Five Things AI Can Do in Sponsorship (And 3 Things It Can’t Do!)
AI is everywhere these days and expanding all the time. Some of us worry the technology might encroach on our jobs (and rightfully so, at least for some industries), while others wholeheartedly embrace this new technology.
Sponsorship is such a multifaceted subject that it shouldn’t surprise you that some processes can be made better with AI. However, most still benefit from the human touch.
This guide will look at which is which to help you determine where AI slots into your future sponsorship opportunities.
AI Can Do These Five Sponsorship Tasks
1. Write Emails
The prospect of cold emailing a potential sponsor is daunting enough. The prospect of cold emailing without a template to rely on? It’s almost too much to bear for some sponsorship seekers.
Well, it’s not something you’ll have to fret about in the future, as AI makes it easier than ever to write emails.
Do you spend hours trying to write the perfect subject line? AI tools can generate dozens of subject lines in seconds.
That doesn’t mean they’re the right subject line for you. They might be too generic or salesy or might not fit your brand voice. However, you have a skeleton you can start with and retool.
AI can even write cold emails for you. Many marketers and businesspeople have already experimented with AI’s potential for producing emails.
Will AI churn out the perfect email? Probably not. However, you can massage the content to fit your brand and message, spending a lot less time agonizing over your email before you click send.
2. Ideate Assets and Activations
Sponsorship seekers frequently struggle with asset and activation ideation. It seems like brands continually set the bar higher and higher at major events, which puts pressure to come up with activations that will impress sponsors.
AI can give you a head start. Today’s tools can produce endless assets and activations for you to choose from.
A good activation will connect your sponsor and audience by fulfilling goals on both sides. You must keep that in mind as you narrow your options from the AI’s master list.
Also, make sure the suggestions are tenable. AI can make anything possible, even the fantastical, so you might get some ideas that simply aren’t achievable. Others might be outside of your price range.
Can AI value assets and activations? It’s already found a home in the real estate industry for valuations. However, I would caution you against replicating that in the sponsorship sphere, at least as of right now.
You’re better off manually valuing your assets and activations. However, at least you’ll spend less time on it since you’ll have the ideation part well taken care of.
3. Segment Your Audience
I always like to say that the riches are in the niches. It’s especially true in sponsorship that a niched audience appeals to the most sponsors.
Why is that? It’s simple. A sponsor knows its target audience. A niched audience makes it easy for a sponsor to look at your audience and determine if it fits its target market.
Niching down an audience by 25 or more datapoints is a time-consuming venture, especially if you have a large customer base. However, it’s a necessity in finding high-quality sponsors, as the data your audience gives you will also inform your prospecting list.
Well, consider more of your time saved, as AI can also segment your audience. Input the criteria you’d like the AI tool to divide your customers, such as behaviors, pain points, income, location, or interests, and it will take care of the rest.
You can use AI to create richly detailed audience segments and then update your customer segmentation six months or a year down the road.
4. Create Images
Do you have some visual elements for your sponsorship campaign but no in-house designers? You could always hire a third-party graphic artist, but this will chew into your event budget, which you already need help with to consider sponsorship.
Another alternative that costs you far less money is using AI tools to generate imagery for you. The capabilities of AI art are truly on another level. You can ask an AI image generator to produce any image you want in any style, and you should expect interesting results.
Of course, how realistic the results are depends on what you ask the AI image generator to do. Also, AI struggles in some areas, which you must remember as you input image-generating prompts.
For example, AI can’t visualize hands that well, but it’s gotten better than even at the start of 2023, so don’t expect that to be a stumbling block forever.
AI also struggles with otherworldly imagery, although I’m sure that won’t be the case for very long.
Keep in mind that the results you see someone post online that were produced from AI might have had a human element involved. What I mean is that a designer might have gone in after the fact and used an image-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to finesse the image even more.
5. Help with Proposals and Reports
AI tools can also assist as you write a sponsorship proposal or fulfillment report.
You can ask AI to generate an outline of these documents. You can use the outline in conjunction with my sponsorship proposal template to save time planning the structure of your report.
You can also generate tables, charts, and graphs using AI, which will surely save you time. Jazz up your reports with unique AI-generated graphics, although you’ll be in charge of adding images from your past events.
But AI Can’t Do These Three Sponsorship Tasks
You’ve seen how AI can simplify your sponsorship tasks. However, the technology still has a ways to go regarding its ability to do the following.
1. Have a Discovery Session
You can use AI to set up your discovery sessions in that it can send emails to prospective sponsors for you, but it cannot have a discovery session for you. You must show up and speak to your prospect about their goals and current challenges.
I wouldn’t even recommend using AI to ideate discovery questions when I have more than 30 you can use. My questions are based on years of experience and touch on the topics that sponsorship seekers must have answers to as they determine the viability of a partnership.
2. Collect Audience Data
Can AI extrapolate audience data once it has it? Yes, absolutely. However, I would still recommend you do the hard lifting and collect audience data yourself by issuing surveys.
People have their concerns about AI. A Forbes Advisor article reported that 75 percent of surveyed consumers worried about AI spreading misinformation. An AI-led survey sent to your audience could similarly inspire mistrust.
You could harm your reputation. At the very least, no one will want to fill out your survey, which will leave you without audience data to go through.
You can automate reminder emails to your audience once you announce your survey. You can even use AI to help you write the subject line and email, but you must lead the survey, not a bot.
3. Negotiate or Renegotiate Sponsorship Deals
Another thing AI can’t do in sponsorship is negotiate or renegotiate your sponsorship deals. And honestly? I’m not so sure you would want it to.
A lawyer from New York made the news for relying on AI to do legal research, as the tool pulled legal cases that didn’t exist. It’s clear that law and AI don’t gel.
Instead of using AI to generate legal documents, hire a lawyer and ask them to do it. You’ll have much better results.
Tips and Best Practices for Using AI in Sponsorship
AI isn’t a new technology, but its growing application is. Therefore, you should take some precautions before incorporating AI into your sponsorship campaign. Here are some best practices to account for.
Always Research the Suggestions It Gives You
You only need to look into the case of the lawyer using AI to realize that it can go wildly off the rails. That lawyer ended up getting fired because he didn’t do his due diligence and research the case the AI tool gave him.
He just assumed it existed because AI said so.
This instance of AI getting it terribly, horribly wrong is not a one-off, either. Writers, researchers, and academics who use AI tools regularly report inaccuracies. AI will make up things and insert these incorrect facts beside real, accurate information.
That’s why it’s a little scary that some of the news we read every day is produced by AI. However, you must assume these major news brands have fact-checking measures in place.
You need to do the same. Take everything the AI says with a grain of salt and research it independently to prove its veracity. If AI spits out something inaccurate, fix it before sending it to the sponsor.
Put Your Own Spin on Graphics
AI can generate an image of anything you think of. However, if you can think of it, so can another sponsorship seeker.
You don’t necessarily have to worry about originality if you ask an AI tool to make you a chart based on your unique audience data. However, if you’re generating images for your sponsorship proposal, those might not be as original.
AI pulls everything from somewhere, and while it won’t produce identical results twice (not usually, at least), there are only so many ways to generate an image of something.
There are no copyright laws for AI content as of this writing, but it’s something you should keep in the back of your mind for when that day inevitably comes.
Ask Your Sponsor About Their AI Policy
People have two trains of thought about AI. They either love it or hate it. There is no room for lukewarm feelings with technology such as this.
That’s why it doesn’t hurt to query your sponsor about their feelings on AI. You can send them a quick email or mention it during a phone call. All you have to ask is, “is it okay if I use AI for ideation, graphics, or proposals?”
Don’t try to sneak it by them. AI keeps getting smarter and smarter, but there are some indicators that someone used AI.
AI images may have distortions, and the hands will be a dead giveaway, as they won’t quite look right. A sponsor can also run images through a reverse image search if they’re really curious.
As for determining whether copy was produced by AI, it’s harder but not impossible. AI tends to latch onto the same few phrases and words, repeating them throughout. It will also write incredibly short sentences.
The Human Element Reigns Supreme
Technology is cool, but nothing beats the human element.
Your sponsor wants to hear from you what makes your audience unique, your assets valuable, and your business or organization worth investing in. AI can provide the same information, but it lacks the warmth, passion, and personality that humans do.
If you can’t speak about your sponsorship opportunity with a spark in your heart and fire on your breath, how can you expect a sponsor to get excited about it?
It’s up to you to inject that into your sponsorship materials.
AI is a valuable sponsorship tool. It can help you get over the hurdle of writing that initial cold email, draft your sponsorship proposal, produce professional-looking tables and charts, and generate graphics.
However, as technology, AI is imperfect. It doesn’t produce all graphic ideas with 100 percent precision (i.e., it still struggles with hands). Your copy may make it obvious you used AI, as it will likely include unnaturally short sentences and repeated phrases and words.
Most egregiously, AI can be ridiculously inaccurate, spouting off made-up facts and nestling them between true statements.
Use AI to save time when juggling sponsorship opportunities, but don’t rely on it as a crutch. And please, always fact-check when using it!
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.