Corporate Sponsorship Case Study: Sponsorship Levels Gone Wrong

Unfortunately, our prospects can suffer from the same misconceptions about sponsorship as everybody else. I want to share this case study with you to outline how important it is to educate our sponsors and to make sure we fully understand the needs of our sponsors before we close the deal.

Title Sponsorship and Sponsorship Levels

I met with a prospect on a sunny Tuesday morning with my usual approach, nothing in hand. I have memorized my five questions for every corporate sponsorship prospect and I came ready to dive deep into the marketing goals of my prospect. After some small talk, I asked my first question “Tell me about your marketing goals and what you want to achieve through sponsorship?”

Her answer threw me off, “I was just at a conference and their gold sponsor was listed everywhere! Banners, signs, logo placement…everywhere! I want to be the gold sponsor and I want you to list my company on everything!”

It happens very rarely that anyone requests an old fashioned “Gold, Silver, Bronze” sponsorship package and even more rare that a prospect doesn’t bite on my asking them for information about their goals. I probed deeper, “I see. It sounds like your goal is branding, that you want people to recognize your logo rather than take an action and engage your company. Am I on the right track?”

“Not at all” she said, “In fact, the only thing we want is for people to fill out an information request at conferences so that our sales staff can get in touch afterwards. But you should have seen the logo placement of this company at this conference! They were everywhere, and that’s what I want!”

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Corporate Sponsorship is about Partnership and Consultative Sales

I dug a little deeper and tried a few more questions to get my prospect to see that we could accomplish her sales goals AND give her the logo placement she thought she needed..but to no avail.

I know I talk a lot about getting things right for our sponsors but fiscal reality takes over for me just as it does everyone else selling sponsorship! I’m not one to say no to a title sponsorship falling in my lap and my conscience was clear after trying hard to push back…so I sold the sponsorship! Or at least I thought I did.

Before I left the office I turned to my host and said “Hey, by the way. What was the name of that sponsor who was tattooed all over the conference last week?

Her answer? “I can’t remember.”

Event Sponsorship Levels and Asset Valuation

In order to get the total value of the sponsorship package to that of title sponsorship I had to add an awful lot of logo placement. Logos on signs and banners is some of the cheapest stuff that you can sell and so it made it a real challenge to get the value of this package into the mid five figures. I submitted my proposal and heard the words you never want to hear as a sponsorship sales person “Let me share this internally and get back to you.”

Why is this the kiss of death when selling sponsorship? Because it means the person I was talking to isn’t the decision maker. It also means that she is my internal champion for a sponsorship package that I know doesn’t make sense for their brand.

How to Get Sponsors Back Once They Say No

A week later I got the classic template e-mail telling me that they went another way. After convincing my prospect to give me another chance, I asked her to bring the decision maker to the meeting. In that meeting I went back to my sponsorship prospecting questions and then asked if I could put together a draft sponsorship proposal for their feedback. This time I focused on getting their sales staff in front of their key audience and collecting ballots.

The result? I had myself a title sponsor…and we didn’t call them “Gold, Silver or Bronze”! In fact, we barely put their logo on anything because their goals weren’t related to brand awareness!

Corporate Sponsorship Case Study: Lessons Learned

Lessons learned from this case study:

  • Recognize when you aren’t talking to a decision maker
  • Don’t focus on making the sale in the first meeting, or even the second
  • Educate your sponsors and make sure you understand their marketing goals
  • Rushing to the sale with a sponsorship package that isn’t a fit means you miss the sale or, at the very least, it makes your activation and fulfillment really tough to do

Chris Baylis is a sponsorship, cause marketing and corporate fundraising expert. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, events, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Connect with Chris via The Sponsorship Collective, on Twitter and LinkedIn.