How to Get Soccer Sponsorship
You’re a small local soccer team with dreams of achieving household name status. Although your team has a great winning record, that doesn’t matter if no one is there to see it. Through corporate sponsorship, you believe your team can get the promotion it needs to reach the masses. How do you find soccer sponsorship?
Here’s how you get soccer sponsorship:
- Determine your sponsorship goals
- Select sponsors not only by name status but sports sponsorship background
- Determine your target market
- Have an online presence if you don’t already
- Select your assets
- Find your “in” at the sponsorship company
- Meet with target sponsors
- Live up to your end of the deal
Although obtaining soccer sponsorship won’t be easy, if your team (or a team manager) is willing to take the time to follow through with these steps correctly and to completion, you could just land your first sponsor!
Follow These 8 Steps to Secure Soccer Sponsorship
Determine Your Sponsorship Goals
First thing’s first, you won’t get very far into the sponsorship process if you don’t know what you want out of a target sponsor. Since this may be the first time your soccer team has approached sponsorship, you’ll have some thinking to do.
Your team manager might make the decision-making here, but do be sure that whatever choice you gravitate towards is one that’s agreeable to the whole team.
Using the example from the intro, you might decide that your soccer team wants a sponsor so you can grow promotionally. That will put more people in seats for your games, which would be great!
Another avenue you can pursue with a target sponsor is team funding. This cash can go towards bettering your soccer team in a variety of ways. For instance, perhaps you funnel the money towards renting or buying your own training facility and then maintaining it.
Perhaps the sponsorship funding pays for staff salaries, competition fees, lodging when your team has to travel for games, transportation for that travel, or new gear and/or equipment.
If that’s what your team needs, then don’t be afraid to ask for it. Target sponsors are a lot of things, but mind readers are not on that list. That said, you can’t realistically present a financial figure without doing some calculations first.
How much do new uniforms cost? What money did your team spend on travel last year? You don’t have to know exactly how much money you’ll need from a sponsor down to the last dollar and cent, but the closer your estimate is to the real financial figure, the better a sponsorship can meet your goals.
As you get underway in planning for soccer sponsorship, I want you to begin thinking of what you can offer the sponsor as well. It’s okay if you don’t have many ideas yet, but sponsorship is a two-way street. What the sponsor gives you (money, promotion, etc.) is due to something you’re giving them back (valuable assets). I’ll talk a lot more about this later in this article, but I just want to plant that seed now.
Select Sponsors Not Only by Name Status but Sports Sponsorship Background
Next, you want to put together a list of target sponsors for your soccer team to reach out to when the time comes. It’s great if you have a lot of target sponsors to look into, but as you make your list, I ask you to make a few considerations. For every target sponsor that goes on the list, you need to research them. Do you have the time to do that?
Your answer will depend on if you have a big seasonal game that you want a sponsor for. In situations where time sensitivity is driving your decisions, then maybe choose a few dozen target sponsors and begin narrowing them down from there. If your event isn’t time-sensitive, then you can look into hundreds of target sponsors if you want.
Just make sure that you have an end date in mind for when you’ll move onto the next phase of your sponsorship program. For example, maybe you look into 40 target sponsors to start. Once you have that 40, then stop.
Don’t just do a cursory Google search for each target sponsor. You need to know a fair deal about them. This is the beginning of discovery, although you’ll do more discovery later. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say discovery, don’t stress yet! You will by the time you’re done reading.
What kind of information on the target sponsor are you looking for? Well, you need to know who they are and what they do, for starters. If their M.O. doesn’t really gel with your team, then move along. You also need to look into whether the company is current sponsoring sports teams.
I know you’re going to want to pursue heavy-hitter sponsors like Arm & Hammer or Coca-Cola. For your first go-around, I wouldn’t recommend this.
Why? These companies are inundated with so many sponsorship requests that yours will just be another at the top of a large, never-ending pile. You probably won’t hear back, which can frustrate you and make your soccer team think that sponsorship can’t work out when it absolutely can.
You don’t necessarily have to go for the low-hanging fruit either, but choose sponsors that seem attainable. It’s doubly important that you select your target sponsor with careful consideration when you have a big soccer game coming up. You can’t afford to go through the sponsorship process and be rejected time and again. Before you know it, it’ll be the eve of your big game and you’ll still have no sponsor.
Determine Your Target Market
You have a few target sponsors that you want to pursue, but don’t pick up the phone or send that email yet. Half the process of achieving sponsorship is merely preparing for that initial contact with the target sponsor. You’re not ready to reach out yet.
No sponsorship program is complete without identifying your target market. Since you’re a soccer team and not a company, you don’t have customers, per se. What you do have is a market that comes to your game, buys your merch, and supports your team. Now it’s time to dig deep and understand who is in that market.
I’ll recommend–as I always do–audience surveys. In that link, I have plenty of questions that you should put into a survey that you then mail (or email, your choice) to your market. You’ll probably have to retool a bunch of the questions since they’re more business-minded, but don’t change their meaning too much.
Give your audience a few weeks to respond to the survey. Then look through all the results and see what they tell you. You’ll be able to better identify the age, gender, location, occupation, income, and marital status of the people who come to enjoy your soccer games.
Target sponsors lap up this kind of information. Your target audience could become theirs, and knowing who’s in your audience makes it easier for the sponsor to appeal to various sectors of your market.
Your soccer team also benefits. From the design of your team merch to the locations you play, now that you have audience data, you can make more meaningful decisions that will resonate with your target market. This can result in more revenue and a larger audience even without sponsorship.
Have an Online Presence if You Don’t Already
You focus more on playing soccer, not online mumbo-jumbo. Yet the average consumer expects anything and everything to have an online presence these days, and that includes your soccer team. Your target sponsors would prefer if you have a website and social presence as well so they can learn more about you.
It’s easier than ever to make a comprehensive website these days, and even better, you can do it for free. You can also sign up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms without paying a cent.
Determine Your Assets
Next comes arguably the most important part of your sponsorship program, and that’s putting together a list of assets. What is an asset in sponsorship, you ask? Well, essentially, it’s the same as how you’d define an asset in any other application. An asset is something of value.
Remember how at the beginning of this article I told you to start thinking about what you can offer the sponsor in exchange for money and/or promotions? What you’re offering them is assets.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You play on a soccer team, what kind of assets could you possibly have for the target sponsor? Well, let me tell you, it’s more than you think. Your target market for example is a huge asset, as I mentioned before.
Signage in a sports venue is more valuable than signage at an expo, so you have that going for you. Another asset you can provide is branding, such as a branded seat section at a venue or a branded booth or stall. If you can pull some strings, naming rights are a huge sports asset in sponsorship.
If you’re not sure where to start with your assets, here’s what I recommend. Go to the venue your game will take place. Look around and snap lots of photos. This can inspire some signage ideas. Talk among your team and your manager to see if you can offer supplier contracts or exclusivity or even digital assets such as marketing opportunities.
Your assets will go into your sponsorship package, which is a part of a larger sponsorship proposal. Think of the sponsorship package like a menu you’d see when you dine at a restaurant. It lays out all your assets and their value so the target sponsor can select what they want.
The sponsorship proposal includes some information about your soccer team and your event as well as your audience research and your sponsorship request. To save you a lot of trial and error, I’d suggest following my sponsorship proposal outline when writing yours.
Getting back to your assets, once you have them in a list, you need to determine their value. Nope, you can’t just organize your assets by what you deem the highest to lowest priority. Use market value to assign value to each asset. Keep in mind that your geographic location can make some assets more valuable and others less so.
The problem with assets often arises when emotions get involved in the evaluating process. Some assets won’t be worth what you thought, which can cause an uproar among your soccer team and the manager. You’ll want to put that asset higher on the list, so you might feel inclined to push up its worth.
Doing this often comes at the expense of winning sponsorship. Keep your prices fair and your target sponsors will be more willing to pay them. That doesn’t mean the sponsorship is guaranteed, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Find Your “In” at the Sponsorship Company
With your audience data compiled, your target sponsors list completed, your assets evaluated, and your sponsorship proposal written, it’s now time to reach out to your target sponsors. I know, it seems like it took forever, but for good reason. If you hadn’t done all that legwork before, none of your target sponsors would have been interested.
I must stress that even if you do everything right, sometimes a target sponsor still won’t be interested. It happens. That doesn’t make the value of preparing your research and assets any less worthwhile though.
Okay, so who do you contact at the sponsor company? You’ll want to reach the company’s sponsorship division or department. Please don’t call the front desk and talk to a secretary. If you do that, you might never get through to who you need to speak to.
You can use LinkedIn to find out who’s who at the sponsor company. Next, I want you to dig through your own soccer contacts and see if anyone associated with your team knows the person or people at the company. Reach out to your circle as far out as it goes and see what shakes out.
Hopefully, you’ll have a point of contact within the sponsor company. If not, you’ll have to send a cold email or make a cold call, which is often less successful.
What do you say to the target sponsor? That’s another great question. In this article, I laid out a bunch of email templates that come in handy for just a situation like this. You’ll learn how to master subject lines and write a great email body that inspires the target sponsor to respond.
The key is not to ask for sponsorship right away. You’re just trying to set up a meeting. That’s all there is to it!
You might not always get a response after sending your initial email. Although it might seem easier to just give up and not bother the target sponsor again, you’ll never win sponsorship that way. You need to follow up.
In your follow-up email or phone call, you’re still not pushing sponsorship. You certainly don’t want to email your sponsorship proposal. Instead, request a new date and time when you could connect with the target sponsor. Hopefully, this date is more agreeable.
Meet with Target Sponsors
Woohoo! You officially have a meeting with a target sponsor. Now is no time to blow it. My best piece of advice is to leave the sponsorship proposal at your soccer facility until further notice. If the target sponsor wants to see your proposal, they’ll ask for it.
I also recommend reframing your expectations of what this first meeting is all about. It’s not a sales meeting, which is a rookie mistake that many sponsorship seekers make. Instead, it’s all about discovery. Yes, I said we’d get back to discovery, and now it’s time.
The discovery phase is when you get to know the target sponsor and vice-versa. Researching the sponsor online can give your soccer team a good idea of whether you two might work well together, but you need to get more information before you can make up your mind definitively.
That’s what discovery questions are for. In that link, I have more than 30 discovery questions you can choose from, but you cannot ask them all. This is a friendly meeting, not an interrogation!
More than likely, your soccer manager will have more than one meeting with the target sponsor. It’s perfectly normal for the sponsor to not make up their mind after that initial meeting. It’s really only once the target sponsor sees your sponsorship proposal that they’ll be ready to make a decision.
This part of the process isn’t always as straightforward as I might be making it seem. Since target sponsors can get busy, you need to schedule your next meeting while you’re still in the first one. You might also have to nudge the target sponsor with a follow-up phone call or email if you haven’t heard from them after they receive your proposal.
Live up to Your End of the Deal
You have your first sponsor for your upcoming soccer game and you couldn’t be more excited. After the sponsor chose the assets they were most interested in, you two undoubtedly talked about event expectations in areas like attendance, sales, web traffic, etc.
The promises you make to a sponsor should be attainable, so use your data. If your last game had 600 attendees and this is your big seasonal game, then it’s not unreasonable to expect 800 or even 900 people to show up. Don’t tell the target sponsor that 2,000 people will be there though, as that’s a lie.
Even if what you can offer a sponsor isn’t the biggest, most gleaming set of assets on the planet, eventually, some sponsor is going to be interested in what you’re selling. It’s better to achieve moderate goals than it is to overpromise and underachieve. The latter will not win you repeat sponsorship!
Chasing soccer sponsorship can bring your team to the next level. I know you’re an athlete above all else, which is why this article went into so much detail on the sponsorship process. Like you had to train and practice to be able to kick a game-winning goal, sponsorship success isn’t overnight either. Yet you already possess perseverance and determination, and that will help you get far!
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.