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Seven More Deadly Sins of Sponsorship

by | May 21, 2024

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In this post, I talked about the Seven Deadly Sins of Sponsorship. I got a lot of great feedback on the post, as many sponsorship seekers felt like they learned a lot.

Well, guess what? I’m back with seven more sponsorship sins you don’t want to be guilty of doing, so let’s get right into them. 

Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Not Knowing What You Want

Before you even utter the word “sponsorship,” you and your teammates need to sit down and go over what you want. 

A sponsor can’t fulfill your business needs without them being clearly defined, and tossing random financial figures around without calculating event/program/opportunity costs is a surefire way to end up short of what you need. 

There has to be a reason, or multiple reasons, why you were inclined to look into sponsorship in the first place. Maybe you’re seeking funding for your gala, or you have so much audience demand that you want to expand your event to two days but can’t afford to do it on your own. 

Whatever the reason, you must be crystal clear about what you want, as that’s the only way you can seek the kinds of sponsors you need to fulfill your goals. After all, not all sponsors give out cash. Some offer free items, others media exposure, and others still promotions. 

Cash sponsors solve a lot of problems for businesses and organizations, but they’re not always what you need.  

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Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Being Afraid to Follow Up 

I’ve seen a lot of sponsorship seekers who let perfectly good opportunities go because they don’t want to “impose” on their sponsor after sending an initial email or leaving a voicemail. And while I can understand the courteousness in not wanting to bother your sponsor too much, you have to be willing to follow up.

Not only that, but you must be willing to follow up more than once, sometimes a whole handful of times.

In this post, I discuss the value of a communication cadence, a week of outreach, if you will. Even if you called or emailed your sponsor, you should eventually branch out into the other communication method to cover your bases. 

Here’s how to do it. Send one email a day for three days, then pick up the phone on the fourth day. Go back to emailing on the fifth and sixth days and call again on the seventh day.

If you follow this cadence and still don’t hear back, there’s a reason for that. The sponsor is trying to dodge you. 

Now, the lack of communication doesn’t always mean the deal is dead in the water. If you have multiple contacts within the company, I recommend following the sponsorship cadence with each, going one at a time.

That said, if you’ve gone through two or three contacts, given them a week each to get back to you, and no one has bothered, you have to read the writing on the wall there. 

Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Following Up Too Much 

Just as detrimental is not knowing when enough is enough. 

Your sponsors are people too. They have lives, both professional and personal, that require a lot of their time and obligation. If it’s been an hour since you’ve reached out and you haven’t heard back, you should not contact the sponsor. Heck, if it’s been a day since you’ve made contact, you still don’t get in touch yet.

Give them at least a week. If you’re really on a time crunch because of an upcoming event or program, then make it at least three business days. 

Pestering the sponsor is not going to make them give you more consideration over others vying for their time and attention. If anything, it’s going to get you blocked.

And on the note of incessantly contacting sponsors, have you stopped and thought about whether you’re giving them a reason to reply to your initial contact? If you send a sponsorship proposal without being asked for it and are otherwise using sales tactics, don’t be surprised if you get radio silence in return. 

The very beginning of your professional relationship with a sponsor is not the time to send a proposal. You might as well wear a giant sign that says, “I don’t customize my services,” because that’s what you’re telling the sponsor. 

Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Having Happy Ears 

In a recent post, I talked about the phenomenon of happy ears. 

Here’s a quick test to tell if you have them. If a sponsor asks to send them a proposal, do you:

  1. Do it posthaste.
  2. Ask more questions before sending the proposal.
  3. Discuss customizing the proposal. 

If you answered A or B (especially A), then I have some bad news for you. You have happy ears. 

You see, I refer to a case of happy ears as when a sponsorship seeker takes a sponsor’s words at face value. Here’s the hard truth: sponsors lie. All professionals in a position of power lie when they have to.


People generally don’t like confrontation, especially in business environments. Yet working life can be cutthroat, with people being passed over even though they feel like they’re the best candidate. Hence, silence prevents a kerfuffle even HR would struggle to smooth over. 

So the problem with taking a sponsor’s words at face value and having happy ears is you often end up wasting your time. If you write a proposal the second a sponsor offhandedly tells you to give them one, not realizing they’re not interested, think about how much time you’ll lose.

There’s the time put into the proposal, then all the follow-ups you’ll do, wondering why the sponsor has gone dark when they said they wanted to see the proposal.

If you have any sort of time-sensitive event or opportunity coming up, you can’t afford to have happy ears. Wasting your time in this fashion will leave you short of your goals. 

Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Misusing the Discovery Session 

I always recommend my clients seek a discovery session with their prospects. This initial meeting is your chance to ask your prospect about the inner workings of their industry and business. 

You can see the kinds of numbers that companies don’t publish publicly, especially if they show any sign of failure.

This kind of information helps you gain a big-picture level of understanding of the sponsor’s challenges. Your next task would be to review your services to see which ones can solve those challenges.

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With an opportunity so golden as this, why waste it? 

Yet you’d be surprised. Many sponsorship seekers use the discovery session as a sales meeting. They walk in, figurative guns blazing, their sponsorship proposal under one arm, their sales pitch on their tongue, ready to shake hands and finalize deals.

And do you know what happens to these sponsorship seekers? They don’t get past that first meeting. 

As I always tell my clients, you will have the opportunity to sell your sponsorship services, but not that early. First, you need something worth selling, and that’s what the discovery session is set up to do. It’s like a key to the door of customized services, so don’t throw it away! 

Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Being Too Cause-Focused

One of the biggest of the Deadly Sins of Sponsorship is focusing on your cause. It’s almost like the Achilles’ heel of sponsorship seekers. 

This affliction mostly impacts sponsorship seekers involved in nonprofits and charities. They’re heavily cause-focused, especially when acquiring donations, and incorrectly believe that sponsors want to hear just as fervently about the cause.

But here’s why they don’t. At the end of the day, a sponsor is chasing a marketing outcome, usually more leads, conversions, or sales. Your cause, as awesome as I’m sure it is, doesn’t achieve those marketing outcomes.

I mean, if somehow, it does, then more power to you, but 99 percent of causes do not. That’s why when you go into sponsorship prospecting and discovery talking about your cause, you’re a lot more likely to get ignored. 

Sponsors want audience data above all else. Take the energy you would have put toward your cause and funnel it there instead. 

Deadly Sponsorship Sin: Focusing More on Being the Sponsor’s Friend Than Their Partner 

I always like to remind my clients to treat sponsors like people and not walking ATM machines. However, some sponsorship seekers have taken that advice and ran with it…like, way too far away.

There’s no rule that says you and the sponsor have to be pals to have a successful working relationship. Sure, it’s nice if you have a few things in common and can chat about more than the weather, but if you can’t? It doesn’t matter as long as you’re achieving your business objectives. That will get sponsors to warm up to you fast.

In my experience, the sponsorship seekers that try way too hard to be a sponsor’s friend are overcompensating for a lack of audience data or murky valuations. They assume it will be a lot harder for the sponsor to turn a friend down, so they spend all their time focusing on building that relationship. 

It’s a smart train of thought but ultimately incorrect. Your contact within the sponsorship company rarely gets the final say over whether you’re accepted or not. Others above them have to approve the deal logistically and financially, meaning your friendship could have been all for naught. 


Can Other Types of Sponsors Become Cash Sponsors?

I mean, theoretically, but it’s unlikely. Media and promotional sponsors excel in their wide audience reach, whereas in-kind sponsors don’t usually have the money to offer you. If you want a cash sponsor, seek a cash sponsor. 

When Is It Too Late to Approach a Sponsor About Working Together?

It’s too late if your event is less than six months out. Sponsorship can be a long process because it involves so many people, so the time crunch is too much. That’s why I always recommend contacting a prospective sponsor about a partnership as soon as your current event, program, or opportunity ends.

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What Do I Do If My Sponsor Replied to Me Once, Then Went Quiet Again?

You can begin the outreach cadence again, giving them another week to get back to you. If they replied once, they are more likely to do it again. However, if they don’t, start the outreach cadence with your next contact in the company. 

Wrapping Up 

You thought we were through after the first Seven Deadly Sins of Sponsorship? Oh, no. That I managed to scrounge up seven more proves that sponsorship is a tough process to navigate. 

However, many of the errors I discussed today are easy to avoid with some know-how and research. I hope you can apply this information for more streamlined communications with sponsors and prospects!