9 Signs You’re a Sponsorship Expert

We all dream of being an expert in something, right? Yet to achieve that goal, you must possess a degree of mastery over a topic or area. If you’ve been at this sponsorship thing for long enough and perhaps you’ve enrolled in one or more of my programs, you may have indeed become experienced enough to call yourself a sponsorship expert. How do you know when you’ve reached that point?

Here are 9 signs you’re a bonafide sponsorship expert:

  • You know your audience inside and out
  • You accurately valuate your assets every time
  • You have connections in the sponsorship industry
  • You hear yes far more often than no
  • You’ve worked with sponsors of all sizes and closed some significant deals
  • People talk about your activation ideas for a long time afterward
  • Your events draw huge attendance numbers
  • Your sponsors rave about you and recommend other sponsors of interest
  • You have a working sponsorship program that you’re not afraid to change

Even if you start by being an expert at a few of these things and work your way up to all 9, you’re still in a good position to excel in sponsorship. Ahead, I’ll discuss why these virtues are so crucial to the success of your sponsorship program and provide tips on how to grow your expertise.

Are You a Sponsorship Expert? Here Are 9 Ways to Tell!

You Know Your Audience Inside and Out

In my post on 10 things everyone hates about sponsorship, I mentioned that research is at the top of the list. You weren’t exactly thrilled to have to do so much in-depth research, both internally into your audience and externally into the target sponsors. Yet you saw that this was a necessary component of getting your sponsorship program underway, so you did it.

You’re so glad you did, because you realize more now than ever how very, very valuable it is to have up-to-date audience research at the ready. You’ve discovered ways to frame your audience segments so they are very appealing to target sponsors. Knowing what your audience is worth has also helped you project confidence. You’re sure that if a certain sponsor isn’t interested in what you’re selling that someone else certainly will be because your audience is awesome!

Outside of sponsorship, knowing your audience can help your company in so many ways. With your current audience segments, you can identify the pain points that resonate with each audience segment. If your audience has very unique needs, you can find a way to address every one of those need with your products or services.

This has led to higher audience engagement. You have a healthy influx of leads entering your sales funnel and your conversion rates are way up. Sales are also as healthy as they’ve ever been, and all because you took the time to learn your audience!

You also know that audience research is never a one-and-done. Once or twice a quarter, you like to issue surveys to see how your audience has changed and grown. That’s especially the case since your audience is indeed growing steadily.

I always say that your audience is among your biggest assets in sponsorship. If you’ve got your audience research on lock, then you’re well on your way to mastering sponsorship.

You Accurately Evaluate Your Assets Every Time

Since you’re trying to become a sponsorship expert, you read my post about the biggest mistake you can make in sponsorship. You know that mistake is improperly evaluating your assets, so you’ve since gone out of your way to avoid doing the same thing.

You and your team have sat down and cherry-picked what you believe to be the best assets you can offer a sponsor. Logos might be nowhere to be seen on that list or they’re very low on the list because you’ve learned that logos aren’t actually all that valuable. Instead, your assets include employee benefits, traditional and paid media, venue usage, pass-through benefits, speaking and exhibiting opportunities, and naming rights.

Through talking with the target sponsor, you understand which goals they’re trying to achieve. The most common goals of a sponsor company are to reinforce their image, boost brand loyalty, find a new database, and show off a product or service. The target sponsor might also be interested in attracting more website traffic or showing off a new side of themselves, such as a more socially responsible side.

Between this information and your other research, determining which of your assets would appeal to your sponsor was like assembling a puzzle. All the pieces just fit.

When the time came to valuate your assets, you looked at the market price in your region. You even took a peek at what the competition was doing. Throughout the valuation process, you were in touch with the target sponsor to see which assets excited them and which they weren’t so keen on.

Although it was a lot of work, you learned what it takes to accurately and fairly valuate assets. Now you couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.

You Have Connections in the Sponsorship Industry

You remember your first sponsorship fondly. You’ll freely admit now that you had no idea what you were doing. When the time came to make contact with the target sponsor, you just picked up the phone and reached out. You didn’t know the sponsor and they didn’t know you.

It didn’t go well, as cold calling rarely does. The embarrassment that experience burned into you was enough of a motivator to start contacting sponsors differently. You dug into your digital Rolodex and found contacts within the sponsor company.

Once you had a few successful sponsorships under your belt, you didn’t let the contacts you made wither away. You stayed in touch even when you weren’t actively pursuing a sponsorship with the company. In turn, your professional circle of contacts grew larger and larger still with each new sponsorship.

Now if you want to get in touch with someone at a new sponsorship company, you don’t have to worry about getting entangled in red tape. When you call, you’re not talking to the secretary at the front desk, but you have a direct line to the head of the sponsorship division.

This didn’t happen by magic, but by building contacts. The more contacts you have, the greater the chances that someone knows someone you want to talk to at the sponsorship company. Getting your foot in the door is effortless these days, which is a surefire sign that you’re becoming quite good at sponsorship!

You Hear Yes Far More Often Than No

Even if you’re a sponsorship expert, that doesn’t mean every target sponsor you pursue is going to say yes. If that was the case, I would be out of a job, as I would have no one left to help.

That said, you’ve noticed that while you used to get turned down all the time by sponsors, more often than not, sponsors tend to tell you that yes, they’d be happy to work with you.

Again, this isn’t wizardry. Perhaps you had to change your mindset. Instead of focusing on what sponsorship could do for you and how much funding you could get, you began thinking about what the sponsor will get out of the deal and how you can make working together beneficial.

Maybe you funneled more time into researching target sponsors so you could understand what their current challenges were and how you could help them grow and succeed. You could have even been writing your sponsorship proposal all wrong and you’ve since started using my handy template. Or maybe you were following outdated rules in your sponsorship package.

Whatever the issue, you identified it and worked past it. You made your sponsorship program the stellar thing it is today and you’re very proud of that, as you should be!

You also know that when a sponsor talks, you have to listen to what they’re saying, which might not be the exact words they tell you. As I’ve always mentioned on the blog, unless the sponsor says no, then they’re not outright rejecting you. In these sorts of situations, overcoming a sponsor’s objections could secure you the deal.

Yet you’re also aware that no means no and that once you hear that, it’s time to walk away.

You’ve Worked with Sponsors of All Sizes and Closed Some Significant Deals

Here’s another way to tell whether you’re becoming a sponsorship expert or if you’re already there. How many sponsorships has your business or organization accrued? Has it happened over the past few months/years or gradually?

At the beginning, you may start with small sponsors. I mention a lot on the blog that small sponsors are underrated. They tend to attract fewer prospects because everyone wants to go after the big fish. You didn’t mind settling for smaller sponsors at the beginning because you found that a few of them could provide the funding your event needed.

You might have kept working with small sponsors for a while before you were able to attract some of those aforementioned big fish. Then it was sort of like climbing a ladder. Getting bigger and bigger sponsors became easier as you worked with other big sponsors. You might have even closed a four or five-figure deal or two in your day.

The proof is really in the pudding here. Your approach to sponsorship is effective or your sponsorship portfolio wouldn’t have grown the way it has.

People Talk about Your Activation Ideas for a Long Time Afterward

You had never heard of activation ideas when you first started your sponsorship program. Then you read this blog and got yourself acquainted. For any other readers who need a refresher, activation is how you make your event the most memorable of the quarter, if not the year. Through event activation, you come up with creative ideas–known as activation ideas–that strengthen a brand and promote a product or service.

The problem with activation ideas though, especially when you’re first getting started, is that if you can think of an idea now off the top of your head, someone else has already done it.

There’s nothing wrong with using a tried and true activation concept, especially if you’re going to put your own spin on it. Yet if you want to come up with your own unique ideas, it takes thinking way outside of the box.

I’ll talk again about a favorite activation idea that I wrote about prior here. A company (not a client of mine) used fire dancers during their event that spelled out the sponsor’s name in flames. That’s just not something you come across at most expos or business conventions. It was the talk of the event and the fire dancers were fondly brought up years after the fact.

You’ve worked on activation ideas for a while and you’ve come up with a few gems of your own on par with fire dancers. You’ve knocked the socks off your sponsors a few times. The sponsor has even mentioned the activation idea months after your event, which is a sure sign that you’re a sponsorship master.

Your Events Draw Huge Attendance Numbers

This is another one of those “proof is in the pudding” ways of telling whether your sponsorship program is excelling or stinking. Working with a sponsor is a great way to get funding, yes, but also promotions for your even that you might not have been able to achieve on your own. With so much hype around your event, you expect healthy attendance numbers.

Sure, maybe this doesn’t happen right out of the gate for your first event or two. Once you know how to tap into your audience–an audience that is growing all the time, by the way–and properly promote your sponsor-backed events, you’ve noticed that you sell more tickets and have a much higher headcount than ever before.

Now, mere mentions of an upcoming event can generate excitement among your audience. When tickets go on sale, they may sell out quickly. You’re able to sell your tickets for slightly more money because of the demand. You’ve even found ways to earn extra revenue by selling transcripts of speeches and seminars from your event.

Sponsors love it when your events succeed because it means you’ve lived up to your end of the deal. They now have this huge, viable audience to access and convert. Their name is all over social media and even the local news. They’re getting more website and social traffic and more sales as well.

When you throw five-star events, sponsors will absolutely want to work with you, including your current sponsors and new ones.

Your Sponsors Rave about You and Recommend Other Sponsors of Interest

I think one of the biggest compliments you can get in sponsorship is from the sponsor themselves. Yes, a bigger audience is nice and so is more money, but when a sponsor is happy, you can’t put a price on that kind of satisfaction.

One of the biggest rookie mistakes is thinking sponsorship is all about you, which I touched on before. When you can put your business or organization aside (not to mention your ego) and focus on the needs of the target sponsor, then you’ll achieve all the objectives you promised. In doing so, you usually find that your own needs end up getting met.

Living up to your end of the deal is important for so many reasons. As mentioned, doing a bang-up job increases the chances that the sponsor will want to work with you again, which is something you may know from experience. In some instances, the sponsor may even recommend another sponsor company they know who they’d like to put you into contact with.

Yes, that’s right, sponsorship opportunities can begin dropping into your lap.

Yet remember, it’s all dependent on you doing everything you promised in your sponsorship proposal. If you don’t, you’ll harm your relationship with the sponsor and possibly impact your ability to get future sponsorship if your reputation is poor enough. Even worse, you could be in breach of contract, which can be very financially and legally damaging.

Sponsorship experts know that it’s not good to under-promise and overdeliver nor is it advisable to overpromise and underdeliver. Instead, you want to promise what you can reasonably do and then complete those goals.

If this is something your business or organization does regularly, then your proficiency in sponsorship has approached expert status.

You Have a Working Sponsorship Program That You’re Not Afraid to Change

All your success comes down to your sponsorship program, which you’ve tweaked and altered as many times as necessary for it to work for you. What separates the people who are good at sponsorship from the experts is that the experts don’t have a static sponsorship program.

You understand that no two sponsors are alike. You also understand that your sponsorship program will often have to change to accommodate the sponsors you’ll meet. You’re willing to amend your sponsorship program even if everything seems perfect.

You can stop and realize where failures happened and why. You also don’t take failure personally because this is business and so it has nothing to do with you as an individual. Instead, you’ve grown from failure. You know that even though you’re a sponsorship expert now that failure never really goes away. You use those opportunities for introspection that you don’t have time for when you win.

Conclusion

To become an expert in sponsorship, you usually have to have been around the block a couple of times. You’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and you’ve changed your approach along the way. As you’ve tasted success, the snowballing effect it creates has opened more doors for you that were previously shut.

It’s not easy to become a sponsorship expert, and once you get there, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. If anything, you have to work even harder to continue being an expert. The work is worth it!

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.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn