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The Top Sponsorship Lessons for 2023 

by | February 27, 2024

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  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Whew, what a year it’s been! The Sponsorship Collective continues growing by leaps and bounds, as does the sponsorship market as a whole. 

As we gear up to leave another year behind, there is no better time than now to assess what we learned this year and how we can continue applying those lessons to our sponsorship aspirations moving forward. 

Here are my top 10 sponsorship lessons you should know as your business or organization maps out your sponsorship goals for the start of the first quarter.

Sponsorship Is Not Philanthropy 

As more nonprofit sponsorship opportunities have begun popping up, sponsorship seekers have continued conflating what sponsorship is in this context. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s the not-for-profit or for-profit spheres: sponsorship is not philanthropy. 

A sponsor will never hand over cash out of the goodness of their hearts. That’s a donation, and it’s not what sponsorship is about.

Sponsorship is marketing. You create solutions for the sponsor to attract more leads, increase customers, and elevate sales. Those are all marketing objectives. 

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Thinking this way will surely eliminate the erroneous belief that sponsors will give you money because you ask them to, or because you tell them about your awesome event or cause.

Most sponsors are happy to hand over money–often tens of thousands or millions of dollars–to companies that prove ROI. If your assets and activations can help a sponsor achieve its goals, you’ll get money.

However, asking and expecting something for nothing is not going to happen.  

Podcast Sponsorship Is Worth Paying Attention To

The podcast sponsorship market is on the rise as podcasts get increasingly popular. With 464.7 million people tuning into podcasts in 2023 around the world, it’s estimated the number can be as many as 504.9 million by the time 2024 concludes.

If you’re a podcast host thinking of onboarding sponsors, now is the ideal time to do it while the podcast boom is hot. 

Podcast sponsors look at different metrics than your average sponsor. They’ll be curious about your listenership, downloads, and social media engagement. In short, they want to know if you have a captivated audience you could convert to their products and services.

One of the biggest podcast sponsorship errors is only offering prospective sponsors commercials. 

Like any other type of sponsorship, podcast sponsorship is about so much more than an ad break where you name-drop the sponsor.

Try a contest or giveaway promoted on your show and social media, or perhaps an interview with the sponsor company. 

Multiyear Sponsorship Agreement Is Always a Win

As often as you can, I recommend securing a multiyear partnership with your sponsors. This transcends the type of sponsorship, including festival, motorsport, podcast, sports, event, and nonprofit sponsorship. Any type is eligible for a longer-term deal.

Why do I suggest a multiyear sponsorship deal? For so many reasons!

You can budget easier and earlier, as you’ll have a sponsor going into planning your next event. You’ll also spend less time on sponsorship, as you’ll already have one on your list. You might only need one other large sponsor or a few other small ones depending on the extent of your event, program, or opportunity. 

You often get more money out of longer-term deals, but then again, that depends on what kind of deal you ask for.

You could extend your deal and get the same amount of money each year for three or five years, making it easier to plan your event over the long-term, or you could ask for a shorter-term deal for more money.

If the next half of your arrangement goes well, you can ask for more the next time around!

Since the deal you’re entering with your sponsor is a new extension, value your sponsorship opportunity, hold another discovery session, and create new assets and activations based on what’s worked for the sponsor before. 

Cold Emailing/Calling Is Okay, Just Not Ideal

I often see sponsorship seekers panic or freeze at the thought of cold calling or emailing, especially those far removed from sales and marketing backgrounds. 

However, in almost any industry, you’ve got to cold call or email at some point. If sponsorship is your first taste of it, so be it.

Of course, I always recommend finding a contact you have in common, whether through your own extensive personal network or a partner, colleague, or vendor’s network. 

That said, you can’t devote too much time to this task. If you’ve exhausted all your resources, that’s okay. Move on to cold calling or emailing. 

Knowing someone within the sponsorship company is your foot in the door. If you can’t nudge your foot in, it’s not the end of the world. You can still get in it in using other methods. 

Social Media Is an Excellent Tool for Finding Sponsors

You have many ways to find your next sponsor, and while your audience data remains the most reliable, feel free to branch off from that data to expand your list even further.

One of the ways I suggest you pay attention to, especially with a new year coming up, is social media. 

With about five billion global social media users in 2023 (some sources estimate more), you can bet your next sponsor is on social media.

So, how do you find them? All sorts of ways!

  • Reach out to your audience and ask if they have any leads. 
  • Connect with colleagues and vendors to see if they can point you in the way of any sponsors. 
  • Do some digging on LinkedIn. 
  • Participate in social media groups and see who you find. 

Social media is also an excellent tool for researching sponsorship prospects. You can discover if you have any audience in common, how the sponsor interacts with its audience, and if it needs help with its social media content. 

Your Audience Will Always Guide You Toward Your Hottest Sponsors

Okay, so let’s double back and discuss sponsorship prospecting, as it was a major topic on the blog this year for a reason. 

Prospecting is how you find viable sponsors for your opportunity. It’s not about pulling names out of hats or researching the top Fortune 500 companies and filling out their sponsorship forms. 

Those measures will leave you empty-handed. Instead, prospecting is about using your audience data to guide you in the direction of companies to approach for a sponsorship deal.

You should survey your audience at least twice a year to learn about their shifting interests, needs, and pain points. 

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As you collate your survey results, do you pay attention to the brands your audience mentions using? You should!

Those are your hottest prospects right there, served up for you on a silver platter. You couldn’t ask for a better opportunity, and you hardly have to do any work to get it. 

Now, if you want a bigger list, you will have to put in some work, but it’s worth it. 

You can expand your prospects list by researching the brands that advertise to the audiences of the original brands. For example, if your audience really loves toothpaste, who advertises to toothpaste users? 

Then, broaden the list further by asking who should advertise to those users? Add those brands. You can even research two to five competitors for every brand on your list, which should double the number.

It’s good to have a long prospect list if your first few prospects drop out. However, be aware that the list gets progressively cooler as you get further from your audience’s direct preferences. 

You Can’t Have a Successful Sponsorship Opportunity Without Knowing Your Audience

Beyond their brand preferences, your thirst for audience data must go much deeper. You need to know everything about your buyers, attendees, listeners, donors, whoever they are. 

Besides the brands they like, what kind of events do they attend? What decision-making capacity do they have? What suburb do they live in? What is their specific job title? 

If you can’t answer these types of questions, you don’t have sufficient audience data. 

Here’s what I recommend you do. Segment your audience groups the way you usually do, then segment them deeper. Go on, segment them deeper, and continue down that rabbit hole as far as you can. 

For example, if you segment by occupation, you can create groups for specific job titles within an industry. 

You might ask, what in the world is such specific data good for? It’s good for sponsors, that’s what. 

They like to see this hyper-segmented data to determine if your audience groups are a match for your target market. That’s much easier to do with clearer and more concise audience data. 

You Must Value

Another topic I’ve talked about on the blog a lot recently is valuations, another huge stumbling block for beginner sponsorship seekers. 

Valuation is how you to determine the monetary value of your sponsorship opportunity, including all your assets and activations. 

You can’t ask a sponsor for a realistic amount without this information, yet you’d be surprised how many sponsorship seekers guess, copy, or make up an amount. 

This doesn’t benefit you at all. If you guess a number the sponsor is willing to pay, you’ll have no idea what to do for next time.

Plus, when you slap a number on your valuation and call it good, you often undersell yourself most of all. 

You’re the only one who knows your sponsorship opportunity’s value. Your sponsor doesn’t know it. Your competitors don’t know it. Even your customers or attendees don’t know it.

A sponsor is happy to pay you a low amount because they get a great deal. You’re the only one who ends up burned in that arrangement. 

That’s why you must learn to value. I’ll briefly recap how the process goes here, as there is a wealth of recent resources on the blog.

To value a sponsorship opportunity, research the market value for each asset and activation. Next, determine whether your services are equal to, better than, or less than market value services and price accordingly.  


BAMFAM is my new favorite acronym, and rightfully so. It means book a meeting from a meeting. 

I always tell my clients to do this, as it’s just good practice. 

You don’t have all the time in the world, and you can bet your bottom dollar your sponsor also doesn’t. By following the BAMFAM rules, you can schedule a meeting while you’re still in one, taking five minutes to prioritize it. 

Watch as your meetings flow between you and the sponsor. The more times you two can meet to discuss the ongoing arrangement, the sooner you can finalize a contract, sign it, and begin working together. 

The Sponsorship Proposal Doesn’t Make the Deal – You Do!

I saved what is certainly my biggest and best tip for last. 

The sponsorship proposal, or package, or whatever you’d like to call it is just a document. It will not close a deal. It will not make a sale.

I advise my clients to forego even writing the proposal until after you’ve had a discovery session. You can’t possibly have the right assets and activations for your sponsor if you write it before then, as you’re reusing assets and not customizing your deal according to the sponsor’s needs.

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That doesn’t fly anymore, and sponsors won’t put up with it. 

I would argue that you don’t even necessarily need a sponsorship proposal. I know, it’s shocking stuff to some sponsorship seekers, but you must remember, I sold sponsorship just like you years ago, and I didn’t always use proposals.

I went the entire sponsorship arrangement without a formal document. That’s not to say I didn’t put together other documents, but nothing like a proposal.

Putting less weight on your proposal and more weight on your audience data or prospecting is the way to do it.  

Wrapping Up 

So, that’s my list of lessons. Did any of them resonate with you? Which ones?

I hope this list got you excited to realize more of your sponsorship dreams in the coming year!