Sponsorship collective logo

How To Ask For Sponsorship: Questions For The First Meeting

by | June 4, 2024

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • 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
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Asking For Sponsorship Is Easy!

As Long As You Don’t Ask For Money (Yet!)

Prospecting is arguably the most important part of the sponsorship sales process. It is through the process of discovery meetings, geared towards information gathering rather than sales, that you learn whether or not the market will support your goals.

The goal of the first meeting is not to make the sale but to gather information and demine whether or not you have a fit. The types of questions that you should ask your prospects must reflect the goals of the first meeting.

10+ Questions To Ask Potential Sponsors

Here are the five most important questions you should be asking in the first meeting in order to be able to create a custom sponsorship package:

Who is your target audience?

This starts the meeting on the right path, right away. Don’t launch into a pitch, instead, get your prospect talking about their target audience. Not only will this give you valuable information for your proposal and your own audience research but it shows your prospect that you understand how sponsorship works.

What action do your customers take right before they make a purchase? How do you typically get them to take that action?

You want to get to know your prospect’s sales cycle and what they see as the most important steps in that sales cycle. Far too often, sponsorship sales professionals rely on logo placement, awareness building and old-school sponsorship tactics without first learning whether or not your prospect even cares about “awareness”. If your prospect is struggling to get customers into their sales funnel and you can help with that, you will stand out from the crowd as a valuable partner.

Tell me about a sponsorship agreement that went badly and why? What made it not produce ROI?

Learning what your prospect hates, what is unlikely to produce ROI and what frustrates them is a GREAT way to avoid making the same mistakes as your competitors. Be ready to hear about things that may be in your stock package or about the assumptions you made about your prospect (good thing you didn’t lead with the sponsorship package, isn’t it?).

What can you tell me about your sales goals for the coming year?

Sales goals typically come with a budget and marketing plan. This is a good thing. Sales goals are the things that your prospect will be measured against, and getting them talking about their pain points will give you an insight into where they may be willing to invest.

  New call-to-action

What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship package and what should I avoid?

Never guess at what to include in your sponsorship proposals! Ask you your prospects for their guidance to make sure you get it right.

I know what you’re thinking, you didn’t get a chance to deliver your sponsorship package or describe your sponsorship levels. Keep reading to find out why this is a good thing, and while you’re at it check out my article on the real goals of the sponsorship sales meeting.

What was the last marketing campaign your company did, and how did it go? What do you think you’d like to do next time?

It helps to know what kinds of marketing tactics the sponsor has tried in the past, especially the recent past, and what kind of success they’ve yielded. After all, your activations and assets are forms of marketing, so you’ll want to know which stones the sponsor has turned.

Asking this question can also help you avoid the same marketing mistakes the sponsor company has made.

For example, if their last social media campaign bombed, rather than assume you know social media better and can fix it, perhaps your assets and activations focus on building a bigger audience and slowly guiding them toward the sponsor’s social media accounts.

Asking the sponsor what they’d like to try next time they launch a marketing campaign is like a cheat sheet for you. I’m not saying you should directly lift their ideas for your assets and activations. Rather, you’ll have a good direction to start exploring, and you can brainstorm from there.

Can you tell me what you consider to be the ideal sponsorship partner?

Everybody has their own preferences. Some might like a partner who communicates daily, while other businesses would feel smothered with such regular check-ins. Some sponsors might want to be more directly involved with the event planning phase, while others will take a hands-off approach and let you steer the ship.

There’s no right or wrong way to do sponsorship if both parties benefit and achieve goals. Asking your prospect what an ideal partner looks like helps you learn which traits they value so you can prioritize those if you two begin working together.

What are your short-term and long-term business goals?

One of the most important reasons to have a discovery session is to learn about your prospect’s goals and challenges. You need this information to determine if your services are a match for fulfilling those goals.

For instance, let’s say your brand has a booming social media presence. If your prospect has no interest in social media, they’re not the right sponsor for you. That’s fine, and there are no hard feelings. This early on, you can continue with another prospect without missing your event deadline.

How does a sponsorship with you typically go?

Walking you through the basics helps you understand what would be required of you if you and the sponsor work together. If you feel like their requirements would be too much, at least you would know early before you sign a contract and are legally obligated to live up to your side of the working relationship.

It’s also interesting to see how companies approach sponsorship, as it’s different from brand to brand. Gleaning how the company defines sponsorship versus how you do it allows you to (hopefully) find some common ground and align your goals.

What was the most recent feedback you’ve received from your audience?

This is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to put your finger on the pulse of your sponsor’s audience without having to survey or otherwise interact with them directly.

Be clear that you want the feedback, good or bad. If the sponsor’s audience has had a lot of good things to say, think about how you can continue to keep the momentum moving forward through your services.

And if they’ve had a few negative points of contention? Then you can really show your stuff and help the sponsor win back the good graces of their audience.

What are your company’s core values?

Understanding what a business values the most in its day-to-day operations is your true north as you begin ideating assets and activations. Those values are the lens they look through in all the business decisions they make, including your working relationship.

You don’t have to adopt their values as your own but keep them tucked away in the back of your mind as you begin planning your services for this sponsor.

New call-to-action

Does what you offer them go against their values? If so, do yourself a favor and amend your activation or asset now before you spitball it to the sponsor. You’ll look like you’ve been paying attention.

How do you measure sponsorship success?

This one might seem like it has a cut-and-dried answer, right? They want more money, leads, and customers.

And while those are the ultimate goals of just about every business, the way companies measure sponsorship success varies. That’s why I always recommend at least asking.

If the sponsor does indeed follow the standard metrics to gauge whether a partnership succeeded, then so be it. However, if they look at different KPIs than what you’re used to, you’ll know early.

You would hate to find out after the fact that your sponsor was interested in X, Y, and Z when you were focusing more on A, B, and C. That will mean you didn’t deliver as well as you could have.

Ask Your Way to More Sponsorship Sales 

What do you notice about these five questions? First, none of them are statements! I know this seems obvious but it’s important to pause here to consider this fact. You should be asking questions and listening far more than talking in a prospecting meeting. If you aren’t asking questions, you are losing the sale.

Most people move into “spaghetti mode” during sales meetings. They throw every fact, asset, offer, level etc. that they can think of at the wall in hopes that something will stick. They hope that the sponsor will hear some magic word or key message and hand them cash on the spot.  The truth is, less is more when it comes to your messaging.

The Most Important Questions of All

“I think it sounds like we have a fit here, would you agree? Is this a good time for me to put together a draft proposal for your feedback?”

You should never, under any circumstances, submit a proposal or try to move to the next step in the sales process until you have your prospect’s explicit permission to do so. If you don’t have a fit, there is no sponsorship proposal on earth that will close the deal.

Here’s the catch. You can only ask to submit a draft proposal once you have asked the preceding five questions and only if you can genuinely draw a link between their target market and your audience.

New call-to-action


Does It Really Matter What Kinds of Questions I Ask a Sponsor During a Discovery Session?

Sure, it does. If you ask surface-level questions, you’ll only receive surface-level answers. Now, sometimes you can ask deep questions and still get surface-level answers. In that case, I recommend asking deeper follow-up questions to get the information you need.

Which Is More Important, Getting to Know the Sponsor or Getting Them to Agree to a Sale?

Getting to know the sponsor, without a shadow of a doubt. You can’t sell to a sponsor you don’t know. That’s not how it works. Take the time, use the discovery session as it’s intended, and you will be on the road to a sale.

What Do I Do If the Sponsor Isn’t a Fit? 

Shake their hand, thank them for their time, and be honest. Don’t try to force something that won’t work between you and the sponsor. There is another sponsor out there that suits you better, and now it’s your job to find them.

Asking Businesses for Sponsorship is Not About Money!

If you do your job well and really listen, you and your prospect will be able to work together on a fair price that meets both of your needs. Commit to the process and spend your mental energy focusing on your prospect and helping them achieve their goals rather than trying to sell them a predefined package.