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How to Be Dismissed by Sponsors

It doesn’t feel good to spend hours painstakingly putting together a sponsorship proposal, drafting a conversationally light first email, or even getting a few meetings into it with a sponsorship prospect only to be dismissed.

Or ghosted, or ignored, whatever you like to call it. 

This unique rejection is a sharp pain I can still remember vividly, and I’ve been out of the sponsorship game for some time now. 

Rejection happens in sponsorship, but if it’s happening to you more often than approvals are, then this article is for you. 

It’ll be chock full of things not to do so you can get your sponsorship program back on the right foot again. 

Social Dismissal Is Real

First, I want to preface this post with this. 

Sponsors want to work with professionals, with equals. 

So often, I see sponsorship seekers put themselves in this role of subservience. They bow down to whatever a sponsorship prospect demands before they’ve even penned a deal.

I’m not recommending you be a thorn in the side of your sponsors, but you need a backbone as well. 

You need to look in the mirror and treat yourself as an equal to any sponsor you can work with. That will change the way you carry yourself and how you interact with prospects. 

If you don’t do this, then your attitude alone could explain your frequent dismissal rate by sponsors. 

I implore you to look closely at the next section and see if you’re making any of those egregious mistakes. If you aren’t yet every prospect you interact with eventually ghosts you, you have to consider the possibility of social dismissal.

Here’s How to Be Dismissed by Sponsors

Listen, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t need help being dismissed by sponsors. 

I’m not here writing this post today so you can double down on bad behaviors, but rather, to help you realize that some of the seemingly innocuous things you’re doing in your sponsorship program could be costing you big time.

Write Long Emails

Is there ever a time when a long email is warranted? 

Even if you’re catching up with a friend or writing back and forth to a colleague, emails are kept relatively brief. 

Most people are reading an email on their phones, where even a moderately-sized paragraph can look big and bloated due to the way a phone constricts the email view.

There’s a reason people use the acronym TL; DR, which if you didn’t know, stands for too long; didn’t read. They don’t have the time, and often, they don’t have the patience either.

If you don’t believe me, then try sending a long email to a friend or family member. Then ask what they thought about your email or if they even bothered to read it.

If the people in your life feel burdened by long emails, then how do you think a complete stranger, i.e., your sponsorship prospect, is going to feel?

They won’t give you the benefit of a doubt and read through the whole thing. They’ll open the email (maybe, even that’s not guaranteed), take one look at its length, and dump the message straight in the trash.

Sponsors are incredibly busy people, just like you and me. It’s disrespectful to demand so much of their time when you two don’t even know each other. 

There is nothing you could possibly say in an initial email to a sponsor that requires a novella. It only takes a few paragraphs to set up an email and ask for a discovery session. 

If your emails are longer than that, then the response will continue to be the same: radio silence.

Send the Wrong Messages

Speaking of the discovery session, I want to reiterate that that’s the point of the first email. You want to set up a meeting. That’s it. 

You’re not trying to befriend the sponsor by asking wildly invasive personal questions. You’re not trying to close a sales deal by sending over your pitch deck and other sales materials. 

You also most definitely should not send your sponsorship proposal. Not yet, and maybe not ever. 

Sponsorship sales, if you follow the stages of sponsorship correctly, will have their time and place. If you try to force the sale too early, then with a sponsor as is with anyone, it backfires. 

As for why you shouldn’t send your sponsorship proposal, there are many reasons.

Let’s start with the simplest one. Your prospect didn’t ask for it.

Many sponsorship seekers feel like the information in their proposal is so good that once the sponsor gets one look at it, it’ll all be a done deal.

However, if you wrote your proposal before the discovery session, then I can assure you that the only thing that’s a done deal is the likelihood of you working with this prospect.

There’s no way you can offer customized solutions that a sponsor needs if you don’t know what the sponsor’s issues are yet. 

Your proposal is likely also stuffed to the brim with long bios about your company or nonprofit and a deep explanation of your cause. There’s little if any audience data. 

A sponsor wants to see audience data. Without that, a proposal isn’t worth putting together.

Oh, and one more thing on the topic of your message: don’t mass-email sponsors. That never ends well!

Chase Your Prospect

Have you ever had a dating prospect who was way more interested in you than you were in them? They’d text you every day, and at every turn, they’d try to set up a coffee date or a lunch date, or a dinner date.

It didn’t matter which date, just that it was a date. 

It was flattering at first, but then it quickly got annoying, right? You probably ended up ghosting that person yourself.

Sponsorship seekers often find themselves in the unfortunate position of chasing down sponsors just like the tone-deaf date example. 

If they don’t pick up the phone, they send an email. If they don’t reply to the email, they pick up the phone. If none of that works, they send another email or maybe make another phone call, this time with a voicemail. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a communication cadence, nor am I suggesting that following up is a bad idea. 

There’s a difference though between following up a couple of times and limiting your communication to once per day to sending 10 emails in 48 hours and ringing a sponsor’s phone off the hook.

You have to be careful with going overboard. That kind of behavior will not only kill a sponsorship deal but could even end in legal action such as a restraining order. 

Treat Your Sponsors Like Investors

An investor is someone who believes in your company’s vision or a product, service, or idea of yours and backs you financially to bring it to fruition.

A sponsor is someone who helps you achieve an objective such as funding or promotions in exchange for assistance with their own issues. 

Both investors and sponsors want you to succeed because that’s how they make money, but the similarities end there. 

The goals and outcomes are different.

An investor doesn’t care about marketing outcomes, whereas sponsors, that’s all they care about. 

Unless you’re providing those marketing outcomes, then requesting cash from a sponsor is going to end in you being dismissed.

Treat Your Sponsors Like Donors

A donor is someone who gives to a cause they believe in. 

Even though sponsorship doesn’t work anything close to the same way, I still see sponsorship seekers all the time put too much emphasis on their cause in the hopes that a sponsor will feel bad enough to want to work with them. 

You know, if your cause is curing childhood cancer or saving animals, or solving world hunger, you might think that based on the merits of your cause alone, a sponsor should want to work with you. 

If that’s how it worked, then every sponsorship seeker would have an identical cause. However, that’s not how it works, not even close.

Remember, sponsors want marketing outcomes. A cause, even a really great one, rarely delivers those kinds of outcomes and so doesn’t factor into a sponsor’s decision-making. 

You can spotlight your cause at various points, but it can’t be the backbone of your entire sponsorship program.  

Start Meetings with Your Company/Nonprofit History

I always recommend a good icebreaker or maybe a funny, appropriate joke to start a meeting with a sponsor, but recounting your company’s entire life story? It will lead to dismissal.

For one, if a sponsor really wanted to, they could easily read your bio on your website. There’s no need for a play-by-play recounting all the events from your company’s founding day to today.

Second, you’re way off-base with the subject of the meeting. A discovery session is about asking questions and getting to know the sponsor. 

You can talk a little bit about your cause and your history, maybe for 30 seconds or a minute, perhaps even two minutes tops. 

You can’t let yourself get carried away, though. If you do, then everyone’s eyes will begin to glaze over, and the person you’re meeting with will suddenly remember that thing they had to do. The meeting will be cut short, and no follow-up meeting will be booked.

Put Pricing in Your Proposal

Do sponsors sometimes want to see an outline of your proposal before you two meet? Yes. Does this mean you have to include your pricing? No!

A sponsorship proposal is not a sales tool. It’s for highlighting audience data and the quality of your assets and activations, not necessarily their cost.

I do recommend you know the prices of what you’re offering, as you have to value all your assets before you pitch them to a sponsor. 

For now, that information stays internal. The time will come for negotiations, as pricing has to be included in your sponsorship contract. Wait to talk over pricing then. 

Use Stock Sponsorship

First, second, third. Gold, silver, bronze. 

A rose by any other name is still a rose, and although Shakespeare wasn’t around when stock sponsorship was created, the idiom still fits. 

Stock sponsorship comes with the implication that your proposal is very cookie-cutter. 

It’s not even an implication really, but a fact! 

Stock sponsorship is stripped of originality or imagination. You’re probably offering uninventive assets, the same kinds of assets that you’ve sent to every prospect you’ve ever interacted with.

None of them have a bit for your stock sponsorship package yet, and none of them will in the future, either. 

Sponsors don’t want a one-size-fits-all approach, because very often, one size does not indeed fit all. Far from it.

They want to see customized assets and creative activations. 

Your proposal doesn’t have to mention anything about customization when that’s what you’re offering. The proof is in the pudding. 

Include Generic Benefits

Going hand-in-hand with stock sponsorship is generic benefits. 

You know what I mean: logos on everything, e-blasts, mention from the stage, those sorts of assets. 

They sound good to you maybe, but what do assets like this achieve? Very few if any outcomes, and certainly no meaningful outcomes. 

Generic benefits come across as amateurish, and you already know that sponsors want to work with pros, not first-timers. 

Don’t Do Discovery

Some sponsorship seekers feel like the discovery session is optional. They’ll book a meeting with a prospect, print out a dozen or so copies of their proposal, and then go into the meeting looking to make a hard sell.

These prospects might get turned down outright, but more often than not, here’s what happens. The prospect says they’ll think about it and then never replies.

Sponsors, like most people, go out of their way to avoid confrontation because it’s awkward and uncomfortable. 

It’s a lot easier instead to feign interest just long enough for the meeting to end and then dismiss you completely.

Here’s an indicator that your meeting went awry. If you try to schedule a follow-up meeting, is your prospect hemming and hawing? Are they suddenly like a slippery fish on a line, not agreeing to any dates?

Those are clear signs they don’t want to meet again. 

Discovery is not optional, not if you want to get to the point where you have sponsors for your event, opportunity, or program. 

You need to know what a sponsor’s challenges and pain points are, as that’s the only way you can offer tailored solutions. Don’t waste the discovery meeting and use it as a sales meeting. You likely will not get a second chance to make things right!

Don’t Send a Fulfillment Report

And finally, the last way to be dismissed by sponsors is to pass on the fulfillment report.

This is a tempting idea to many sponsorship seekers because they’re so exhausted after putting on an event, but many of them knuckle down and do it anyway.

As for the ones that don’t? Well, you may have a sponsor this year, but you likely won’t for next year. 

Sponsors appreciate seeing what went right with your event and even what went wrong. They like looking over photos, poring over attendance, seeing their activation with a fresh set of eyes, and reviewing your deliverables. 

If you don’t give them that opportunity, that makes it a lot harder to set up the conversation where you ask about renewing the deal. 

Having to obtain new sponsors year after year because you can’t hold onto the ones you’ve got is time-consuming and expensive. 

Not every sponsor you work with will want to stick around or be able to, but many that can will start doing so once you begin sending fulfillment reports.


Sponsorship is hard work. I’ve never pretended it isn’t. It’s going to require a lot of your time and dedication. 

I know, I know, sponsorship isn’t your full-time job, it’s hard to be a weekend warrior, you don’t have time. I get it, and I feel for you. 

Once you let yourself off the hook in one area of sponsorship, say, customizing your proposal, then it’s a lot easier to do it in other areas.

Before you know it, you’re sending stock sponsorship packages, turning first meetings into sales calls, and skipping the fulfillment report. 

Hold yourself accountable. Be willing to do the work and you will see the results! 


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.