor to buy gold-tier assets and activations. 

What often happens is that a sponsor is only interested in a few gold-level assets. However, they can’t cherry-pick the assets they like due to tiered pricing. 

Some sponsors might cave and give in to the all-or-nothing approach, but often reluctantly, and it won’t happen a second time. Much more often, today’s sponsors will just pass on the whole deal because they don’t want to be strong armed. 

I always tell sponsorship seekers that tiered pricing doesn’t only hurt sponsorship relationships but their own money-making potential. However, that’s a discussion I’ll have a bit later, so make sure you keep reading. 

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By the way, it doesn’t matter if you call it gold tier, silver tier, and bronze tier or A tier, B tier, or C tier. The name isn’t what bothers sponsors, but being forced into buying more assets or activations than they’re interested in.

A sponsor knows best what kinds of solutions will benefit their bottom line. It’s a waste of money for them to buy only two or three assets that will achieve their objectives yet be saddled with a dozen more that don’t really help them.

What to Do Instead

Toss the tiers and begin customizing your sponsorship package. Have a discovery meeting with a prospective sponsor, learn about their challenges and goals, and create assets and activations tailored to their needs.

You can even collaborate with the sponsor to compile a completely custom sponsorship package. The sponsor won’t feel forced into buying any assets or activations they’re not wholeheartedly interested in.

2. Pages of Company Background 

Did you know a sponsorship proposal should only be about six pages long? That includes a title page and contact page, so that leaves you with only four pages of content.

Of course, it can go longer if you have detailed audience data and case studies to share (and you should!), but it’s not supposed to go long with company background details.

Many sponsorship seekers believe this information should go into their proposals, likely because they feel like they won’t get another chance to mention it otherwise. 

However, that’s not true. Your sponsors have Google just like everybody else. If they want to learn more about you, it’s not hard for them to look up your company. 

The time will come for that before you two sign a contract, but it’s something the sponsor will do on their own time. 

I’m not recommending you completely omit any talk about your company or organization, of course. 

However, if you’re spending pages on every last facet of your company history, from what motivated your founder to years and years of growth and history, you’re writing your sponsorship proposal incorrectly. 

The thing is, a sponsor doesn’t really care about who you are. I often shock sponsorship seekers when I tell them this, but it’s true!

Sponsorship is a marketing transaction. A sponsor wants to know what you can do for them just as you’re interested in what they can do for you. Anything that takes away from that is merely fluff. 

What to Do Instead

I recommend only a paragraph or two on your company or organization’s background. I know that seems like shockingly little space, but you have to think about it from the perspective of your sponsor.

Here’s someone who’s asking you for money, promotions, or in-kind gifts or donations. You don’t know them, they don’t know you, and yet they’re still asking for something. Then they’re prattling on for pages about themselves.

It’s off-putting when you think of it like that, right? Yet that’s the situation your sponsor faces when you send them a proposal with pages of company information. 

Write just a little bit about yourself. You only need enough information to whet the sponsor’s appetite, then they can research you further if they’re interested. 

It’s okay to ask for a second opinion to whittle down this section to only the most important info. However you do it, just get your background information to two paragraphs max.

3. Long Descriptions of Your Cause

Another glaring error sponsorship seekers make all the time when writing a proposal is getting too long-winded when describing their cause. Some sponsorship seekers write more about their cause than themselves, vice-versa for others, and more still write too much about both. 

No matter which of those categories you fall into, it’s not the right one for writing a proposal. 

Do you remember when I mentioned that your sponsor doesn’t care about your company? Well, there’s something else. They don’t really care about your cause either.

That’s usually when my clients protest, as many sponsorship seekers believe they can compel a sponsor to agree to work with them if only they hear how they provide shelter to the needy, save animals from euthanasia, or work on the cure for cancer.

Those are fantastic causes, and in other circumstances, you should be shouting about them from the rooftops. However, not in the context of sponsorship. 

A sponsor might like how you help sick animals as part of your organization, but if, at the end of the day, none of your assets and activations help with any of their problems, they won’t choose to work with you.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for many sponsorship seekers, but you have to face some difficult truths sometimes. 

I think you know what I’m going to say here. Just as your company background had to be scaled way down, you need to do the same with your cause. 

You get only a paragraph or two tops, so use the space valuably. As you’re writing your masterful copy, don’t try to pull on the sponsor’s heartstrings too much in the hopes of encouraging them to open their purse strings. It won’t work.

4. Broad Mentions of Audience 

Sponsors have one question that’s going to strongly influence whether they’re interested in proceeding: who is your audience?

Some sponsorship seekers assume that by saying “everyone,” they have a one-size-fits-all solution that will please any sponsor. However, they often do just the opposite.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a salesperson, and I’m your boss. I tell you all about this new vacuum cleaner the company has made and task you with selling it.

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Who are you going to sell the vacuum to? Not “everyone.” After all, not everyone has a need for a vacuum cleaner. Some people might have just recently bought a vacuum, others might not like the features of your vacuum or the price, and maybe some people only have hard floors and throw rugs.

Products are designed with certain target audiences in mind. By selling to that target audience, you’re appealing to their needs and incentivizing them to buy.

You can sell sponsorship the same way you would vacuum cleaners or any other product. However, you can’t do it successfully if you’re trying to sell it to anybody. 

A sponsor wants to see hyper-specific audience information, not broad groups that could include just anyone. If you don’t have that kind of information in your proposal, you’ll discover that more sponsors turn you down that are interested in working with you.

What to Do Instead

Obtaining audience data is the first step if you don’t already have it. You can do that by issuing an audience survey through email or physical mail. 

Incentivize your audience to complete the survey by offering them something valuable, such as a freebie, a discount code, or entry into a contest or a raffle.

Once you’ve gathered the responses, look at the data you’ve collected and begin gathering common threads. If you’ve asked the right questions, you shouldn’t have a hard time dividing your audience by all sorts of criteria.

It’s easy enough to segment an audience by factors like geographics, psychographics, and demographics. Every sponsorship seeker does this, but you have to be ready to go deeper, way deeper.

I’ll use the Russian nesting doll analogy, as it’s one of my favorites. Imagine each audience group is a Russian nesting doll, specifically, the biggest doll in the bunch.

Can you open up the big doll once to see a smaller doll inside? Most definitely! Can you open that doll to reach a smaller doll? You betcha.

You can continue diversifying each audience group by ultra-specific criteria like this until you can go no further. At that point, you’ve reached the smallest of the Russian nesting dolls, so to speak. 

That’s the kind of niche audience data sponsors seek. After all, the riches are in the niches!

5. Asset and Activation Pricing 

I said I would talk about this more, so let’s discuss why pricing is a major no-no in your sponsorship package. 

First, let me say that I totally understand the rationale for this decision on the part of a sponsorship seeker. You’re playing hardball a bit, as you’re open to negotiation, but you hope that by putting down $50k that you’ll get at least close to that by the sponsor.

Very often, you will, at least if you’re offering assets and activations worth close to that price.

But what if your opportunity is worth more than $50k? The sponsor doesn’t know that because they didn’t crunch the numbers. They’re expecting you to know your value.

By offering $50k in your sponsorship package and getting it when your opportunity could be worth twice or even thrice more, you’re leaving money on the table, and a lot of money at that!

Another reason not to include asset and activation pricing in your sponsorship proposal is that you might be overcharging without realizing it. A sponsor will see your pricing and throw your materials in the trash, as they’re not willing to pay you that much. 

What to Do Instead

Besides omitting pricing in your sponsorship proposal, what I encourage you to do more here is know your value. 

The only way to do that is through valuation.

Valuing means assessing market value and comparing it to the quality of what you offer to come up with a reasonable price for an asset or activation.

For example, let’s say you had the capacity to offer naming rights to your sponsor. How much do companies pay for naming rights? Quite a lot of money, often millions.

You’d look at the cost of naming rights and then determine if your naming rights are worth the same price, more, or less. You have to be honest here. If you jack up all your costs, no sponsor will want to work with you, as I mentioned. 

Yet when you go too low, you end up undercutting your own profits! That’s why you need a good moral compass here. That, or have others within your company help you out. 

Even when you’re sure of your value, you still don’t want to include pricing in your sponsorship proposal. Setting the costs in stone leaves no room for negotiation and the potential to earn more money than you’d expect!

6. A Cut-Out Order Sheet 

Now here’s something that many sponsorship seekers know better than to do, but not all, so I figured I had to mention it. 

Sometimes, you’ll see a sponsorship seeker include a sheet in their sponsorship proposal that can be cut out and sent back to them by the sponsor. The sponsor can fill out the assets and activations they want to order and state how much they want to pay, ideally including the check with the order form.

Then voila, everything is taken care of, right? You’ll receive what you asked for, and the show will go on.

Well, everything you wanted is taken care of, but that’s only half the equation. Sponsorship is a two-way street. A sponsor expects assets and activations in exchange for the money they’re giving you. 

You come across as very presumptuous when you present a sponsor with an order form before even sitting down to a discovery session or after only one meeting. A sponsor doesn’t have to agree to work with you just because they want to see the proposal. 

They might still want to have several more meetings before they begin negotiating money. 

What to Do Instead

In this case, omission is your best solution. You don’t want to include pricing in your sponsorship package, so remove the cut-out page, and you’ll already be on a better road to sponsorship.

7. Mentions of Customization 

There’s one more thing you should never include in a sponsorship proposal, and that’s a mention of how you’ll customize the proposal if a sponsor requests it.

I know this sounds like you’re benefitting the sponsor, but you’re actually doing just the opposite. You see, when you mention that you’re willing to customize your proposal, you’re broadcasting to the sponsor loud and clear that you haven’t already customized it.

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That tells the sponsor that nothing they’ll see in your audience data, assets, and activations will be tailored to them. In short, they’re not interested! 

What to Do Instead

Don’t merely talk about customizing your proposal – actually do it! Truly custom sponsorship proposals don’t mention a word about customization because they don’t have to. The proposal is already custom, and anyone reading that can see it. 


Writing a sponsorship proposal is tricky. A lot of sponsorship seekers try to cram in way too much information, and it’s often the wrong information. Now that you’ve seen what to omit from your proposals, I hope you can begin writing winning proposals that move more sponsorship deals along!