The Five Components of a Winning Sponsorship Proposal
I think one of the most common sponsorship topics that I still get asked about all the time to this day is the sponsorship proposal.
People want to know how to write ‘em, when to use ‘em, and how to use ‘em, but especially how to write them.
I’ve dedicated thousands upon thousands of words on this blog about writing sponsorship proposals and have even presented a handy-dandy template that I highly recommend you check out.
Today’s post will be more quick and to-the-point, acting sort of as your checklist for what your proposal needs before you can consider it finished.
If you’ve already started writing a sponsorship proposal or it’s on your to-do list for the immediate future, then this is one guide you won’t want to miss!
Without further ado, here are five things your sponsorship proposal must have.
As the paragraphs above prove, I’m sometimes guilty of writing a long intro. It happens.
In my case, it’s because I have so much information that I want to share.
In the case of sponsorship seekers, especially those pursuing sponsorship for the very first time, they either have no idea how long the intro is supposed to be or they feel like they have to get a bit long-winded.
Well, allow me to tell you that the sponsorship proposal has no room for long-windedness on any of the pages, the intro especially.
I don’t like to conflate sponsorship and sales, as that gives some sponsorship seekers the misconception that sales are the most important part of sponsorship, but for the sake of example, I’m going to do it here.
If you were having a sales meeting with a potential customer, you wouldn’t launch into a 20-minute discussion about your company and how it was founded, right?
No! And why not? Because no one cares, especially at that stage.
And it’s no different in sponsorship. Your sponsor does not know you, and if they’re obliging you by reading the sponsorship proposal, it’s because they have yet to make up their mind about you.
As soon as they see that you’re going on and on for two and a half pages about your company history, their eyes will glaze over, and they’ll promptly delete your proposal.
Or, in the case of a physical proposal, they’ll throw it in the trash.
Short intros are key. Stick to three sentences max and your intro is finished.
I know, I’m not giving you a lot of space to work with, but I believe in you. You can condense whatever your message is into three can’t-miss sentences.
Follow the 50-Percent Rule
When writing a sponsorship proposal, I’m a big proponent of following the 50-percent rule, and I think you will be too.
What is the 50-percent rule, you ask?
Well, if you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry. I came up with it here for my clients at the Sponsorship Collective.
Essentially, the 50-percent rule is this. Fifty percent of your sponsorship proposal should be all about audience data.
Yes, you read that right. Half your sponsorship proposal needs to be about your audience.
You already know that I’m limiting you to only three sentences for your intro about your company history, mission, cause, and all that jazz.
That’s why I created the 50-percent rule in the first place, to further nudge sponsorship seekers away from focusing too much of their proposals on the stuff that doesn’t matter.
If half of your sponsorship proposal consists of audience data, then I promise you that it contains enough data that sponsors want to see.
You’ll have at least 25 data points on your audience segments and maybe even more.
Those segments will be fully fleshed out and niched down. There will be no suggestions here of your audience being “middle-class families” or “working people in their 40s” or “insert whatever other vague audience segment you have here.”
Those people aren’t audiences anyway. They’re nebulous descriptors. You need to go a lot more granular, and the 50-percent rule will help you get there.
So I’m sure you’re thinking right now, “okay, Chris, but if 50 percent of my proposal is audience data, then what’s the other 50 percent?”
That’s the rest of the content in your sponsorship proposal, including (but not limited to), your intro, your assets, your activations, and your contact information.
The 50-percent rule is not an excuse to use the other half of the proposal to talk about your cause. We’re past that already. You get three sentences.
Understand What Motivates Your Prospects
The third of the five components of a winning sponsorship proposal is understanding what your prospects care about.
I’ll give you a hint – it’s not your cause. I would even go so far as to say your cause is irrelevant here.
I know, it seems like I’m harping on this one aspect, but I really want to drive home that the average sponsorship seeker cannot use their cause as the basis of winning a sponsorship deal.
A great cause is never going to motivate a sponsor company to hand over a check with six or seven zeroes at the end because really, what’s in it for them if they do that?
Sponsorship is not about how convincing you can be or how much you can beg for cash. Rather, it’s about understanding the challenges of another company and then applying solutions to those problems.
This isn’t something that happens without booking a discovery session with your sponsor while your sponsorship program is still in its early stages. At this point, the sponsor is just a prospect, as you have yet to sign any deals.
Once you take that time to ask about the sponsor’s challenges, it’s your job to come up with fine-tuned, customized solutions.
Putting those solutions into the sponsorship proposal is sort of like proving that you listened in class when you sit down to do your homework.
You’re using the proposal to show the sponsor yet again that you understand where they’re coming from, what kinds of challenges they’re facing, and what kinds of solutions they need.
That’s why I recommend that sponsorship seekers never lead in with the sponsorship proposal.
You don’t know anything about your sponsor yet and trying to ascribe your solutions to their problems is like trying to jam a round peg into a square hole.
It doesn’t work, and more so, it’s a waste of time.
Never Guess at What Sponsors Want
This next component of a winning sponsorship proposal goes hand-in-hand with my points from before.
Unless you can read minds, then you have no idea what your sponsors truly want unless and until you take the time to talk to them.
When you finally make that first contact with your prospect, you’re not doing it to ask for money or to send the sponsorship proposal. You’re doing it to set up the discovery session.
Let me reiterate my point from before. The sponsorship proposal proves that you were listening at the discovery session.
If your proposal is filled with assets and activations that you think could genuinely solve a sponsor’s problem, then now you’re speaking their language.
However, if all you did was use the same default proposal for the sponsor that everyone else gets, complete with stock sponsorship levels and basic assets like speaking engagement shoutouts and logos, then you know what the fate of your proposal will be.
In the trash.
The deal you had going with the sponsor, which could have potentially turned into something lucrative, is now off the table.
I would tell you to never, ever guess what sponsors want even once you’re beyond the stage of putting together your sponsorship proposal. Just ask! The sponsor is usually willing to tell you what they want.
Include Case Studies and Examples
Now here’s something to include in the other 50 percent of your sponsorship proposal: examples of past work you’ve done with partners and sponsors and lots of case studies to support your value proposition.
How have you helped past sponsors achieve their goals of growing their database, achieving more leads, boosting conversions, or increasing their sales? It’s time to showcase that in a comprehensive case study with riveting copy, data, and photos.
If you don’t have any case studies at the moment, you should change that.
Case studies don’t only come in handy when it comes to proving your value to sponsorship prospects but to any business partner you might work with.
Putting together a winning sponsorship proposal is a lot less about your cause and more about your audience and the customized assets and activations you can deliver to a sponsor.
I hope these rules help you rethink how you’re approaching your proposal and other elements of your sponsorship program.
Once you begin framing your proposals like these, they’ll become a far more valuable document.
Always remember that the sponsorship proposal cannot make the sale. That’s up to you!
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.