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Building Bridges: Sponsorship as a Catalyst for Global Brand Expansion 

by | February 29, 2024

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  • 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
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  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Brand growth is sort of like outgrowing a pair of pants. After a while, a company feels too constricted in its current role, so it’s time for something bigger (like a new pants size). 

The goal for many of these businesses is expanding globally after establishing a firm foothold in their nation of origin. Introducing products and services to another part of the world can increase audiences, introduce new leads, boost sales, and improve a company’s reputation.

Sponsorship can be the springboard toward global expansion, or at least one of the springboards. Join me as I explain how and the implications. 

The Road to Global Expansion Through Sponsorship

This isn’t a business blog, so I won’t delve overly deep into global expansion. Instead, I’ll discuss the basics to extrapolate on the intersection with sponsorship.

Global expansion is how businesses evolve to other parts of the world outside their country of origin. Businesses usually start with a local presence, then expand regionally before attempting global expansion. This ensures greater chances of success. 

Before moving to a new market, you must commit to market research to understand the need for your products and services overseas. If you can’t identify viable markets, it’s not worth making the move yet. 

The next part of the process is a company’s market entry strategy, which is where sponsorship comes into play. Partnerships are often a critical piece of the market entry puzzle, with sponsorships a mutually beneficial form of business partnership. 

Why Sponsorship?

The better question is, why not sponsorship?

Sponsorship is a way to cement long-term business relationships that pay dividends for both parties. Look at some of the biggest names in sponsorship, like Coca-Cola with nearly any sport. The relationships they have span decades and are worth billions of dollars. 

That’s not to say every sponsorship engagement will be that valuable, or even worth millions. However, millions are a lot more attainable for the average company working in sponsorship. I should know. I used to sell sponsorship myself, and I constantly work with clients trying to do the exact same. 

Of course, it’s not all about the money in sponsorship. It’s about providing tailored, customized assets and activations designed to connect your audience and the sponsor. That requires an innate, deep understanding of your audience and who they are as well as a strong knowledge of your sponsorship property value. 

If you’ve only dabbled in local or regional sponsorships, working with one global sponsor can often beget another. That said, you shouldn’t consider your sponsors as stepping stones to the next goal. 

Rather, they’re critical partners who can help propel you forward. Giving them the same level of consideration from one to another ensures that everyone remains a priority in your eyes and continues to get high-level sponsorship that keeps them eager to work together for years to come. 

The Challenges Associated with Global Sponsorship

Of course, if securing global sponsorships was easy, everyone would be doing it. Here are some challenges you may face when broadening your sponsorship horizons no matter your industry or niche

Not Having a Good Reason to Expand

Why do you want to go global? Answers like money and fame aren’t going to cut it. You can achieve those through other means on your country’s soil, so what is it that you really want?

Perhaps there are unique audience subsets internationally that you’d like to claim, or you have such a big market share in your country that it only makes sense to keep expanding outward. 

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Maybe you have a new product or service that caters to an international market. You need a good reason if you hope to get the ball rolling.

The Slow, Bumpy Road When Scaling Up 

It’s one thing to know you want to expand operations and another thing to make it happen. Even if you create a global expansion strategy, not all facets will always go according to plan. You have to be ready for setbacks, delays, and other issues that can temporarily mar your progress.

Assess roadblocks as they come up and determine if it’s worth deviating from your path to continue on your projected timeline. 

Finding Sponsors Willing to Give You a Chance

If you think it’s difficult to find sponsors in your home country, wait until you seek international sponsorship. 

A first-time sponsorship between two businesses or brands always carries a degree of risk. Despite handshakes and contractual obligations, they don’t know that you’re going to follow through on what you promised, and vice-versa.

That level of risk increases exponentially when you talk about international sponsorship. A business in another country is now counting on you to achieve deliverables overseas. That’s not to say every potential sponsor will turn you down, but getting your foot in the door can be a longer, more arduous, and difficult process. 

You’ll need thick skin as you prepare for more rejections than you might usually face. 

Understanding a New Audience

Doubling or tripling the size of your audience is awesome, but before you can do that, you need to know who you’re working with. Do you remember in the early days of your business or organization when you researched your target market and began from scratch? 

You’ll have to do that again, learning about this audience as though they’re complete strangers (because, at this stage, they are). The larger the audience, the more time-consuming this task is. 

Niching Your Audience Down 

Once you’ve identified your target market, you still have to niche them down the same as you would when seeking sponsorship in your own country. 

However, as I’ll talk more about, differing cultural values mean that you can’t copy-paste the same kind of framework for niching as you do with your default audience at home. You have to do the work and continue updating your audience segments as your customers grow. 

Unique Prospect Goals (and the Assets and Activations That Come with Them)

Most business goals transcend language and culture, such as increased growth, new customers, and more income. However, when you get into the nitty-gritty during your discovery session, you may uncover goals and aspirations you weren’t expecting. They can be tied to the international culture. 

You’ll have to really take the time to learn the culture as well as your sponsorship prospect in these early stages, especially once you reach the phase of ideating assets and activations. If your ideas don’t connect with the sponsor, the deal can die just when it’s heating up. 

Time Constraints 

Juggling all the effort of creating a fruitful sponsorship in an international country (or several) takes more time than sponsorship in your native land. 

Considering how few of my clients work as sponsors in a full-time capacity (they often hold other titles and are being asked to head the sponsorship division), you will have to expect to pour a lot of personal time into securing sponsorship. 

Cultural Difficulties 

A nation’s culture is what makes it unique, but it can create stumbling block after stumbling block as you try to expand internationally through sponsorship. If you don’t know the culture well enough, you could inadvertently offend the sponsor during a meeting or phone call.

Your message might not resonate as well with a nonnative audience, which hurts sponsorship outcomes and could cost a future working relationship. 

Language Barriers

If you and the sponsor don’t speak the same language, the entire partnership becomes more difficult. You or they will need a translator, and even then, points can get lost in translation or diluted, affecting your communication and how well each of you can perform in the professional arrangement. 

Time Zones

The last difficulty to contend with when seeking international sponsorship is time zone differences. It’s no biggie if you’re only two or three hours behind or ahead, but if there’s a 10-hour difference between you two (or more), one of you will have to talk late in the day and the other early. 

It’s going to take some sacrificing sleep and personal time on your part. 

The Benefits of Global Sponsorship

Although global sponsorships require more of your time and energy, they’re worthwhile for the following reasons. 

Stronger Reputation

One of the best ways to cement your business reputation is by expanding internationally. A series of highly recognized sponsorships under your belt lends you a better reputation in the market. This can naturally strengthen your relationships with existing vendors, sponsors, and other businesses. 

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Bigger Audience

The size of your audience will naturally increase as you convert more overseas customers. However, the struggle now becomes running marketing campaigns tailored to your local audience and international buyers, keeping everyone engaged and eager to continue purchasing. 

More Revenue Streams

Not only does international expansion ensure more income for your business, but you open the door to a higher number of revenue streams. You’ll have your core audience back home, then the new customers you’ve acquired internationally, which can help you establish a healthy bottom line for your business. 

More Opportunities Overseas 

Once you’ve successfully launched your company internationally, other businesses may be interested in working with you. You can continue forging a path forward on the road to global expansion, using sponsorship as your catalyst. 

Wrapping Up 

Global brand expansion happens more seamlessly with sponsorship in the mix. You can create engaging partnerships that are more mutually beneficial, achieving growth on a larger scale as you branch into international business waters. 

If you’re at the stage where you’re considering international expansion or even contemplating it, add sponsorship as a key part of your strategy.