7 Ways to Offer Real Value to Sponsors
Sponsorship is about marketing, and as a marketing venture, your sponsor wants value out of you. However, sponsorship seekers sometimes struggle to provide value to their sponsors, which can sour deals and prevent longer-term arrangements. How do you offer real value to a sponsor?
Here are 7 ways to increase your sponsorship value:
- Provide detailed audience research
- Learn about their needs during the discovery session
- Customize assets
- Work with the sponsor to create activations
- Skip the proposal
- Track data during the event
- Make a fulfillment report
In today’s in-depth guide, I’ll explore each of these points in more detail so you can discover methods that will make you a more alluring sponsorship partner! You won’t want to miss it.
Provide Detailed Audience Research
If there’s one takeaway I want you to have when you’re done with this article, let it be this: your audience is the most important thing you can offer a sponsor.
Imagine you had a million-dollar painting or a Faberge egg. You know it’s worth something, so wouldn’t you want to learn as much about it as humanly possible? That’s how you maximize its value, after all.
Well, in sponsorship, your audience is your Faberge egg. It’s your most valuable asset and should be treated as such.
That means educating yourself about your audience as much as you can.
I’m sure you know some things about your audience, especially as someone who hosts events, programs, or opportunities. You can always afford to learn more!
There’s a marketing saying I like, and it goes like this, “the riches are in the niches.”
Sponsors don’t want to see watered-down, vague audience data that tells them nothing about your audience.
For example, you can’t say your event appeals to 40-something suburban moms because that audience is too vague.
You can say your event appeals to women between the ages of 40 and 45 in Chicago’s five most popular neighborhoods. These women make $90,000 a year in Chicago’s pharmaceutical industry and have two kids.
Now you’ve got your sponsor’s attention. They know who comprises their own target audience. If it happens to include women in their 40s, Chicago residents, people making $90k a year, or those in the pharmaceutical industry, there’s an overlap between your audience and the sponsor’s target audience.
Then what’s the sponsor’s appetite.
If you haven’t niched down your audience groups, go through each group you have and filter them down. I always liken it to opening Russian nesting dolls. Keep niching down until you can’t possibly go any further.
Then organize your audience data in an appealing format. Charts work, graphs are good too; heck, even a simple table in Microsoft Word gets the job done.
Once you start doing this, I guarantee you that if you’ve struggled to capture a sponsor’s interest before as a sponsorship seeker, that will begin to change.
Learn About Their Needs During the Discovery Session
Here’s another exceptional way to offer real value to sponsors: have a discovery session and ask about the sponsor’s needs.
I think I’ve hammered it home enough on this blog about the importance of discovery sessions. In case I haven’t, allow me to explain.
A discovery session is an initial meeting between you and the sponsor. It can occur in person, through Zoom, on the phone; that doesn’t matter so much. What matters is the substance of the meeting.
The point of a discovery session is…discovery. You’re discovering the sponsor’s pain points, learning about what they’ve tried to overcome their challenges, and what they plan to do in the future.
All along, you’re mentally plotting where, if anywhere, your assets and activations might slot in. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole, so if the professional relationship just won’t work, then it just won’t work.
The discovery session benefits you too, you see. You can learn whether you’re approaching a viable sponsorship prospect or whether you need to broaden your search.
I’ve had many sponsorship seekers come to me and tell me they had a discovery session, but it still wasn’t fruitful. Then I come to find out that they squandered the opportunity.
A discovery session isn’t a sales meeting. You’re not practicing your sales pitch because there’s no need to close the deal today.
At this point, there’s not even a deal on the table. You and the sponsor are feeling one another out to determine if there could be a deal.
I know that sell, sell, sell is baked into some sponsorship seeker’s mentalities, and it’s hard to shake. If you keep pursuing that mindset when you get a sponsorship meeting, you fail to offer the real value they seek.
Customize Assets According to Their Needs
Once the discovery session wraps up, you have some homework to do. You have to go back to the office and brainstorm what kinds of solutions could work for the sponsor’s challenges.
You might have begun loosely thinking about this during the discovery session, but hopefully not to the point where you zoned out what the sponsor said.
It’s okay to let the creative juices begin flowing, but there’s no need to pump them up to max yet. Save that for when you’re alone or back with your team at the office.
Whatever kinds of activations and assets you begin brainstorming, ask yourself one question: “would my sponsor find this valuable?”
Forget about whether you think it’s valuable. If an asset or activation doesn’t fulfill a sponsor’s needs or help them overcome challenges, it’s not valuable to them. All you should care about is how they perceive value.
That means you should never offer a sponsor logos or shoutouts from the podium, as these are as low-value as assets get.
You should instead always customize assets and activations according to a sponsor’s needs. I know that’s time-consuming, as you need to come up with unique activations and assets for each new sponsor.
It’s the only way to provide value though, so it’s what you must do.
By the way, if you reach the point where you put together a sponsorship proposal (more on those a little later), please don’t use the word “custom” or “customized” in the proposal to describe your assets and activations.
If you customize everything, allow it to speak for itself. Your sponsor will see it.
Work with the Sponsor to Create Winning Activations
Coming up with activations is frequently one of the top complaints I get from sponsorship seekers.
It’s not easy, but I promise it’s not as hard as it seems, either. A good activation should combine the needs of your audience with your sponsor’s needs.
So let’s say your sponsor told you they’re struggling to build an email list. They get new leads in the funnel all the time, but no one seems to sign up for their email list.
Your audience told you in a survey you sent that they’d love more interactive and participatory opportunities at your event.
One activation idea you could use in that case is a contest where the prize is a sponsor’s products or services.
To participate, event attendees have to sign up using their email addresses. That’s a fast and convenient signup method that will inspire more people to participate in the contest since they don’t have to share tons of personal information.
Begin promoting the contest well in advance, giving people ample time to participate. Make sure the prize resonates with your audience. If it doesn’t, no one will bother signing up.
With an activation idea like this, your sponsor doubly benefits. They get the beefed-up email list they wanted, and they also get to have the winner try one of their products or services.
If activation ideas aren’t coming to you quite as effortlessly as that, it’s okay to ask the sponsor for their suggestions. After all, as I always say, who knows a sponsor’s pain points and challenges better than the sponsor themselves?
Some sponsorship seekers feel like they must have assets all figured out on their own, but sponsors love getting involved in the event planning if you only ask them.
Skip the Sponsorship Proposal (Unless Asked)
If you’ve read my blog long enough, you should know how I feel about sponsorship proposals.
They’re a necessary evil at times, but sponsorship seekers often rely on the proposal a little too much, almost like a crutch.
On top of the overreliance on the proposal, most of the time, when a sponsorship seeker writes their proposal, it focuses on the wrong areas.
I’ll see proposal after proposal with three pages dedicated to the sponsorship seeker’s organization and cause.
Then there’s very little about audience data, assets, and activations, followed by pages about pricing.
Those kinds of proposals never work.
If you must write a sponsorship proposal, I highly recommend following along with my bonafide sponsorship proposal template. It details all the content the six pages should contain down to the paragraph.
However, in many cases, I’ve found that you can get away with not having a proposal.
I know, this is the part where you think I’m crazy. Not use a proposal? How will the sponsor know about your cause or your pricing?
Through the meetings you and the sponsor have as you work your way up to the sponsorship deal, you should have time to discuss who you are and what you do. Let your cause come up naturally because the sponsor is interested in it. Don’t cram it down their throats.
As for pricing, there’s a time for that too. You and the sponsor will negotiate terms if you feel like working together will benefit you. It takes time to get to that conversation, and you must be patient, but it’s worth it.
In my years of sponsorship experience, when a sponsorship seeker wants to deliver the proposal early, it’s because they fear they won’t get another chance to talk about its contents with the sponsor. That ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A sponsor does not want to see your sponsorship proposal attached to the first email you send. They don’t want you to bring it to the discovery session and spend the whole meeting talking about it.
If they want to see it, they will ask for it. I can’t tell you when that will happen. Maybe it’s after two or three meetings and maybe it’s after four or five.
Perhaps it never happens. I’ve personally closed sponsorship deals without ever sitting down and formally writing a proposal. I’ve also closed deals where I briefly outlined a proposal, and that was fine too.
You have to go with the flow here. Follow the sponsor’s lead and don’t push the issue. At the end of the day, you make the sale, not the sponsorship proposal. You can forego it and it will be okay.
Meticulously Track Data During the Event
You signed a sponsor in time for your event, and it’s officially underway. As the event organizer or founder, you’ll be busier than ever, but you must take the time to ensure you have measures in place to quantify the right data.
By the time you get to the point where you negotiate payment terms with the sponsor and sign a contract, you’re promising a slew of deliverables.
The sponsor expects you to deliver on what you promised, and you’re legally on the hook to do so except in extenuating circumstances.
If you don’t have measures that allow you to track and quantify data, it’s going to be awfully hard to tell the sponsor what you delivered and what you didn’t. You also can’t discuss with them whether their activation was successful if you don’t have those numbers.
Whether you have to use an app, a program, or a carrier pigeon, triple-check that you have options for tracking how well your event goes.
Put Together a Fulfillment Report
Here’s one last way to offer real value to sponsors. When all is said and done, send them a wrap-up report.
A fulfillment or wrap-up report details the entire working arrangement between you and the sponsor.
It’s another six-page document that includes an overview of the event or opportunity, the benefits you promised and their delivery status, photos and samples from the event, and a thank-you page.
It’s really simple, but if you need help acing your first fulfillment report, check out this template for writing all six pages (there’s a title page).
Sponsors don’t expect a fulfillment report from you, per se, so why go out of your way to write one? You’re tired after a big event and have to begin the planning stages for next year. Can’t you just skip it?
You could, but why do that? You’ve gotten this far!
The fulfillment report is like the glossy little bow on a nicely-wrapped gift. It’s the capper on everything and should be a part of your sponsorship planning.
Besides, writing the fulfillment report opens the door to discussing another year of working with the sponsor. If you host an annual event, program, or opportunity, you’re going to certainly be interested in retaining sponsors year over year.
It begins with the fulfillment report. Once you’re happy with it, contact the sponsor to set up a meeting. Then send the report.
Give the sponsor a few days to digest the contents of your wrap-up report, then meet. During the meeting, you two can talk about the event. Ask for their candid insights on whether they felt you delivered as expected or whether they believe you underperformed.
Hopefully, they’re pleased with everything, as it’s hard to have a re-negotiation discussion in good faith otherwise.
You can always improve upon your services, and if that’s something you do year after year, you can reasonably request more money to continue working together.
Offering real value to sponsors isn’t easy, or every sponsorship seeker would do it. It starts with detailed, rich audience data above all else.
Offering high-quality, custom assets and activations, holding back on the sponsorship proposal, and writing a post-event report are other great ways to make any deal with a sponsor more valuable!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.