How to Teach Your Boss to Do Better Sponsorship
Your company is trying to add new sponsors left and right, so you’ve begun reading my blog here at the Sponsorship Collective. Perhaps you’ve even joined my exclusive Facebook group where I share sponsorship training modules first. As a result, you’ve learned a lot, but your boss hasn’t. How do you teach them to get better at sponsorship?
Here are some pointers for helping your boss do better sponsorship:
- Frame it correctly
- Use data to back up your assertions
- Avoid coming across as a know-it-all
- Offer to help where you can
- Give your boss the final say
- Try to make it seem like their idea
If someone in your company, even if it’s not your boss, has the tools and knowledge to help your company further its sponsorship aspirations, then that should be embraced wholeheartedly. That said, you have to walk a careful line to avoid being too domineering and making your boss feel stupid.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know, so check it out!
The Top 6 Tips for Helping Your Boss Improve at Sponsorship
Frame It Correctly
You put a lot of time and research into the latest sponsorship prospect you found. You really thought they could be a great fit for your company, and so you excitedly brought your research to your boss.
They insisted on taking it from there, and so you were left in the dark about what happened between your prospecting and the first contact.
Well, you were in the dark until several weeks later when you heard that the sponsor wouldn’t sign on.
This isn’t the first time such an occurrence has happened or even the third time. You figure it’s time to talk to your boss about it.
I agree, but how you go about it is critical.
It’s not like you can say, “hey boss, your approach to sponsorship sucks.” If you do, then I can guarantee that you won’t ever work on a sponsorship project within your company again.
Worse, you might not even have a job.
You need to be tactful. I would recommend sending your boss an email and asking if there’s a time when the two of you can meet to talk about sponsorship.
During the meeting, you can mention to your boss that it’s come to your attention that several of your sponsorship prospects haven’t come to fruition.
Then I would recommend asking your boss what exactly their process looks like to convert a prospect to a sponsor.
Perhaps they’re skipping crucial steps like audience research or they’re just asking for money and not expecting to have to give anything in return.
You can’t help with the issue unless you know what’s going on.
Use Data to Back Up Your Assertions
Even if you try to be gentle when you tell your boss that stock sponsorship levels are a death knell in a sponsorship program, in your boss’ mind, it comes down to a case of he-said, she-said.
That’s to say that it’s their word against yours, and since they’re your superior, the expectation is that your boss is correct.
If they’ve managed to land a few sponsors with stock sponsorship packages, even if that is the incorrect way to do it, good luck ever changing your boss’ mind.
They’re going to dismiss your opinion immediately, and the conversation isn’t going to progress much at all.
Your boss will keep doing things his or her way, most prospects will say no thank you, and you’ll continue to miss out on sponsorship milestones.
You know what’s a lot harder to debate? Facts and data.
If you can prove how a lack of sponsorship is harming your company’s bottom line–or, even better–prepare data that shows how your company can grow through sponsorship, now you’re speaking your boss’ language.
I recommend having data to back up your points as often as you can. This will prevent a frivolous back-and-forth between you and your boss and help them reel in that ego a bit. That’s going to be needed if you want sponsorship to work for your company.
Avoid Coming Across as a Know-It-All
No one likes a know-it-all. That was true in grade school and it’s true today in the working world as well.
It’s great that you have a wealth of sponsorship knowledge, and I’m glad you’ve been able to acquire so much of it through the resources on my site.
However, you already know that your boss is going to have the mindset that it’s their way or the highway, as most bosses do.
If you come in with this holier-than-thou attitude, you’re going to turn them off from wanting to work with you at all.
You’re not trying to use this opportunity to prove to your boss that you’re smarter than them.
Yes, even though technically, in this case, you are. If you want to privately gloat about it at home or tell your friends and family, that’s fine.
However, you don’t want to take that superiority complex into any sponsorship-related conversation with your boss.
Positioning yourself as the smarter one won’t get you a promotion down the line. Instead, it might make your boss want to pass you over for a promotion, as you’re making them feel stupid.
You want to be as giving with your information as possible. You’ll have to gently correct your boss at times, but you don’t ever want to make them feel dumb. Just share your knowledge freely.
Collaborating together to improve the sponsorship experience for your company should be a positive thing.
Your boss and other staff won’t mind coming to you in the future for sponsorship-related questions, because you’ll be perceived as the sponsorship guy or gal.
I’ve talked a lot about your boss’ ego in this piece. Now let me talk about yours.
Don’t let your own ego get in the way of your goals, as gratifying as it can feel in the moment. Power trips rarely end well.
Offer to Help Where You Can (Or Suggest Others Who Can)
Even though it’s not easy for your boss to admit that you know more than them in the realm of sponsorship (and don’t expect a verbal admission of this ever, or a nonverbal admission, for that matter), hopefully, you’ve handled things correctly to this point.
If so, then you’ve gotten over the awkward hump of who knows more and you’re actively moving towards changing your company’s sponsorship process.
This is where your expertise will be needed more than ever. You should offer to help your boss where and when you can.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. You’re not taking over the sponsorship process. If your boss still wants to be the one to call or email prospects, sign contracts, shake hands, and get all the glory, then that’s how it’s going to be.
However, you might be able to produce sponsorship proposals and sponsorship package templates for your company.
You could write the standard operating procedures for prospecting, audience research, asset creation, and asset delivery.
Who knows? Your boss might even let you put together the fulfillment or post-event report, which would be a big undertaking.
At the very least, you could write a template for producing that report. It’s better than nothing.
There may be some cases where your boss thinks the responsibilities of obtaining sponsorship are too much for one person to take on. They’ll ask you to assemble a small task force within your company of people who can do sponsorship tasks.
You may or may not be on the task force. If you are, then great, you can continue helping.
If you aren’t, then offer to give as much help to the people who are on the task force. Then step back.
Although it’s easy to take things personally if that’s how they end, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Your boss is doing what they believe is best, and so you’ll have to hope it pans out positively.
Do be sure to check in with the members of the sponsorship task force every now and again and ask if they need help or how things are going.
It’s okay to still be invested in your company’s sponsorship outcomes even if it has to be from a distance.
Give Your Boss the Final Say
Perhaps you have a nice boss who allows you to take a more active role in the sponsorship process. If so, then congrats, as you’ve lucked out.
Maybe you’re the one who’s picking up the phone or corresponding via email to set up a discovery session. Your boss might have even advised you to do the discovery session, or if they attended, it was with your questions in tow.
Being more actively involved in the sponsorship process when you know how that process is supposed to transpire is an awesome feeling.
You can ensure everything is progressing the way it should so your company can hopefully have at least one sponsor in time for your next event or opportunity.
Even still, you know the old saying from Spider-Man. With great power comes great responsibility.
You know how it feels to be left out of the sponsorship loop. Don’t get so carried away with your newfound power that you make critical sponsorship decisions without consulting with your boss first.
Even if they take a sort of laissez-faire attitude to your involvement with sponsorship, it’s still good to check in with your boss about how the sponsorship program is progressing.
Before you meet with a sponsor again, let your boss know. Once you two begin negotiating, definitely let your boss know. Don’t sign any contracts until your boss has had the chance to look over them (and a lawyer at the very least).
What are you supposed to tell the sponsor in the midst of all this? You can say something to the effect of, “Let me just confirm this with my boss and I’ll get back to you today.”
Then please do follow up the same day. Sponsors are busy people too, and while they’re willing to wait for some answers, that’s not the case for all.
The sooner you can get a response to the sponsor, especially if it’s not an instant one, the better. You definitely want to reply within the same day, so make sure your boss is available.
Try to Make It Seem Like Their Idea
This last tip is optional but will help pave the way for a more harmonious working relationship between you and your boss moving forward.
As much as you can, try to make the sponsorship decisions seem like their idea. You came up with a cool activation idea and your boss recommended one minor tweak? Play up that tweak.
You painstakingly created the assets, and your boss categorized them a little differently than you did? Give them the kudos.
You have to remember that your ultimate goal here is not to get all the credit and the glory. You simply want to get sponsors for your company’s event or opportunity. That’s it.
It can be a kind of thankless process sometimes, and you have to be ready to live with that.
If it makes your boss feel better to have all the credit but you’re allowed to continue working on incoming sponsorship opportunities, I would count that as a win.
Your company will greatly benefit from you having a more active role in the sponsorship projects coming down the pipeline, after all!
Teaching your boss to do better sponsorship is not the easiest workplace challenge you’ll face, that’s for certain.
Remember to frame your concerns with kindness and use data and numbers, if possible, to verify your points. Don’t be a know-it-all, and don’t try to take all the credit either. The goal is to get more sponsors for your company, not to earn brownie points.
If you keep these tips in mind, you can gently guide your boss and help them improve in sponsorship. Good luck!
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.