Sponsorship collective logo

Building a Culture of Sponsorship: Strategies to get Everyone on the Bus

by | April 24, 2024

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Representing sponsorship within your organization can be an exciting, rewarding and sometimes challenging role. You need to be creative to build beneficial partnerships that balance the objectives of your organization with those of your sponsors and external partners.

You cannot accomplish this on your own; it takes a whole organization working together to achieve an optimized sponsorship program.  As a sponsorship professional, you rely on your marketing, operations and programming departments to create and execute your partnerships on behalf of your sponsors. Getting buy-in from these departments on is not always easy as sponsorships can seem like another item to add to their already full to-do list.

Here are techniques that you can try to help create a culture of sponsorship within your organization.

Buy Coffee And Cheap Carbohydrates

Set a 30-minute meeting with the departments that you work closely with to create and deliver your sponsorships. Come prepared with coffee and cookies (nothing increases acceptance rates to your meeting requests like the promise of free food) In this meeting you want to focus on their perceptions of your current sponsorship program and ask questions like the ones listed below.

  • What about our current sponsorship program do you feel is working and we should do more of?
  • What do you feel is not working that we need to improve or stop altogether?
  • Have you seen other organizations doing something you feel could work for us?

Keep track of the responses to these questions look for commonalities. You will no doubt learn more about the perceptions of sponsorship within your organization as well as new opportunities and things you should avoid.

New call-to-action

Invite Them To Your Discovery And Fulfillment Meetings With Sponsors

Invite your colleagues with you to the meetings with your prospects and your sponsors, this will benefit you in two ways.

  • Your colleagues will begin to understand what in important to sponsors what they value when investing in your organization.
  • Your colleagues are subject matter experts and can help you and your sponsors brainstorm creative ideas for partnership

Learn About Their Area Of Expertise

Demonstrate your commitment to your colleague’s success by learning their area of expertise. Attend a conference session about marketing; follow a blog about programming best practices, read a book about trends in events etc. This will not only make you a better professional it will also help you better understand your colleagues approach your sponsorship program.

Host A Sponsor Summit

Bring representatives from each of your internal departments to a sponsor summit (Learn how to plan a sponsor summit here).  This can be one of the most effective ways to get your organization on board with delivering value for your sponsors. They will hear directly from your sponsors about what they feel is working and what you need to improve in order to retain and grow your sponsorship program.

Treat Your Colleagues Like Your Sponsors

You cannot build a lasting partnership without uncovering the needs and objectives of your sponsors.  The same applies when you are working internally with your colleagues.

  • Ask them questions about what their goals and objectives
  • Look for opportunities to provide value
  • Listen more than you speak

Be Informative But Not Snooty

As the Resident Sponsorship Expert ™ at your company, you know a lot about what it takes to secure and succeed with a sponsor. However, the others on your team don’t, and that’s okay. That’s what you’re here for. You’ll teach them.

The best teachers aren’t arrogant. They don’t hold their knowledge above others’ heads like a dangling carrot. They aren’t boastful, and they certainly aren’t know-it-alls. Those types of teachers are the ones nobody wants to work with.

Be as helpful as possible. Encourage the others in your organization to ask you anything, emphasizing that there are no stupid questions.

After all, sponsorship is tough! I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who don’t understand what should go into the discovery session, or who are unaware of how to properly value their opportunities.

If your team doesn’t quite grasp all the concepts perfectly the first time, that’s okay too. Be willing to explain things more than once as needed.

Ideate Together 

One of the best ways to learn about sponsorship is through doing. No, I’m not advocating you to throw caution to the wind and dive in headfirst without knowing what you’re doing.

However, you have to experience the steps at some point, and with a leader like you at the helm, it’s safe for your fellow sponsorship newbies to join in.

And what better place to get everyone involved than in ideating activations and assets for your sponsorship program? I know, it sounds boring to some people in your company, so maybe gamify it if you need to.

New call-to-action

Remember how you took the time to get to know where your colleagues’ strong suits were? They can really come in handy here as you begin brainstorming.

It could be less like throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks and jumping right to the point where you create targeted assets and activations based on your wealth of collective knowledge.

Value as a Team

Here’s another task you should do as you assemble your sponsorship Avengers squad within your organization: value. Okay, valuation isn’t fun, I know, and certainly not to the same degree as discovery and brainstorming assets can be.

However, you’ve come this far together, so it’s important to see it through. That said, depending on the size of your team, you might not want everyone involved in the valuation process.

Why is that? There is a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen, you know. If you all can’t agree on one valuation process, or if you have differing opinions on which values are which, you’ll only make the entire process take longer.

Moreover, you’ll be a lot more likely to make mistakes, which is the last thing you want to do when valuing assets and activations. That’s a great way to end up leaving money behind that you could have made in your sponsorship deal.

A bit of friendly debate on which is the right value for each activation and asset is fine, but you should be able to come to an agreement relatively soon. Valuation is not supposed to be a multi-day affair, especially if you have an impending deadline and need sponsorship secured, pronto.

Go Through Your Sponsorship Highs and Lows Together

I’ll admit, few things feel better than when a sponsor agrees to work together, you get it in writing, and sign the contract. Or when you deliver the assets and activations you promised and begin tabulating the sponsor’s metrics, seeing how beneficial your involvement was.

And while those moments bring indescribable positive emotions, sponsorship can lead to a lot of lows, whether it’s being ghosted by a promising prospective sponsor or not seeing eye to eye with your current sponsor.

Celebrating the highs together feels even better, while picking up your fellow teammate when those lows happen will keep your organization on track and your sponsorship plans propelling forward.


How Do You Develop an Effective Sponsorship Strategy?

First, you must be clear on your goals. Next, review your audience data, collecting more if needed so you can prospect successfully. After you have a discovery session with your prospect, create personalized ideas for solving their issues, then propose them. Determine what your sponsorship property is worth with a valuation.

What Are the Types of Sponsorship My Team Needs to Know?

Most people think there are only cash sponsors, but that’s incorrect. You could also seek an in-kind or contra sponsor who provide free items in exchange for your services. Media and promotional sponsors can both help drum up interest in your business or organization, leading to longer-term gains like conversions and leads.

My Latest Sponsorship Prospect Didn’t Reply and Two Team Members Got Back to Them Separately Without Knowing It. Now What?

Well, the double follow-ups were maybe a touch overkill, but it should be okay if you don’t do it again. More importantly, you need a system where you can determine who on the team is interacting with who so only one of you follows up.

New call-to-action

How Do I Keep the Sponsorship Culture Up If I Leave the Job?

I recommend finding a potential protégé and taking them under your wing, imparting your knowledge on them. This way, if you lose your job or move on to greener pastures, you can be confident the sponsorship division should carry on uninterrupted.

How Do I Boost Morale After a Failed Sponsorship Opportunity?

Remind everyone that sponsorship is difficult and not every attempt will succeed. Regroup and be the motivational support your team needs to pick back up.

Wrapping Up 

If you represent the sponsorship division in your company, building a sponsorship culture can seem easier said than done. However, the sooner you involve a team in the sponsorship decision-making processes, the more diverse the opportunities you will attract.

Joel Shields is a consultant with The Sponsorship Collective. Joel has a passion for helping organizations apply best practices to increase their sponsorship revenue. He has managed every aspect of the sponsorship process with Non-Profit, Municipal, Arts & Culture as well as Large Event properties. Joel works with our clients to strengthen their go-to-market strategies and uncover opportunities for new revenue.

Connect with Joel on LinkedIn and Twitter