Do you know what alchemy is?
It refers to a creation or transformation process that’s “seemingly magical,” as the Oxford Dictionary puts it. Yet alchemy does have real roots in science and chemistry.
The kind of alchemy I’ll talk about today is more of the nature of Cinderella’s carriage becoming a pumpkin after midnight. You know, fantastical stuff.
I have a lot of clients who think that if they just put in enough time that they can transform that ordinary pumpkin back into a carriage and be well on the road to sponsorship sales.
In today’s post, I want to talk about why that doesn’t work and what you should do instead.
Working Harder, Not Smarter – The Risks of Sponsorship Alchemy
What inspired this post was a collection of clients of mine who all came to me with the same sort of story.
They told me about working many long hours on their sponsorship programs. When I talk about long hours, I mean these clients were committing 12 hours, 14 hours, even 16 hours per day on sponsorship.
Whew! When are you supposed to sleep? I’m not sure myself considering some of these clients were working nights and weekends.
After all, for many sponsorship seekers, obtaining sponsorship is not their full-time job. They work other demanding jobs and then have personal roles such as being a spouse, friend, son/daughter, parent, or community member.
Getting back to my clients, here was their plight. Even though they were pouring every ounce of personal time they had into sponsorship, they weren’t seeing the results they wanted. The pumpkin was still just a pumpkin, not a magical carriage.
What’s worse, my clients were burnt out. I can’t blame them at all for that. Humans are not meant to push themselves 24/7, even if it is to pad their ROI with sponsorship sales.
The problem my clients had was this: what they were doing was putting low-quality, low-cost, low-value ingredients together, applying pressure, and hoping for gold. They wanted magic. They wanted alchemy.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but low-quality, low-cost, low-value ingredients do not make something incredible. If you baked a cake with the cheapest ingredients you could find, the cake is going to taste terrible. If you put more money, time, and effort into the cake, it will come out well.
There’s no magic to that, just like there’s no magic to sponsorship sales.
Identifying Where You’re Lacking in Your Sponsorship Program
You’ve heard of the phrase “work smarter, not harder,” right? This means that by prioritizing the tasks that need to get done, having a plan, and then executing on that plan, you can work efficiently and remain productive, getting the same amount of work done in less time.
If you’ve put in dozens or even hundreds of hours into your sponsorship program and you’re still not seeing the results you want, the idea isn’t to send more cold emails or fill out more sponsorship forms.
What you must do instead is look at the ingredients you’re working with.
This is just like the cake example from the last section. Once you break down the ingredients, you’ll realize you’re using cheap cocoa, expired eggs, and other poor ingredients that are altogether producing a bad product.
Of course, assessing your sponsorship program so candidly is not always as easy, but I want to guide you through doing just that in this section.
Here are some areas where your sponsorship program might be woefully underperforming.
What is your current prospecting process like? Or maybe you don’t even have a prospecting process.
Finding the right sponsorship opportunities is not about which brands have the greatest name value or the deepest pockets. It’s about which companies align with the needs of your target audience.
For example, if you’re a vegan nonprofit, you wouldn’t want to work with a brand like Tyson just because it’s got name recognition. Tyson produces meat. Your target audience would not mesh well with Tyson.
I have a prospecting formula I like to use that can help you increase your prospects and thus your sponsorship sales. Here it is.
A1 + I (A2 x V) = P
Like most math formulas, you’re probably thinking “what the heck does that mean?” (Unless you’re a math whiz, in which case, congrats!) Allow me to explain.
A1 refers to your audience, I is for inventory, A2 x V is your sponsorship assets multiplied by their market value, and P is your sponsorship prospect.
So the formula, in full, is this: Audience + Inventory (Sponsorship Assets x Market Value) = Prospects.
Unless you have good audience data, you can’t prospect sponsors successfully. How do I define good audience data? Your data is current and complete. You’ve surveyed your audience within the last six months, and you have a full picture of their demographics, geographics, and psychographics.
You should understand your audience’s current product/service usage, interests, brand preferences, opinions, and motivations.
If you don’t have that kind of information handy, this article will show you how to put together an audience survey that will paint a clearer picture of who your audience is. Then you can segment your audience into very narrow niches and create customer avatars that make it easier to categorize each niche.
Do you struggle to come up with quality activation ideas? This is a common problem among my clients, so don’t feel bad if you’re having a creativity block.
The best activation ideas aren’t necessarily the most unique. They’re instead the highest value. The more sponsor goals you can check off at once with your activation opportunities, the more valuable that opportunity is.
Yet your sponsors aren’t the only ones attending your events. There’s also your audience. You need to fulfill their needs as well while still meeting the sponsor’s goals. So rather than try to think about how much it would cost to get a six-foot cake into a convention hall for your big activation idea, choose your activation opportunities based on how well they align your sponsor with your audience.
Case studies are a form of testimonials. When you read them, you realize how competent a company is, which makes you feel better about trusting that company and buying their products and services.
You obviously can’t have any sponsorship case studies if you’re a first-time sponsorship seeker, but once you’ve got that initial sponsorship under your belt, prepare a formal case study.
Since you’ve already been spending so much time on your sponsorship program anyway, you can afford to take a couple of hours on a case study. Unlike the activities you’ve been doing, this one will pay back dividends.
Imagine going to a pawn shop with an item that’s hugely valuable, only you don’t know that it is. You sell it for a fraction of what it’s worth. Later, you get curious, so you decide to research the value of the original item. Then you realize how much money you missed out on.
That’s the same sort of scenario that will play out if you fail to valuate your assets. To find the highest-value assets, I refer you to the link above on the sponsorship sales funnel. Putting together valuable assets requires the sponsor’s involvement, as you need to understand their goals to determine what’s valuable to them.
For example, one sponsor might find speaking opportunities very valuable while another will not.
The most valuable opportunities are those that achieve the biggest goals for the sponsor, and it’s your job to find them.
I’ve seen sponsorship seekers come up with good assets and then stuff them into tired gold, silver, and bronze packages. I can’t stress enough that sponsors don’t want this. They don’t like being forced into paying for a bunch of expensive assets just to get a couple of assets they’re interested in.
Rather, just as you worked with the sponsor when evaluating assets, seek their guidance when putting together a sponsorship menu as well. The best packages are customized to a sponsor’s needs.
Again, this isn’t something you can do until you’ve had at least one successful sponsorship, but one of the last steps of a sponsorship deal is to produce a fulfillment report. In the report, you detail all the goals of the partnership and how they were achieved, including detailed stats, numbers, and figures.
The fulfillment report tells the sponsor how well you lived up to your end of the deal. This document can absolutely influence whether a sponsor works with you again, so get into the habit of making one after every sponsored event.
If you didn’t achieve all the goals you were aiming for, don’t flub the numbers or lie outright. Your sponsor will find out, as it’s not hard to dig up the true metrics for your event. Rather than try to work with this sponsor again right now, you need to do some introspection to determine why you couldn’t fulfill your goals.
If your bucket is leaky, it doesn’t matter how much water you pour into it. You will never fill that bucket. Your sponsorship program is much the same way.
If you can’t identify the areas of your sponsorship program that aren’t driving results, then you’ll never earn the sponsorship sales your company or organization needs. What’s worse, you’ll waste countless hours on pointless activities and burn yourself out.
There is no magical spell for success in sponsorship or in real life. Low-quality ingredients will produce a low-quality finished product. Pumpkins will not become carriages no matter how much we wish they could.
If you need help identifying where you’re lacking in your sponsorship program, I have free training that will certainly help. You can also schedule a call with me.
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.