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Know Your Numbers in Sponsorship 

by | May 4, 2021

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  • 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
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  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Over the years, I’ve talked with enough sponsorship seekers to know that almost all my clients are very busy people. Many of them don’t do sponsorship as a full-time gig. They have a nine-to-five job that drains them of their time and creative energies. Then they’ve got to go home and be supermom or superdad or part of a book club or a community center or however they spend their spare time.

Finding the time to squeeze sponsorship into such a tight schedule is hard! But if you recognize that you need to start your sponsorship program now, then that’s already half the battle. 

With such little time to spare for sponsorship, I don’t want to see you go around in circles doing the wrong kinds of tasks for your sponsorship program. You only have 24 hours in a day and far fewer of those hours to dedicate to sponsorship, so you need to make sure you’re following the right numbers. These numbers will tell you if you’re succeeding with your sponsorship program or whether you need to reevaluate.

Which numbers am I talking about? You’ll have to keep reading! 

These Sponsorship Numbers Will Drive Your Program Forward

I know I say it a lot, but sponsorship isn’t one of those magical things that just happens. It has both rhyme and reason. Yet so often I see sponsorship seekers taking a randomized approach to sponsorship with no real defined strategy. Maybe this is their first time and they don’t know any better. Or perhaps they got lucky and found a sponsor, but they aren’t sure what they did right, so they’re throwing everything at the wall and waiting to see what sticks.

I won’t say sponsorship is never about trial and error, as that would be untrue, but a well-defined strategy is integral in getting anywhere with your sponsorship program. To get that strategy down pat, you have to assess the following metrics. 

Number of Sponsorship Prospects to Hit Your Goal

Why are you seeking sponsorship? Are you hosting a gala or a sporting event? Maybe a convention? Next, you need to determine what you need from a sponsor. Most sponsorship seekers want money, but others desire publicity. Some even need a mix of both. 

Knowing that, you’d then have to figure out how many sponsorship prospects you need to achieve your goals. Lots of my clients will start with this number first, then calculate the number of sponsorship sales required second. I like to do it backwards, using sales numbers to figure out your required number of prospects. 

If you’re insistent on doing things your way, then I would say to keep your estimated number of prospects very open-ended. You’ll probably find as you begin calculating other conversions that you may need more prospects than you had originally estimated!

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Number of Replies to Sponsorship Emails

Before you can begin broaching the topic of sponsorship sales, the prospect has to do one thing: open an email. This sounds so simple, but as you can learn once you get your sponsorship program underway, it isn’t. Let me tell you now that cold-emailing a sponsor your sponsorship proposal will leave you with a whopping email open rate of…zero percent. 

Okay, maybe 0.1 percent or some other ridiculously low number, but so low that it’s not worth doing. I can see where the temptation to cold-email your proposal comes from. Instead of sending emails, waiting for a response, meeting with the target sponsor, doing a discovery session (or several), sending your proposal, and then waiting for an answer, you can skip most of that process. You’ll just move on straight to the proposal.

How would you feel if you got an email from a complete stranger with an attachment that’s a long document begging you for money? No wonder sponsors don’t like this kind of approach!

I always recommend going through your contacts and seeing who knows who so you’re not cold-emailing a sponsor. Oh, and please don’t send your proposal until it’s asked of you. If you do those two things, your email open rates should go up and you’ll begin getting replies.

Number of Target Sponsors Who Agreed to Meet

You’ve sent out some emails to target sponsors and got more replies than you anticipated. That’s great, but it’s only the beginning of the sponsorship process. After all, an email response means zilch if a sponsor doesn’t want to have a meeting.

Keep in mind that not all meetings have to be in-person sit-downs. You can do a video chat or have a phone call too. At this time, you’re in the discovery phase, meaning you’re asking specific questions of the sponsor to learn about their ROI goals, audience, and business goals. I have a list of 37 discovery questions you won’t want to miss.

Not only do you have to tabulate the number of sponsorship prospects who you’re meeting with at this point, but then the number of prospects that your company gels with. That’s the goal of asking discovery questions, to learn whether pursuing sponsorship with this prospect is within both your best interests. 

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Number of Sponsorship Proposals Requested

Of all the areas where your sponsorship program can go south, it’s right here. Notice how I didn’t say “number of sponsorship proposals sent.” You can send out 900 proposals to cold prospects. If none of those prospects open your emails, or if they open your emails but don’t respond, then it doesn’t matter if you sent out 900 or 900 million proposals. Your sponsorship program will stall out here.

When the target sponsor requests a proposal, then you know you’re on the right track. Them asking to see the proposal still doesn’t guarantee a sponsorship sale, but you at least know you have their interest. That’s not something you could say if you’re blindly cold-emailing any and every prospect your proposal. 

Number of Sponsorship Sales Achieved

At the beginning of your sponsorship program, outside of deciding how many target sponsors you should have, you also must know the number of sponsorship sales you need. That’s why I say working backwards is best, which you’ll see for yourself momentarily as I show you how it’s done. 

That said, the other metrics will put into perspective how high of a number of sponsorship sales you should reasonably expect to bring in. If prospects aren’t opening your emails, or if you’re meeting with prospects but not hearing back after sending your proposal, these things will all impact your sales for the worse. You need to take a step back and reassess what parts of your sponsorship program aren’t getting you through to the end where you earn the sale. 

Putting It All Together

As promised, I want to show you how you can use sponsorship sales projections to calculate the number of prospects you need to reach out to. Keep in mind that these conversion numbers will be pretty high, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination.

So this year, you want to onboard 10 new sponsors, which would mean 10 sponsorship sales. When you send your sponsorship proposal, 50 percent of your prospects will say yes. You’d have to send 20 proposals to get that 50-percent approval rate. 

Since discovery precedes sending a sponsorship proposal, we need to know your discovery close rate. This is how many prospects ask for a proposal based on your discovery sessions. If you want to send only 20 proposals, you’d be required to do 60 discovery sessions. 

You can’t ask discovery questions if the target sponsor doesn’t agree to meet. If you’re in-line with the above goals so far, then you’d need a meeting conversion rate of 30 percent or 180 prospects. 

That brings us to the email or phone call response rate. If yours is around 20 percent, then how many sponsorship prospects would have to be in your pipeline? It’s a grand total of…900! Yes, 900 total prospects to get 10 sponsorship sales.

Remember, the conversion rates I used in this example are higher than average, so you might need more than 900 prospects to start. Of course, it’s just an example, but it shows how one metric informs the others and determines what level of sponsorship sales you should anticipate. 


Of all the mistakes you can make in your pipeline, sending the sponsorship proposal too soon is the biggest. You can’t rely on the strength of your proposal to make the sponsorship sale. Your proposal is just a document. It doesn’t make the sale; you do. 

If you’re ready to supercharge your sponsorship program, why not enroll in my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program? You’ll learn about the information that sponsors care about when deciding who they choose to work with. I’ll also discuss three areas of your sponsorship program that need your time and the most. 

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