The Sponsorship Proposal and…Shark Attacks?

Because it rarely happens that we receive a sponsorship investment without submitting a sponsorship proposal it is too easy to assume that the sponsorship proposal causes the sponsorship dollars. This belief pervades all aspects of sponsorship sales but actually the sponsorship proposal is not where we should be putting our efforts.

Before you go on, make sure you get a copy of my sponsorship proposal template!

The Sponsorship Proposal and Shark Attacks

Confused? Let me explain using an example from my university stats class (I knew one day my humanities degree would prove itself valuable). Shark attacks go up in the summer, ice cream consumption goes up in the summer, therefore eating ice cream causes shark attacks. Right? Well of course not, but we use this logic all the time.

Here is the sponsorship version of this argument: Dave got sponsorship for his event, Dave submitted a sponsorship proposal to company X immediately prior to receiving the money, therefore the sponsorship proposal caused the sponsorship dollars.

Both of these examples ignore something very important: confounding variables. What do ice cream and shark attacks have in common? Well, the summer of course! People swim more in the summer AND eat more ice cream in the summer. What is the confounding variable in the sponsorship scenario? Dave, of course! Note: Dave is a metaphor for the sponsorship sales person inside all of us…you don’t actually need to find a guy named Dave to sell your sponsorship.

The Sponsorship Proposal is Not the Sales Tool…You Are!

In sponsorship, as in fundraising and sales, the most important thing you can remember is this: the sponsorship proposal is not the sales tool, you are!

Listen, I know how hard it is to work in sponsorship sales. Everyone measures us on how many sponsorship proposal we’ve submitted. In fact, it took me years to stop measuring myself by the number of sponsorship proposal submitted and to shift to a better metric to focus on. The fact is, you have to change the conversation with your boss, with your board and with your staff. It’s hard work but well worth it.

Instead of counting proposals, break down the entire sales process into the main categories that lead to a sale and focus on counting movement between those categories. As long as you have movement, then you know things are working.

The Sponsorship Sales Process Made Simple

Here is a simplified version of what to track instead of just counting number of sponsorship proposal submitted:


These are the people that you think want to hear from you, or who you think need to hear from you. This is where you do your research and find a warm contact within the company.


You have spoken to someone at the company in question. Phone call or e-mail, both count. The key here is that you have connected to a real person and they have confirmed that they are the right person or will connect you to the right person.


Pretty obvious I suppose but basically, you have a meeting confirmed! The prospect is now a warm lead and wants to hear more. You still have not submitted a proposal at this point. At this meeting you will learn what they want to see in their custom proposal.

Sponsorship Proposal submitted:

You have submitted a proposal after asking permission from your prospect to do so. You may need multiple meetings to get to this point.

Follow up:

You have followed up directly (expect to do this A LOT). Set your prospect up on a weekly or biweekly schedule and check in regularly.


This is where you mark the proposal as approved or declined. Measuring the process in this was has a number of benefits. First, it gives you a real picture of what it takes to close a sponsor. Second, it lets you track where your deficiencies are. If you have 100 prospects who should have a strong interest in what you have to sell but you can’t get them to meet then you know you have to apply attention and effort there. If you get permission to submit a proposal but your success rate is only 5% then you may have a problem with pricing, proposal format, your product or your follow up process. The third benefit is that you know exactly how many prospects you need in order to trigger a sponsorship agreement.

The Most Important Step in Sponsorship Sales

The final, and most important benefit is that it shifts emphasis from the proposal to the meeting, where it should be. Remember my shark/ice cream example? If you are the confounding variable and the real sales tool then skipping the meeting and going right to proposal means you miss out on the most powerful part of the sales process: the relationship.

Start to track every step of the sales process, measure your conversion rate at each step and never ever eat ice cream before you swim…after all, maybe ice cream really does cause shark attacks!

Chris Baylis is an expert in sponsorship valuation and sponsorship strategy. Chris works with brands and sponsorship properties to define their sponsorship goals, determine market value of their sponsorship assets and create strategies that work.
Chris is the Managing Director of The Sponsorship Collective, a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and international speaker and consultant on all things sponsorship marketing.

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