Do This Immediately After Signing a New Sponsor
Wow. You finally did it. It took a long time (weeks, months, maybe longer), but you finally signed a new sponsor.
This is a hugely exciting time, I know. You deserve congratulations for reaching this point, but you can’t rest on your laurels just yet. What you do from this moment forward can lay the groundwork for a smooth working relationship with the sponsor, so you’ll want to take the right steps.
In this article, I’ll tell you exactly what you should do so you can play your cards right!
Here’s What to Do Right After Signing a Sponsor
Did you guess what your first priority should be after signing a sponsor? Nope, it’s not sending them an invoice.
Here’s what it is.
You should book a meeting.
I know what you’re saying – why? By this point, you know the sponsor well. You’ve had discovery sessions and meetings. You’ve gone over sponsorship proposals and asset menus, the whole nine. Why should you book a meeting?
Well, because you need to plan your activation ideas.
I call the post-sponsorship-signing meeting an activation brainstorming session.
If you need a reminder, activations are experiential marketing opportunities that are part of your event. They’re supposed to jazz up your convention or expo.
Much more so than that, activation opportunities are a good chance to connect your target audience with your sponsor.
How do you do that, you ask? Well, you must know the needs of your audience and the needs of your sponsor. By the time a sponsor signs a deal with you, all your research into your audience and the target sponsor should have been done.
Now it’s just a matter of determining how an activation opportunity can fulfill both a sponsor’s needs and your audience’s needs.
What Does the Activation Brainstorming Session Entail?
When you walk into the activation brainstorming session (or you pick up the phone or load up Zoom or however you most prefer to have meetings), what should you be ready to talk about? I’m glad you asked.
Here’s what the activation brainstorming session usually entails.
Confirm Sponsor Outcomes
I do want to make one thing clear. Activation opportunities are not outcomes, they’re outputs. The output can lead to an outcome.
For example, if you erect a branded sponsored photo booth at your event, how much does brand awareness increase for the sponsor? How much web traffic or social traffic do they get after the event?
You can’t choose an activation opportunity solely because it’s cool. It’d be fun if it worked that way, but it doesn’t.
You must be crystal-clear on the sponsor’s desired outcomes before you begin spit-balling activation ideas with them. If a sponsor says they want to increase email sign-ups, for example, then how can you do that with an activation?
Well, we still need the other half of the puzzle, which in this case is your audience.
Let’s use a very basic example. Your audience likes free stuff. Knowing that, if your audience attends your events for freebies, then the sponsor can host a contest or giveaway. To participate, all your audience would have to do is fill out a form with their contact information, including their email address.
Voila. The sponsor gets emails for their contact list and your audience has a chance to win free stuff.
Talk about How the Sponsor Measures Success
What is a successful sponsorship arrangement? Since sponsorship programs run the gamut, any number of answers is acceptable.
Speaking generally though, successful sponsorship programs are those that achieve the most sponsor goals.
Still, you don’t want generalizations here. You want to hear–from the mouth of your sponsor–how their company measures success. Maybe getting an influx of a few hundred social media followers isn’t enough. They only consider it a success if they get 5,000 new followers. That’s good information to have.
Your own company or organization could very well measure success differently than a sponsor company. Please make sure that your vision of success isn’t bleeding over into the sponsor’s vision. That’s a good way to underdeliver on promised outcomes.
Now we’re at the crux of the activation brainstorming session, the brainstorming itself!
Before the meeting, you and your team might have gotten the ball rolling with a few activation ideas of your own. Jot these down and present them at the meeting but do be aware that these ideas are not yet set in stone.
The sponsor could very well want to modify your ideas of nix them altogether. Try not to take it personally. Remember, the goal is to come up with the best activation opportunities that fulfill your sponsor’s needs and the audience’s needs.
Who knows your sponsor’s needs better than the sponsor? They might be able to recommend activations that are cheaper, quicker, and even better than the ones you came up with.
Don’t necessarily relegate all the power to the sponsor though. Just like they know their own needs best, you know the needs of your target audience best. If an activation idea the sponsor throws your way is an obvious mismatch, don’t bite your tongue out of politeness.
Speak up and tell the sponsor what your thoughts are. If you do this in a way that’s constructive rather than critical, the sponsor won’t mind your input. They’ll be grateful if anything!
Why Do an Activation Brainstorming Session Now?
Isn’t it a little late in the sponsorship program to be brainstorming activations? Not in my opinion, no.
It’s not like your event is happening tomorrow, so you still have ample time to determine what you and the sponsor can do to create activations that will make them and your target audience happier.
The biggest reason I advocate for waiting until this point for the activation brainstorming session is that the pressure is off. You don’t have to stress about negotiation tactics, which both sides are usually doing.
Instead, you can connect with your sponsor as a partner, as a person, and ask them for their ideas and thoughts, even their concerns with all the cards on the table.
Another benefit is this. All the information you glean from the activation brainstorming session will be fresher in your mind having happened now than it would have been if this talk had occurred weeks or months back.
That’s good, as you’ll be able to clearly remember the goals that are most important to the sponsor. When you achieve those goals through your activations, the data can go into your sponsorship fulfillment report. That will make you a more viable prospect for the sponsor to work with again in the future.
The Value of Activation Credits
I want to talk about another concern that sponsorship seekers usually have about a late activation brainstorming session. Where does the funding for the activation opportunities come from?
Well, whenever I’m creating a sponsorship budget, there’s always room in that budget for activation expenses. This way, once I brainstorm activation ideas with the sponsor, I have the capital needed to make their activation ideas become a reality.
At the very least, I’m surely delivering on all the sponsor’s outcomes. Sometimes, I’m even overdelivering, but that can be okay too.
If you already got your sponsorship budget approved and there’s no room to add more cash for activations, another thing you can do is put an activation credit in your sponsorship menu. This is like a spending account that the sponsor can take from (within reason, of course) to build out their activation ideas.
Don’t feel like you necessarily must have a huge budget for activations. It’s not about how much money you spend, but how well your activations do their job. If you can fulfill a sponsor’s needs and the needs of your target audience without spending a cent, then great! If you can do it for $10, that’s fine too.
If it costs you $1,000, it doesn’t hurt to assess why that is, but even that much money isn’t too far outside of a reasonable budget.
What if you gave the sponsor a sizable budget but they go over? It happens. My rule of thumb is this: if the sponsor went over budget between five and 10 percent of the total value of the package, I let it go and eat the money.
You can also put the onus of large costs on the sponsor, especially if the sponsor comes up with activation ideas that are significantly more expensive than what you two had previously negotiated.
I think it’s important that the first experience the sponsor has with you after signing a contract is a meeting where you ask them how you can deliver on their goals. Yes, admittedly, your bottom line is initially negatively impacted if you incur costs.
Yet by the time you get to talking about sponsorship renewal, the sponsor is usually a lot more willing to increase their rights fees or sign a multi-year contract. That’s when your bottom line will benefit.
If you’re struggling to put together your sponsorship program, my free on-demand training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program can help. In the training, I present a nine-part blueprint for furthering your sponsorship goals. Check it out!
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.