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The Sponsorship Proposal Is Dead!

The sponsorship process goes a little something like this: identify the need for a sponsor, prospect, contact sponsors for a discovery session, send a sponsorship proposal, negotiate, shake hands, sign contracts, receive funds, deliver on your objectives, and produce a sponsorship fulfillment report.

Well, almost like that. I’m finally confident in saying that the sponsorship proposal is dead.

Yep, that’s right, dead, gone, buried.

I’m sure you’re reading this with your jaw on the floor right now. How can the proposal be dead, you ask? Surely, I must be mistaken?

I’ll tell you everything you need to know ahead, so make sure you check it out!

The Sponsorship Proposal As You’re Doing It Is Dead

If you ask sponsors themselves or others in the know within the sponsorship industry such as myself, then it’s no secret or surprise that the sponsorship proposal is dead. This is something we’ve all known for a long time now, decades even.

It’s sponsorship seekers who refuse to believe. 

They go about their routine with every new prospect on the hook. You know the one I’m talking about, as it might have been your routine at some point as well (or maybe it still is).

You start with the proposal before having a discovery session. The proposal lacks any personalized elements and is really addressed to no one, or should I say anyone?

What you’re stuffing into the proposal that you painstakingly write for weeks are assets that you assume sponsors care about even though you have no way of verifying that. 

Then you ask others within your company or organization for their ideas or opinions on what should go into the proposal. 

Next, you spend even more weeks or maybe even months writing, editing, rewriting, editing, and rewriting some more. 

When you’re finally pleased with the outcome, you mass-email everyone under the sun your proposal.

Not just one prospect or two, but literally everyone.

Despite that, you never hear back from any prospects, not even one. Time goes by, maybe 60 or 90 days, and you wait and wait, but it’s radio silence.

And then you miss your budget. 

If you could connect the dots and realize that your proposal practices are what caused this whole mess, then that would be one thing.

Many sponsorship seekers, at least that I’ve found from my experience, will blame everything but the proposal.

But it’s such an important part of sponsorship, there’s no way it could be the issue, right? Nope, wrong! 

If you have people on your team parroting the same rhetoric, that it had to be anything but the proposal, then you’ll repeat the same cycle the next time you want a sponsor. 

It keeps happening that way over and over again, and it will keep playing out like that until you realize your mistakes. 

I have seen so many sponsorship seekers follow this exact path. They come from such a diverse list of backgrounds and industries, and yet all of them have the same thing in common: they all approach sponsorship so vastly incorrectly in this area.

They also all fail at securing sponsorship time and again. 

Here’s the Right Way to Put Together a Sponsorship Proposal

So what am I saying, to abandon sponsorship proposals altogether and never write another one again?

Well, less reliance on the proposal definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing, but no, that’s not exactly what I’m telling you.

Rather, I’m asking you to abandon the way you define sponsorship proposals, the way you write them, the way you send them, and the magical, impossible results you’re expecting from them.

I know, it’s a lot, but it’s worth it. 

Here is a much more tried and true approach to take.

Know Your Audience

When I review a client’s eight-page sponsorship proposal and six out of the eight pages are all about themselves, I realize something. 

Sponsors see it too. It’s the sponsorship seekers who are usually the only ones to miss it.

You’re padding your proposal because you either don’t have audience data, or you have it, but you don’t realize its importance.

In many more cases than not, it’s the former. 

You can’t distract your sponsor with a six-page detailed explanation of your company history just as you can’t make them forget about the lack of audience data by delving deep into your noble cause of curing children’s cancer or saving puppies.

You need audience data, and it needs to be front and center.

Now, I should specify a bit, because not all audience data suffices.

For instance, if you issue a few surveys or dig back through your attendance data for past events and the best you can come up with for your audience is middle-class moms or families from Toronto, you’re no better off than omitting audience data in the first place.

The reason? Those groups don’t tell anybody anything. 

What is a middle-class mom? Does she make $30k a year, $40k, or $50k+? How many kids does she have? What does she do and where does she live?

If I have to ask that many questions about your audience data, then it’s not niched down enough. 

You need to dig deeper to get to the core of your audience. Go on and divide that large group of “middle-class moms” by the criteria I listed such as income brackets, job title, industry, location, and the number of children.

Now you have not one group of middle-class moms but maybe 10 or 20. 

Can you break it down further? Usually, yes. You can get as specific as borough or neighborhood or income bracket down to the last dollar sign. I recommend having 25 data points at least.

It takes more time and more work, but I suggest you do it because sponsors love clear, concise audience data. 

It helps them determine where and how your audience gels with their target audience goals so much better than saying “middle-class moms” are your audience.

Build Amazing Activations

Knowing your audience makes this next step so much easier, and that’s determining what kinds of activations would make your specific audience go “wow!”

I guarantee you, no matter who your audience is, that logos or signs are not going to make them go “wow,” unless they’re saying, “wow, boring. Why did I pay for this event again?”

What kinds of experiences appeal to the needs and interests of your audience? 

I can’t tell you (unless you sign up for a consultation with me) because I don’t know your audience, but I guarantee you those activations are out there.

Just don’t get too married to your activations quite yet. Once you begin discussions with your sponsorship prospects, you’ll have to incorporate their needs into your activations as well, which will mean tweaking your ideas.

Coming to your prospects with really strong activation ideas is going to win them over much more than it would suggesting logo placement or a shoutout during your event’s introductory speech.

They’ve seen and heard all that before. They know how it goes and how it doesn’t work, and it’s not going to sway them. 

Know Your Value

One of the most common issues I see among sponsorship seekers is not knowing their value.

This is hugely detrimental. If you underestimate or overestimate your value, you’re in trouble.

Please know that it’s no one’s responsibility but yours to know your value. 

A sponsor isn’t going to correct you either way. If your value is too high, then they’ll find a sly way to back out of the ongoing deal before any contracts are signed. 

In other words, you could get ghosted and not realize why.

If you’re asking for too little money, a sponsor will gladly pay that because they’re getting quality services for cheap. Yeah, sure, you’re being taken for a little bit of a ride, but that’s on you to realize, not them.

You have to put considerable time into gauging your value, but it’s always worth it. 

I’ve written many highly detailed guides on sponsorship valuation such as this one here that I recommend you read.

I won’t go into the content that’s in that guide, but I do want to recommend some valuation best practices.

First, you have to do a fresh valuation every year. 

You might work with similar sponsorship properties year after year, but it doesn’t matter. You need to value your assets and activations before the start of each new sponsorship deal.

Ideally, your valuation will go up since you’ve grown in your sponsorship endeavors. Even if stays about the same, at least you know that for sure rather than just guessing.

Another best practice is this: never, ever copy from valuations you see online. 

You will come across them from time to time. I know it’s tempting to borrow a few numbers here and a couple of numbers there, but don’t do it.

Valuing means using market value, not someone else’s valuation numbers. You have no idea how they arrived at those numbers, so you could be perpetuating their incorrect data. 

Prospect Using Your Audience Data

How do you choose your sponsorship prospects? Is it based on useless criteria such as whoever’s email address you have?

There’s a proper way to prospect, and it never involves mass-emailing some large contact list that doesn’t personally engage with you.

Instead, you want to use your audience data to create a prospects list. I went over all the steps on how to do that right here, and I’m telling you, it’s easier than you think. 

You’re seeking out companies that have advertised to your audience or should advertise to them. You also want companies that otherwise have a strong interest in your audience.

Why? This is how you get that perfect situation where your audience is really engaged with your sponsor and the sponsor ends up handing out thousands of free samples or getting thousands of email list signups.

If your list has fewer than 40 prospects, then you need to follow my tried and true methodology. You’ll easily end up with 60 or 70 high-end prospects.

I can’t promise that they’ll all be available or willing to work with you, of course. Since your prospects are of such a high caliber though, having to move on to the next one on your list if the first one doesn’t work out isn’t so bad.

Set Up a Discovery Session

Once you have an interested prospect or two, get in touch. 

Yes, that’s right, you still haven’t so much as thought about writing a sponsorship proposal quite yet, and that’s okay.

Ask the prospect about scheduling a discovery session where you can talk about your audience, their audience, their target audience, their goals, and their challenges and shortcomings.

That’s the only way to put together an effective sponsorship proposal, by the way. You need to have the discovery session first.

If you’re writing your proposal and then using the discovery session as an opportunity to present it, you’re going about things wrong. The discovery session is not a sales meeting! 

If you’re foregoing a discovery session altogether, you’re also going about things wrong.


Write and Submit Your Proposal

Now that you’ve done everything else, it’s time to finally put together your sponsorship proposal.

This will include all the information you’ve worked so hard to procure, including your audience data, your assets and activations, and your value.

You know what your prospects want since you had a successful discovery session, so it’s a lot easier to write the proposal than when your target reader is some imaginary prospect who you don’t know and might not even exist.

Even once you’ve written the proposal, sit on it. The time will eventually come when the prospect asks to see the proposal. 

Or maybe it won’t! And if so, that’s okay too. You can always send them the proposal informally as a means of putting into writing all your ideas and plans to this point or you can just forego it entirely. 

Make sure that if your prospect asks to see a proposal that you two set up a meeting to go over its contents after the fact. 


The sponsorship proposal the way that sponsorship seekers perceive and approach it is dead. 

That means no more mass emailing the proposal to prospects, no more writing it without audience data, and definitely no more proposals before the discovery session. 

The proposal is one piece of what is your overall sponsorship sales strategy. Don’t get reliant on it. As I always say, the sponsorship proposal doesn’t make the sale, you do! 


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.