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Efficient or Effective? 

by | June 1, 2021

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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

Efficiency and effectiveness are two of those words that look the same and can even be mistaken for one another if you’re speed-reading. Yet they mean two very different things. As Peter Drucker says: “efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

If you want more formal definitions, here goes. If you’re efficient at something, then Oxford Dictionary says you’ve “achieved maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” To be effective is to be “successful in producing a desired or intended result.”

You want an effective sponsorship program, as it’s better than an efficient one. Wondering why that is? In today’s article, that’s exactly what I’ll tell you.

Efficiency Isn’t All It’s Cracked up to Be

Go back to the intro and reread that definition of efficiency. It sounds like you’d be a boss’ dream if you were more efficient, right? You’d get things done, being as productive as humanly possible. You’d also do things in a cost-effective way and without wasting time or effort. 

Efficiency sounds good on paper, but in sponsorship sales, that’s not always the case. Let me tell you the ways that efficiency tends to manifest. You obsess over the perfect levels for your sponsorship package. You make sure that only the best assets make it onto your menu. 

You pull together a master list of prospects, complete with email addresses. Then you fill out online form after online form, putting in hours of effort without a single conversation with the target sponsor.

Does some of this stuff push your sponsorship program forward? Sure. You want quality assets, and it does help to have a good list of prospective sponsors. Yet a lot of what you’re doing is just window dressing. 

Remember, efficiency is supposed to be about doing good work without wasting time or money. Well, in my humble opinion, pulling together email addresses of target sponsors with no intention to pick up the phone is wasting time. So is typing out online forms until your eyes go blurry. 

If time is money, then you’re wasting money too. The hours you’ve put into completing those forms could have gone into looking up your contacts and seeing which common connections you might have within the sponsorship company. You could have been on the phone with the target sponsor or crafting your first email, which by the way, rarely comes from a contact form on a website.

So when I say that the sponsorship industry is efficient but not effective, this might sound good for a moment, then you realize that it isn’t. 

It’s okay if you’ve been focusing on the wrong things. So too have a lot of my clients. This goes back to what I said in my post about motion versus action. Motion is just spinning in circles while action propels you forward. Using that example, focusing more on efficiency is spinning in circles while paying more attention to effectiveness will drive your sponsorship program ahead.

How to Be More Effective in Sponsorship Sales

Oxford Dictionary defines effectiveness as “the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result; success.” 

So how can you ensure that the actions you take as a sponsorship seeker are effective? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what I’d suggest.

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Focus on Your Audience

If your sponsorship program is a skeleton, then your audience is the backbone since they’re what holds the whole thing up. Many beginner sponsorship seekers don’t know what value they have in their audience because they never bothered to look. 

Having audience data is critical to the success of your sponsorship program. Yet there are lots of reasons why sponsorship seekers might hold off on issuing a survey. For instance, you assume that if you bother your audience that they’ll unsubscribe. 

Well, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Some people will probably unsubscribe. But if you lose a few audience members because you had the audacity to ask something from them, then these aren’t the kinds of customers or clients you need anyway. 

Maybe you worry that your audience won’t be honest in their responses. Unless you’re asking intensely personal questions, then there’s no reason your audience members wouldn’t disclose the truth. 

Then there’s the biggest reason I hear among sponsorship seekers who put off doing an audience survey, and that’s that people won’t bother responding. It’s true, many people won’t, but enough will to matter. 

If you send out 5,000 surveys, guess how many responses you need to pull together any meaningful audience data. Go on, guess. No, it’s not 4,500 responses, not even close. It’s not 2,000 either, or 1,000. 

All you need is 256 replies. 

I’m sure you can get that many, so what are you waiting for? Each day you delay is another potentially valuable sponsorship opportunity that’s going to someone else. 

Build Activation

Activation is experiential marketing based on your audience needs and/or interests. You can’t create the kind of activation ideas that are effective rather than efficient until you do your audience research. 

Yet think not only of your audience when you come up with your activation ideas, but your target sponsor as well. If they’re a tech company, a branded phone-charging station makes sense. You can also do a branded photo booth. Both those ideas are just scratching the surface. 

If you’re feeling stumped on activation ideas, here’s a post with eight impeccable ideas to get you started. Just play off those activation ideas and let the creative juices flow! You’ll come up with something fantastic. 

Have Discovery Sessions

Efficiency is completing an online contact form and then waiting by your inbox for a response. Effectiveness is taking the bull by the horns and figuring out what the sponsor wants through discovery sessions. 

Whether your discovery sessions are during an initial meeting, over video chat, or even on the phone, they’re a crucial part of moving your sponsorship program ahead. During the discovery phase, you’re learning what the target sponsor’s goals are. 

This makes it so much easier for you to then sit down and put together an awesome list of activation ideas and evaluated assets that will resonate with the sponsor. Yes, that’s right, you didn’t agonize over your assets for hours, trying to decide how high up on the list logos should go (hint: they should be near the bottom of the pile if you offer logos at all). You just got it done. 

Yet a discovery session is only useful if you’re asking the right kinds of questions. I have a list of 37 discovery questions that you can use during your next phone call or meeting with the target sponsor. These questions are intended for getting you the types of answers you need to solve more of the target sponsor’s problems through your audience and other assets. 

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Customize Your Sponsorship Opportunities 

Piggybacking off this is customizing your sponsorship package.  I know that you might have poured oh so many hours into designing the type of sponsorship package that would make a professional magazine editor jealous, but remember, that’s just window dressing. You care much more about that type of thing than the sponsor does.

They just want to see the meat and potatoes, aka the content of your sponsorship package, not admire the pretty borders or fancy font you chose. The best sponsorship packages aren’t tiered, but customized to a target sponsor’s needs.

It’s the difference between going to a restaurant and seeing dozens of meals on the menu versus going to one where the menu was customized just to your tastes. You can take a little bit of column A, a lot of column B, and a touch of column C. 

Maintaining Sponsor Relationships

Sponsors are not like a pair of contacts where you use them for a little while and then throw them away. You want to build solid, professional, foundational relationships that keep the door open for new sponsorship opportunities in the future. 

You can’t do that without producing a fulfillment report, which details all the metrics your event achieved and how you satisfied the sponsor’s goals. This report proves that you’re reliable. The sponsor could recommend other companies to you so your sponsorship circle extends even further. 

By the way, you can’t fudge a fulfillment report; the sponsor will see right through that. Achieving the sponsor’s goals means promising only what you can do, nothing more, nothing less. It sounds simple, but overachievers need not apply. 


In sponsorship, efficiency tends to trump effectiveness. This is a shame, as most sponsorship-related tasks that seem efficient don’t get you anywhere with your sponsorship program. You need to focus more on effective actions, many of which require direct involvement with the target sponsor.

If you’re looking for ways to switch from efficiency to effectiveness in your sponsorship program, why not check out my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program? It’s full of valuable tips and best practices so you can learn how to win more sponsorships.

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