A Message from the Future of Sponsorship
If you could go back in time three months ago, what would you tell your old self? I’m sure you’ve learned a lot more about the ins and outs of sponsorship since then, so you’d probably have some valuable information to share. Now imagine what the future you three months from now would have to say!
In my line of work, I don’t have to imagine. Every day, I get close to 100 calls from sponsorship seekers just like you. What I hear from these clients is how they want to hire the services of a professional who supposedly has all the sponsorship connections you could ever ask for. Whether it’s Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 companies, they can break through the red tape and get to anyone. All they want in return is a chunk of your sponsorship earnings.
Sounds too good to be true? That’s because it is, and in this post, I want to talk about why.
The Appeal of Letting Someone Else Do the Cold Prospecting in Sponsorship
It’s easier to let a so-called professional take the reins if you hate the idea of cold calling. It’s even easier to give up control if you’re simply too busy to commit to this part of the sponsorship process.
Let me repeat something I mentioned in my video on this very topic. Even if you managed to let someone else do all the sponsor phoning, that’s 10 percent of the work that needs to be done. You still have to do 90 percent more that has little if anything to do with being on the phone. Like what, you’re asking? Well…
- Audience research
- Creation of assets
- Activation idea brainstorming
- Asset valuation
- Putting together your sponsorship package
- Writing your sponsorship proposal
- Coming up with discovery questions
- Planning a meeting with the sponsor
- Following up
- Scheduling subsequent meetings
That’s not to mention you have to devote time to your upcoming event, such as planning the venue, estimating attendance, hiring vendors, and promoting the event. Then, when your event goes on as planned, you need to ensure you deliver on the promises to the sponsor and–should you want to work with them again–have some sort of sponsorship renewal plan in place. It’s a lot of work, and I won’t candy-coat that.
So you have someone who’s claiming to offer you a lucrative deal and wants to cut into your percentage of sponsorship earnings for doing just a sliver of the overall work required. If you were a chef making a cake and your assistant cracked one egg, would you want to give them a large portion of your check?
No! Especially if they promised an organic egg but it’s just a regular one.
Why Is Hiring Outside Help in Sponsorship a Risk?
In my personal opinion, sponsorship work should be done in-house. If you don’t have the time, make the time. I know, that’s not always easy, but you have to do it.
For every call I receive talking about the above mentioned sponsorship savior who will make phone calls and get connections for you, I get just as many telling me why this method didn’t work. Those calls, while unfortunate, never surprise me.
I can understand why you would let yourself fall for this ruse, even if you probably had a feeling deep down that this sales magician wouldn’t solve all your sponsorship problems.
Relying on the help of an individual or a team of individuals who claim they’ll get sponsors for you will backfire. Here’s why.
You Won’t Get the Contacts You Were Hoping for
Finding a great sponsor is like locating a proverbial treasure chest. Once you realize that X marks the spot, why would you want to share that information with anyone else? That just means there’s less for you.
So imagine you’ve hired a salesperson to do cold calling and sponsorship prospecting for you. They say they’ll put you in touch with all these new sponsors. But why would they? What they’re doing is finding buried treasure and then shouting out the coordinates for all the world to hear.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t make much sense. If I found a great sponsor and now 10, 20, or more companies know about that sponsor, where does that leave me? I go to plan an event and now my reliable sponsor is unavailable because they’ve been inundated with requests.
Unless you manage to hire a celebrity salesperson, then this person just doesn’t have the connections they’re boasting about. Sure, maybe they call past sponsorship companies you’ve used or a few you’ve been courting, but you’re not being introduced to the vast network of connections you’d been promised.
The salesperson will dig through your Rolodex rather than theirs so they can keep the good sponsors for themselves.
You Could End up in a Long-Term Deal You Don’t Want
Being locked into long-term deals with poor-quality service is anyone’s worst nightmare, yet that’s a very real risk you face when hiring these questionable sponsorship experts. You’re often charged evergreen fees, meaning as long as you’re working with a sponsor that was found for you, you’re being charged by the sponsorship service provider.
If you work with the sponsor for five or 10 years, that’s just as many years of fees following you like a ghost.
Should you have decided to pursue sponsorship because funding hurdles are preventing you from hosting an event of the caliber you’ve always dreamed of, then you don’t exactly have the extra money to be throwing around and wasting on these services.
It’s one thing for a bad decision to bite you in the butt for one year, but for five or 10? That’s hugely, hugely detrimental.
Chews Through Valuable Time
The ol’ bait and switch these quote-unquote experts do can really leave you strapped for time. You were promised sterling sponsorship contacts but only got what this individual could scrape from the bottom of the barrel.
You now have two very big problems. For one, you don’t have the new, awesome-quality sponsors you anticipated. Second, now that weeks have passed, you don’t really have the time to commit to getting new sponsors.
I say a lot on this blog that if you only have two or three weeks, you’re never going to get a sponsor in time. The reason for that is that so much of the sponsorship process hinges on the responses of others, which is a factor that’s outside of your control.
For example, when you send audience surveys, you have to wait for your audience to receive the survey, then open it, fill it out, and send it back. That alone can take two weeks. Even if you digitize the entire process, you have to give your audience time to complete the survey. Otherwise, you’re getting skewed sampling data.
Even outside of the weeks it should take for you to choose your assets, valuate them, and put together your sponsorship proposal and related materials, you still have to contact the sponsor. Sometimes you hear back from a target sponsor in a week and sometimes never.
Getting the sponsor to answer the phone or respond to your email is only the beginning. You and they will meet many times to hammer out details.
I’ve gotten so many frantic phone calls from clients who have days or a week until their event and they’re starting from scratch because they wasted time with some phony salesperson who claimed to have amazing sponsorship contacts but didn’t. Don’t let that be you!
Upsets Your Old Sponsors
You treat your current roster of sponsors or sponsorship prospects well because you never know if you’ll have to rely on them again someday, even someday soon. Yet this salesperson is an outsider. They’re not aware of all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into finding your sponsors and how much they mean to you. They might not even care.
So they call your sponsors with the same old tired sales spiel and tick them off. Now you can’t even get funding from these sponsors, as you need to do damage control first.
What Is My Message from the Future of Sponsorship? Here It Is…
Your future self is calling. When you answer it, here’s what they have to say.
In sponsorship, there are no shortcuts. There is no silver bullet.
It’s a common misconception that sponsorship is easy or will just come to you if you have a good cause. Neither is true. The only way to find the high-quality sponsors your company needs is to put in the work. If there was a shortcut to doing sponsorship, I wouldn’t be writing this post. If some magic bullet existed, my services wouldn’t be needed.
The best way I can tell you to perceive sponsorship is this: prepare for a commitment of three to five years. It’s a long-term investment. Just like you don’t ask someone to marry you after the first date and you don’t buy the first house you find without an inspection, you don’t just jump into sponsorship.
If you’ve been burned by sponsorship salespeople who promise you Fortune 500 contacts but fail to deliver, don’t beat yourself up too much. I’ve had many clients who have been there and continue to be there.
I recommend you sign up for my free training, which includes my model of sponsorship acquisition and my nine-part blueprint for growing a sponsorship program. You won’t need to rely on shady salespeople again!
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.