The Seven Deadly Sins of Sponsorship


When working with clients on their sponsorship sales goals and strategies, I see some common themes come up again and again. Unfortunately, when I am working on the brand side and helping them assess their sponsorship marketing goals…we see the same trends from those seeking sponsorship dollars.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Sponsorship

Check out this infographic for a quick and easy reference to avoid committing these sponsorship sins! Want your very own copy? Click here to download it now!

Deadly Sin #1: Lack of Sponsorship Valuation

Guessing at what to charge is also called the “shoulder shrug method” of sponsorship valuation and is hugely risky and damaging. The other issue is that sponsors look at hundreds of sponsorship proposals and know immediately when someone has guessed at their valuation! More and more I am having clients come to me asking me to do a valuation for them because their sponsors are demanding it before they are willing to move to the next stage of negotiation.

It is essential for you to understand the market value of what you’re offering by applying a value to all of your assets. Don’t apply a value to a sponsorship level just because it’s what you did last year or because it’s what your competitors are doing. Every sponsorship property is different and the value of your assets changes based on a wide range of factors.

Deadly Sin #2: The Sponsorship Proposal First Method

E-mailing somebody your sponsorship proposal without explicit permission to do so is a great way to get yourself on spam lists, but it’s a terrible way to sell sponsorship. People buy from people and asking a prospect, who you’ve never met, to look through your sponsorship package to determine for themselves what they want to spend money on is at best useless and at worst damaging to your reputation! Looking to sell sponsorship? You are going to have to sit down with your prospects.

Deadly Sin #3: In-Kind “Sponsorship”

In a world where cash is king, I am not a big fan of in-kind sponsorship. There, I said it! I am also not a fan of the philosophy that you should use sponsorship to cover off your expenses and let ticket sales drive your revenue. The hard costs of your event or program have nothing to do with the market value of your assets (see deadly sin #1).

Getting “free” wine, AV, lunch, dinner, photo booths etc. is actually costing you thousands of dollars. Why? Because the value of the wine is unrelated to its hard costs. Every logo placement, call out from the stage, and opportunity to connect your sponsors to their audience has value. Apply your valuation calculator to your wine (and all in-kind sponsorships) and sell it to companies who care about your demographic. Bonus tip: I never sell wine sponsorship to wine producers, instead I look for professional services firms who want to connect with my audience.

Deadly Sin #4: Thinking that Sponsorship is Corporate Philanthropy

If you ask 100 fundraisers if sponsorship is philanthropy they will tell you no. But if you look at their sponsorship packages, prospecting e-mails and sales materials, they are PACKED with information about their mission, vision, program, users and social impact.

I have had clients tell me that they have a fantastic sponsorship property who then tell me its value is based entirely on the impact they are having on their program users. Is your impact important? Of course! But when you are talking sponsorship, you are talking about ways to grow your prospect’s brand, find more customers and bring in more profit. If you can’t show the direct link between your program outcomes and your prospect’s goals then you are suffering from this sin and blurring the lines between sponsorship and corporate philanthropy.

Deadly Sin #5: No Sponsorship Activation Strategy (or Budget)

This is a sin shared by brands and by properties equally. I have heard brands tell me that their sponsorship investment just isn’t paying off only to then tell me that they planned to spend exactly $0 on sponsorship activation. The same is true on the property side. They get the money and expect the sponsor to remember everything they paid for and to provide it on time.

As a property, it is your responsibility to make sure that your sponsor gets every single item they paid for in your sponsorship package. What’s the best way to do that? Create a plan complete with dates and internal leads/staff support to make sure you are checking in with your sponsors regularly. Not sure where to start? Check out my free e-book for a free template!

As a brand investing in sponsorship, my question is this: What good is buying the right to tell a story/feature a logo/speak to a crowd if you don’t do it? When investing in sponsorship, plan to spend at least 10% of the total value of the sponsorship on activation. If you want to give away coupons, products, host a party or attend a conference with your national sales team, budget significantly more than 10%. Don’t be afraid to negotiate price with your properties to accommodate activation costs but if you aren’t activating your sponsorship investment, you are wasting your money.

Deadly Sin #6 The Missing Sponsorship Fulfillment Report

For every single sponsor you have, for every single sponsorship property you have, you must produce a fulfillment report! These reports don’t have to be complicated but you definitely have to provide one.

You’ve spent all that time negotiating the sponsorship and then activating that sponsorship, fulfillment is your chance to prove to your sponsor that you delivered on everything you said you would. It also gives you the chance to meet with your sponsors, while they’re still excited, and ask them back next year.

For the brands, if you aren’t getting a fulfillment report from your properties…ask for one! You are investing your money, spending money on activation and committing time to this relationship. The fulfillment report is your proof that you got everything you paid for and it also gives you the chance to show your boss how well you are investing your marketing dollars.

Deadly Sin # 7: Not Understanding the Sponsorship Sales Cycle

If I had a dollar for every time I heard from a property three months away from their end of fiscal, program launch date or major event I would be a rich man. If I had a dollar for every time I was laughed at for selling sponsorship for an event months (or even years) before an event I would be a rich man! The laughing stopped when I made budget…but it still hurt 😉

Most companies go into planning mode in the fall (September – November). Not all, but many do. They then decide on their marketing expenses for the following year based on that agreed-upon budget. So if you have an event in the fall of 2016, you are too late to launch your sales strategy in the spring of 2016. Is that to say that you won’t sell ANY sponsorship if you start late? Of course you will, but you are leaving money on the table while you fight for the unassigned marketing dollars left over from the previous planning cycle.

This doesn’t meant that you should shift all of your sales into the fall and ignore all other times. Building relationship happens all year AND not every company follows this approach. Not sure when the best time to talk to your prospects is? Ask them!


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.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn