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Five Steps to Selling Sponsorship That Actually Work 

by | October 27, 2022

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Do you struggle to sell sponsorship to prospects? You can get prospects on the line, but it seems like after a certain point, the deal always fizzles out. You know you’re doing something wrong, but you can’t ascertain what.

That’s what today’s post is all about. I’m going to present to you five surefire, bonafide steps that you can follow to increase your sponsorship sales quotient. 

No matter how experienced you are in sponsorship, I’m certain that you can learn a thing or two from today’s post to make you even more efficient! 

Step 1 – Stop Thinking of Sponsorship as Philanthropy

I’ve written countless blog posts about what a sponsor is and isn’t. I could probably compile a book by now because it’s been that many words. 

That said, I will spare a few more to define to first-time readers what sponsorship is. 

Sponsorship is a two-way deal between you and another company, with you being a small business, mid-sized company, nonprofit, or organization. 

When you partner with a sponsor, you’re agreeing to provide to them services in exchange for what is typically cash sponsorship but can also include promotions or in-kind gifts. 

What those services entail does vary but will always include assets–tangible and intangible goods and services–and activations, or experiential marketing opportunities. 

Those assets and activations are tailored to what a sponsor needs so you can fulfill goals for them such as increased lead generation, boosted website traffic, more sales, and more conversions.

That’s the quick and easy definition of sponsorship.

Nowhere in those paragraphs did you see me say the word philanthropy or philanthropic. That was not by accident.

Sponsorship is not philanthropy. 

A philanthropist is someone who is interested in promoting welfare. They have money–usually lots of it–and are looking for a good cause to donate to. 

That’s the chief difference between sponsorship and philanthropy.

A philanthropist cares about your cause. They will make the sole decision of whether to donate to your nonprofit, company, or organization on your cause. 

Your cause also dictates how much money you’ll receive.

A sponsor does not care about your cause. I know, I know, I always ruffle some feathers among sponsorship seekers when I say this, but it’s true.

No cause is going to be enough to inspire a sponsor to give you a check with thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money. 

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You could help dogs speak, cure childhood cancer, or stop world hunger. 

It’s not about how noble your cause is. 

A sponsor is a business. When they decide to give you money, it’s not out of the goodness of their heart. It’s certainly not a donation either.

It’s in exchange for assets and activations, as I mentioned before. 

So many sponsorship seekers think that if they put together a compelling enough sob story that a sponsor will have no choice but to loosen their purse strings.

Then they’re incredibly dismayed when this tactic doesn’t work. They might even assume that sponsorship itself doesn’t work.

In reality, sponsorship is just fine. It’s your strategy and approach that isn’t. 

Step 2 – Know Your Value 

How much is your sponsorship deal worth?

I can’t tell you because I’m not right there in front of you looking at the deal (although as a valuation expert, I can help if you set up a call with me).

Your sponsor can’t tell you either. They’re expecting you to know.

So many times, I see sponsorship seekers who have prospected well and found a compatible sponsor. They have a discovery session, which is a meeting where you ask targeted questions going over the sponsor’s needs.

The meeting goes well, as do a few subsequent meetings. Then, when it comes time to talk about value, one of two things happens.

Either the sponsorship seeker has no idea, or they guess.

You should not approach a sponsorship prospect if you don’t know your value. It’s as simple as that.

Let me put it another way. Let’s say you wanted to sell something. It can be anything, from a boat to a car to a fine piece of jewelry.

Would you list your car online without knowing what it’s worth? Would you walk into a jeweler wishing to sell a beautiful heirloom not being sure of its value?

In both cases, I sincerely hope the answer would be no.

When you guess at the value of something, it’s easier to get taken for a ride. The buyer can severely undercut you, and you would have no idea that you’re being swindled right under your nose because you’re ignorant of the true value of the item. 

Does this apply to sponsorship too? It can. If a sponsor can get away with paying you $5,000 for a deal that’s really worth twice that because you don’t know any better, why wouldn’t they?

Who in their right mind would say no, no, that’s really worth $10,000, let me give you that instead? No one. They’re saving $5k and still getting what they want.

At the end of the day, it’s on you to know your value. 

The only way you can do that is with a valuation. 

Valuing your assets is one of the most critical parts of the sponsorship program. 

First, though, you need assets. 

I always recommend that sponsorship seekers think of all the solutions that could work for the prospect based on what they know about them and maybe a few solutions that won’t work. Just throw it all at the wall to see what sticks.

Next, you have to use market value as your litmus test. 

In other words, you’d go through each asset one by one and research how much that service you’re offering costs in a professional capacity. 

Then, when you’re finished, it’s time to determine if your assets should be priced at the same level of market value, higher than market value, or even lower than market value. You can also cut assets that are low-value enough. 

Pricing is where many sponsorship seekers get tripped up. They assume that their value must be at least as high as what they saw online or maybe it’s even higher.

And it can be! However, you have to allow logic to play a role, please. 

You may very well have high-caliber assets through and through, but in my experience, most first-time sponsorship seekers do not. And that’s okay!

The more you do sponsorship, the better you get at it.

Imagine though that a grocery store brand was trying to sell its products for the same price as the name brand. No one would want to pay for that.

Your sponsors won’t want to pay for your assets if they don’t measure up to what you promised. They’ll be able to tell that you inflated the cost of assets.

That doesn’t mean you have to downgrade the pricing for every asset. Just realistically assess each one. 

Oh, and please don’t take someone’s sponsorship package that you found online and copy their numbers verbatim either. That’s just as bad. 

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Step 3 – Always Provide a Fulfillment Report

A few weeks ago, I wrote a lot about the importance of the sponsorship fulfillment report. 

If you’re not familiar, allow me to fill you in. The post-event or sponsorship fulfillment report is a detailed report you submit at the end of your sponsorship arrangement.

In the report, you detail all sorts of important metrics your sponsor will want to see, such as your tickets sold, attendance numbers, engagement with various activations, and ROI.

You should also include a review of all the activations and assets you promised as well as a note of whether you delivered them or over delivered them. 

The fulfillment report opens the door to future negotiations with a sponsor. If you enjoyed working with this sponsor and would like to lock them in again for next year, the report is a great way to do that.

It’s also good to have your own records. By 2024, you will forget how many people attended your event in 2022. The fulfillment report is a quick and accurate measure of that. 

Yet you’d be surprised how many sponsorship seekers don’t bother with a fulfillment report. They’re tired after the event or busy dealing with more leads than expected, so they let it slide.

This is a huge mistake! 

Not only does a fulfillment report pave the way for future deals, but it also covers all your bases.

When you make a deal with a sponsor, you sign your names on a contract. That contract is legally binding from then on out.

I have had instances where a sponsor tells me one thing about my event, and I tell them another. 

They’ve sent sales reps who were disengaged and texting on their phone the entire time. Then, when they get back, they tell their boss–my sponsor–what a dud the event was.

You might run into situations like these as well, although I sincerely hope you never do. 

In a battle of your word against a sales rep’s, the sponsor will believe their sales rep. Sorry, but they will.

Now, if you have proof that X thing you said happened actually did happen, then it’s irrefutable evidence. 

It’s more than you could potentially lose a sponsor. In a battle of he-said, she-said, you could get taken to court over what you supposedly failed to deliver. 

Now that I’m sure I have your attention, here’s what you must include when writing a sponsorship fulfillment report.

  • Be timely: A fulfillment report is also known as a post-event report for a reason. You’re supposed to deliver it post-event, and the sooner post-event, the better. I would recommend waiting no longer than two weeks after your event ends. If you can get the report done in two or three days, that’s ideal. The event is still fresh in your mind and in your sponsor’s mind as well.
  • Include images: Images are great social proof, as nothing shows you can throw a successful event more than a packed event hall. You don’t have to take the images yourself. You can always hire a photographer for that.
  • Document all your tangible assets and activations: If an asset or activation you promised to the sponsor is tangible, then you need proof of it. That usually means more photographs. From program ads to speaking opportunities, logos, or a sponsor’s booth, you want multiple photos of everything. 
  • Screenshot everything else: For all the other intangible assets and activations, use the power of the Internet to screenshot proof that you fulfilled what you promised. You can screenshot your website traffic, your social media, your earned or purchased media, and even records of ticket sales. 

Step 4 – Stop Using the Sponsorship Proposal to Make the Sale 

If there’s one motto I’m known by here at the Sponsorship Collective, it’s this: the sponsorship proposal doesn’t make the sale, you do!

So what does this mean? 

I meet way too many sponsorship seekers who are wholly dependent on the sponsorship proposal and the sponsorship package therein. 

If you need a recap, the sponsorship proposal is a six-page document that outlines your audience data and the assets and activations you’re selling and describes a bit about your cause and your company.

They put together this proposal before ever having a conversation with a sponsorship prospect, which is truly putting the cart before the horse. 

How can you know what your prospect wants or needs and then position the right assets or activations without a discovery session?

Simply put, you cannot. 

If the first thing you’re doing when you talk to a prospect is saying, “hello, check out my sponsorship proposal,” then it’s no wonder you’re not selling enough sponsorship. 

If all you’re doing during the discovery session or any other meeting is hijacking the original intention to push your sponsorship proposal, then once again, it’s no surprise you’re not locking in sponsors. 

Most sponsorship seekers who force the proposal down their sponsor’s throats don’t even follow the proper format for the proposal in the first place.

I have on the blog a sponsorship proposal outline that goes into full detail on what all six pages should entail. 

For those who thought they could get away with writing five pages about your cause or company history, you’re going to be disappointed. You get a couple of sentences to talk about who you are, what you do, and what you’re passionate about. That’s it.

The bulk of a good sponsorship proposal is all about audience data, and rich, detailed, nuanced, and niched-down audience data. It’s about the kind of audience data a sponsor can sink their teeth into. 

The sponsorship proposal has its place, or I wouldn’t recommend you take the time to write it. 

However, that place is not right at the beginning of meeting a prospect, or during the discovery session, or during the meeting after that, and possibly not even the meeting after that.

When a prospect wants to see your proposal, they’ll ask for it.

Until then, you shouldn’t even write it. The earlier you put together the proposal, the more work you’re creating for yourself later as you have to go back and update it or change it as you learn more about the sponsor. 

Wait until it’s requested of you, follow my template, and don’t get so hung up on the proposal. It’s not some holy grail that guarantees sponsorship.

It’s merely a document that provides information to a prospect. 

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Step 5 – Know Your Audience

If you’ve been paying attention throughout this article, then it shouldn’t surprise you to see this as the last step to selling sponsorship. 

Audience data is everything in sponsorship. When you strip away the proposals and the activations and the tiered sponsorship levels and the meetings, if all you had left was audience data, you’d still have a lot.

Why does audience data matter?

Your sponsor has a selective target audience they’re trying to sell to. They’re looking to expand upon that target audience no matter what kinds of goals they have.

After all, almost every goal of a company is tied to a target audience. Lead generation? You need to know your target audience to go after the right kinds of leads.

More conversions? Once you tailor your target audience, they’ll be more receptive to your offers and have a higher chance of converting. 

A target audience is highly specific. It’s not a random subset of people, and it’s absolutely never vague, either.

If you asked your sponsor, they could take you through their target audience by criteria like age group, geographic location, college education level, marital status, job title, industry, income, preferred brands, money spent on their products/services, etc.

You need audience data that is equally as specific to match. 

Think of your sponsor’s desire to grow their audience as putting together a never-ending puzzle. You may have a piece that fits into that puzzle, but you need highly specific audience data to be sure. 

Otherwise, you’re trying to stuff a very amorphous puzzle piece into a well-defined hole. 

Once you know who your audience is by criteria as specific as what comprises a sponsor’s target audience, you can see very quickly which of your puzzle pieces slot into the sponsor’s target audience puzzle.

Your sponsorship deal also becomes more valuable in the eyes of the sponsor, as you have something they definitely want. 

How do you know whether you have sufficient audience data? If you can easily rattle off at least 30 different data points, then you’re in good shape! 


There you have it, five steps to selling sponsorship that have been proven effective time and again. 

I know, none have anything to do with selling directly, and that’s because a selling-centric approach doesn’t work in sponsorship.

What does work is putting your audience first, leaving the sponsorship proposal on the backburner, and providing a fulfillment report when the deal is done. Best of luck!