Imagine walking into a shoe store with nothing on the shelves and no samples of product to try on. Now imagine being confronted by the sales person who asks you for $150 because it is his goal to sell $150 worth of shoes to you. How would you feel? Would you think you are getting high value for your money or being used to help someone make their sales goals? Selling sponsorship without an inventory is like trying to sell shoes without any product. It just doesn’t work. If you want to make $1 million then you need $1 million dollars worth of product to sell.
You simply cannot sell sponsorship if you don’t have an inventory. You can’t build an inventory unless you have identified your sponsorship properties. It can be hard to look beyond events when trying to identify sponsorship properties, so let’s take a look at different ways to build properties and sponsorship assets.
Sponsorship Property Creation
Before you can decide what to sell, you have to decide on a property. What is a property? I like to think of a sponsorship property as something that unites a group of assets, based on a shared audience and common communications goals.
Can a gala or marathon be a property? Of course! They can also be part of a broader property that unites them. If the marathon is part of a series of events used to bring together the same audience over and over, like university alumni from the legal program, then you might think of those networking events as one property and each individual event as an asset.
Some organizations look at their communications platform as a property in and of itself while others see it as an asset to be used by multiple properties to drive up the value of their sponsorship packages.
The fact is, anything can become a sponsorship property. Spend some time thinking about your events, your communications, your physical spaces and your stakeholders (alumni, employees, volunteers, customers etc.). What can you combine and package in new ways that allow your prospects to get in front of your audience?
Sponsorship Inventory Development
Sometimes it can be tough to start at the top (property creation) and then move on to assets. For many organizations, starting with their assets is an easier process and then those assets can point to natural groupings into sponsorship properties.
The goal in inventory development is to build the biggest list of assets possible. While developing your inventory, avoid questions around ethics and appropriate types of sponsorship. Am I suggesting that you ignore your ethical policies? Of course not! But getting into the minutiae at this stage is a distraction and if you identify assets that you later decide are too risky, they can lead you to think of versions of those assets that are on side with your policies.
Some ideas that can help the process:
- Do a physical survey of the area and take photos. Look for logo placement opportunities and natural areas of significant traffic.
- Will you stage photos anywhere? Will photos naturally occur in a particular area (like a stage or finish line)?
- List all of your digital assets including content marketing opportunities and backlinks to your sponsors.
- Can you offer video on your website? In your e-mails? Can you record your sponsors giving information required by your audience (like registration information)?
- Sponsorship value comes from defining your audience and providing access. How can you connect your sponsors to your audience beyond simple logo placement?
- What naming rights can you offer prospects?
- What stories can you offer them to share with their target audience?
- Can you offer product exclusivity or supplier contracts?
I typically start my inventory building sessions with “logo placement” not because I think it’s valuable or the most important, but to get it out of the way! Most people think of sponsorship as all about logos. Logo placement is part of the process, but it is by far the least valuable asset around so I give the group 15 minutes to talk logos and then we banish logo placement discussions from the rest of the session.
How to Identify Valuable Sponsorship Assets
The most valuable assets are those that your sponsors want more than others. How do you identify what your sponsors want? Ask them! But before you do, make sure you have gone through your property with a fine tooth comb.
As a general rule, the most valuable assets are the intangible kind. Your sponsors can pay for logo placement and advertising through a near-endless source of opportunities. Simple branding techniques are available just about everywhere and your sponsor has no trouble finding access to your audience through traditional advertising as well as digital marketing. You no doubt have heard it said that sponsorship and advertising are not the same thing…unless you make them the same thing by not identifying your intangible assets.
Speaking opportunities, co-branding, product endorsement, cause marketing, thought leadership, category exclusivity, meeting celebrities or industry influencers, conversion rates and the power of your brand to influence your audience are far more valuable than even a million logo placement opportunities (unless those logo placements convey any of the above intangibles, of course).
The process of defining your property and building your inventory should be time intensive and involved but, this is time well spent because your entire sponsorship strategy depends on this stage in the sponsorship process.
Chris Baylis is a corporate sponsorship and cause marketing expert. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+