Most sponsorship seekers’ eyes light up when I discuss sponsorship shortcuts. They’re overeager for a path that skips large parts of the process or validates their incorrect procedures.
For example, if you’ve sent 100 people a gold, silver, and bronze package, sending it to 300 more isn’t going to yield the results you seek. Increasing the number of logos you offer to sponsors also won’t do it.
That said, if you’re willing to put in the work, there are some tricks, hacks, and tips that can make the time you dedicate to sponsorship more efficient, which is especially important if you’re juggling other tasks, like your full-time workload or planning an event.
The Problem With Shortcuts by Most People’s Definition
So often in life, I find that giving advice only gets people so far.
At the end of the day, they’ll take your advice and temper it with whatever they believe will save time or effort.
This sounds good in theory but serves to only muddy up the message.
By the way, this applies outside of sponsorship too.
For example, allow me to brag for a moment about my lawn. I put a lot of effort and care into it, but ultimately, only care for it maybe 20 minutes a day.
Nevertheless, it’s the best lawn in the neighborhood. I’ve had countless people ask me for advice on how to make their lawns look as good, and I don’t gatekeep my strategies.
However, I find that my neighbors will listen to what I tell them…to an extent. They might germinate earlier than I suggested because it seems like it will save them time. In the end, they spend hours more on their lawns per week than I do.
In sponsorship, it might not necessarily be that you’re doing the wrong thing, but that you’re following an incorrect order or wrong quantities.
For instance, you should send a sponsorship package to sponsors in many cases. That said, you should never send it before you’ve even spoken to the sponsor.
That’s not a shortcut. It’s a surefire path to disappointment.
THESE Are the Sponsorship Shortcuts You Need
Here’s the thing about me. I’m a business owner. I’m a consultant in sponsorship. And yes, I have time to manage an impeccable lawn.
So, how do I do it? It’s simple. I only spend time on the tasks that require it, doing them in the right order.
Identify Your Sponsorship Opportunities
The first stage of sponsorship isn’t calculating how much money you need, then targeting the companies with the deepest pockets.
That’s not a stage at all, as it’s all incorrect.
Instead, you should begin by identifying what you can offer a sponsor. You don’t need a formal valuation yet, but you must know what you have that you can provide.
What are your specialties? Where does your expertise lie?
Don’t just focus on what you’re good at. Think about ROI.
Sponsors want marketing outcomes. Can the services you offer provide ROI?
The answers to these questions will help you determine what kinds of sponsors you should pursue (like a media partnership, contra sponsor, or cash sponsor) and loosely gauge what your sponsorship opportunity is worth.
Put Together Audience Data
I know, I know, audience data doesn’t seem like much of a shortcut.
However, in sponsorship, there are certain unavoidable tasks to building a property. You can think of these tasks as the foundation of your sponsorship property.
Imagine, for a minute, that you were building a home. If you skipped some of the foundation, the house wouldn’t be structurally stable, would it? Of course not.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable living in a place like that.
It extends beyond discomfort for your sponsors. They flat-out will not work with you if you don’t have audience data.
Sponsors want ROI, which means selling to their target market. If you can’t contribute to that target market because you have obtuse audience data, it’s a no-go.
I get asked a lot by sponsorship seekers how they’ll know when they’ve niched their audience data enough. Trust me, you’ll know. When you can’t segment your audience any further, then you’ve done enough.
Build Your Assets
You already began planning your assets, but now it’s time to identify them with more gusto and categorize them. Depending on your niche or industry, you can offer assets like speaking opportunities, logos, social media posts, event booths, interviews, product placement, or sponsored contests and giveaways.
Create Activation Ideas
When I say activation ideas, many sponsorship seekers assume I’m referring to gold, silver, and bronze sponsorship package tiers.
Trust me, I’m not speaking in code. When I say activation ideas, I mean ideas that will connect your audience and sponsor, solving a sponsor’s need and fulfilling your audience’s wants.
These ideas are fresh and customized to every sponsor. They’re not stuffed into a generic three-tier package that you send to everyone.
And what if you have no idea what your sponsors want? You’ve gone out of order. You can’t create activation ideas until you have the discovery session, and you can’t schedule discovery until you prospect.
Get Internal Buy-In
Sponsorship moves fast, just like business.
If it takes you six weeks to get internal approval, then another six weeks for the sponsor to get approval from their higher-up, you end up in a scenario where you could miss deadlines associated with your event.
Either that, or the sponsor ends up moving on.
Get internal buy-in to offer the assets and activations you’ve listed.
Value Your Assets and Activations
Now comes the time for a formal valuation.
That means researching the market price for each asset and activation you’ve compiled, one by one. There’s no faster way around it, and that’s only the start of the valuation process, so ensure you set aside at least an afternoon to work on your valuation.
Once you’ve determined the market value for your assets, you and another member or two of your team should decide whether to inch up your perceived value or decrease it.
It’s a personal judgment call that requires an honest assessment of what you deliver and how it’s different from the norm.
Not all your assets and activations will be five-star, and that’s okay. Lower-value assets aren’t worthless. They have their place, but the bulk of your assets shouldn’t be low-value.
You want a good mix between, low-, mid-, and high-value assets, with as many of the latter as you can offer.
Research Your Prospects
The next stage is prospect research. You can’t do this before gathering audience data, as your audience will tell you who they want your sponsors to be. You only have to look at the data you’ve accrued to see the brands they’ve mentioned most fervently.
Does that mean you should drop everything and contact those brands immediately? Well, no.
You must make sure they’re a good fit for your needs too. You also have to confirm they’re available, so do some digging on LinkedIn, the company website, and other socials to learn as much as you can.
Schedule a Discovery Session
You have a list of prospects to work with. Now you can finally contact them, but you’re not dropping your proposal in an email. You’re also not asking for money.
Your request is instead for the discovery session. You’ll have the chance to dig further than what your internet research yielded, peeling back the curtain and learning more about the sponsor to determine which assets and activations to offer them.
Build a Custom Package
Those assets go into a custom sponsorship package. That’s right, a custom package without any gold, silver, and bronze tiers.
By the way, calling gold, silver, and bronze tiers by any other name isn’t going to make a difference. It’s still tiered sponsorship, and today’s sponsors are so beyond tired of that model that your message likely won’t get much attention.
Keep Up Good Timing
Timing is everything in life, and that includes your sponsorship proposal.
I always tell my clients and fellow sponsorship seekers that the right time for the proposal is when the sponsor asks for it. I can’t tell you when that will be. Sometimes, it’s after several meetings, and sometimes, it never comes, as the sponsor doesn’t require a formal proposal.
Don’t jump the gun on what could otherwise be a promising deal by sending the proposal without a request. That’s unsolicited content, and most unsolicited content goes straight into the trash.
I already talked about how you should never send a sponsorship proposal first thing but let me say it again for those in the back.
And That’s How You Close the Deal
It takes several meetings, but you and your sponsor will naturally reach a point of negotiation, followed by a contract signing. Once you achieve that pinnacle, you can say you’ve officially gotten a sponsor for your event, program, or opportunity.
If you follow these shortcuts the same every time, you will see profitable results. Deviating from the path, reorganizing instructions and order as you see fit, is like my neighbors’ pursuits of greener lawns.
Their lawns all ended up shoddy or dying, while mine remains green with less effort. Yours can too!
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Chris Baylis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sponsorship Collective.
After spending several years in the field as a sponsorship professional and consultant, Chris now spends his time working with clients to help them understand their audiences, build activations that sponsors want, apply market values to their assets and build strategies that drive sales.
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