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The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard about Sponsorship

by | December 15, 2020

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Have you ever been guided by advice in your life? I certainly have, and I’m sure you have as well. Yet the thing about advice is that despite its intentions, not all of it as well-meaning as you’d wish. Even in sponsorship, you can get some pretty bum advice. What do I mean by that?

Here’s some of the worst advice we’ve ever heard about sponsorship:

  • Sponsorship is easy to get
  • Cold-sending your sponsorship proposal is a good idea
  • Skipping some research is okay if you’re under tight time constraints
  • Overpricing your assets is a good way to get the sponsor to pay more
  • All that’s valuable from a sponsor is money
  • Any sponsor is better than no sponsor

Ye-ouch, right? If you can’t see why these pieces of advice are bad right now, that’s okay. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll clearly understand why these mistakes are so egregious. You could even be making some of these errors yourself, costing you sponsorship! Fortunately, I’ll tell you what not to do as well.

6 Pieces of Sponsorship Advice to Ignore

Sponsorship Is Easy to Get

Let’s start with a piece of advice I think is a doozy: that sponsorship is simple.

Here at the Sponsorship Collective, it’s my job to shine the light on common mistakes that people make in sponsorship. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, such as in this post and this one too. It’s also my job to help companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes secure sponsorship, even if they’ve never done it before.

I’m far from the only one out there who has made sponsorship my job. Keeping in mind then that there are people who have dedicated their entire career paths to mastering the art of sponsorship, do you really think it’s that easy to do?

I’m not going to say it’s impossible to get sponsorship, because that’s simply not true. If you’re following a proven sponsorship strategy, then you might find that you get more yeses than nos. By flying in the dark and throwing whatever you can at the wall hoping that anything sticks though, your sponsorship efforts are going to be fruitless.

The next time someone tells you they found such-and-such a sponsor and it was oh so easy, I’d say to take their advice with a grain of salt. What’s easy for them might not be easy for you, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can always check out one of my many programs to identify the holes in your sponsorship approach and then patch them up.

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Cold-Sending Your Sponsorship Proposal Is a Good Idea

You’ve found an amazing company that you’d love to sponsor your next event, which is maybe a gala or something of the like. You visit their website and see an online form you can fill out to request sponsorship.

Cool! That’s very convenient, so you complete the form and send it, attaching your sponsorship proposal.

Perhaps you got the email address of the target sponsor, so you send your proposal that way. After all, you’ve heard it’s best to strike while the iron is hot, and the iron seems very hot now.

Except it isn’t. The iron is ice cold. Freezing cold, even. If you touched the iron, you might get hypothermia.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but you get the point. Almost no one appreciates unsolicited materials. That goes for film directors to companies hiring for a position to yes, target sponsors. Even you don’t like unsolicited materials. Ever get a telemarketer call in the middle of dinner? That’s cold calling, which is unsolicited.

But, you’re probably saying, if the target sponsor doesn’t see your proposal, they won’t know enough about your organization to consider you. This is going to be a hard pill to swallow, but the target sponsor doesn’t want to know a lot about you right now. They don’t want to read your organization’s life story and all the causes you support. Not yet, at least.

That doesn’t mean you should discard your sponsorship proposal, as I’m sure you worked hard on it. You just want to hold onto it for a while, and I mean a while, like maybe until the second or third meeting with the target sponsor.

I always, always recommend you avoid cold calling or cold emailing a target sponsor as much as you can. You might have an in with the sponsor that you don’t even realize through a coworker’s coworker or another colleague. Ask around first to see if anyone knows the contact at the sponsor company.

If they don’t, then yes, you do have to send a cold email. Fortunately, in this post, I have four templates you can use for making contact in a way that may elicit a response from the target sponsor.

Skipping Some Research Is Okay if You’re Under Tight Time Constraints

Imagine this. You’re going to the doctor’s and they recommend a procedure. They’ll be the one to do it, only they weren’t trained on the procedure because they didn’t have time to learn it that day. They have plenty of other medical knowledge, but not about that procedure.

Or, more benignly, let’s say you’re getting your hair done. You want to dye your hair a new color, but your hairstylist has no idea what they’re doing because they skipped the lesson on dying hair. They can give you a great cut though!

Do you see what I’m getting at here? The gaps in the knowledge of the professionals in the examples above are inexcusable. So too is your organization or business skipping any part of research throughout the sponsorship process.

I’ve discussed this on the blog many a time, but there’s a lot you have to do to prepare for sponsorship before you even so much as email the target sponsor.

You have to understand your audience inside and out so you can use them to incentivize the target sponsor. You must possess a solid idea of the type of event you’re hosting, including dates, attendance, and any constraints that might exist. You need a good idea of what could come out of your event regarding metrics.

If you don’t do any of these things because your event is in a month and you need sponsorship right now, it reflects poorly on you. No sponsor will want to work with an organization or company that’s clueless about their audience and their needs. This tells the sponsor you will be just as careless if you two worked together.

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Overpricing Your Assets Is a Good Way to Get the Sponsor to Pay More

Do you have a colleague who worked with a sponsor once and used the sponsorship tiers (gold, silver, and bronze)? They advised you to do the same thing, right? More so, they told you that the best way to convince the sponsor to pay more is by overpricing your assets.

Oh boy. There’s a lot wrong here, so let’s take it piece by piece. This is something I’ve mentioned a lot in my what-not-to-do posts, but pricing your assets way over market value is a great way to get you denied by every sponsor. Even the ones with the very deep pockets will catch on to what you’re doing and give you the thumbs down.

If you want your sponsor to pay more, there are a few ways to go about it.

First, I always recommend being upfront about the exact amount of money you want. A sponsor will believe that you need $10,000 and give it to you, but if you really could have used $40,000, then guess what? You’re now about $30,000 under because you pussyfooted. You end up hurt in the end, as does your event, which is severely short on cash.

The other way to get more money out of a sponsor is to have really good assets. What a good asset is can vary from sponsor to sponsor. Some will care about growing their audience, others about getting more web traffic, and almost every sponsor will want to boost their revenue. If you missed my post on sponsorship ROI metrics, that’s necessary reading during the asset valuation stage.

When you know what makes your sponsor tick, so to speak, it’s a lot easier to determine which of your assets are the most valuable to them. Presenting those assets and working with the sponsor to customize your tiers (if you even use tiers) can result in you getting more money than forcing a tiered package.

A Sponsor’s Primary Value Is Money, That’s It

You need cash for your event, so you ask a sponsor for X amount. They say no. Okay, time to pack it in and call it a day, right? No, not so fast! If you’ve heard that a sponsor can only offer you money and that’s all they’re good for, then you’ve probably missed out on many a viable sponsorship opportunity.

I know, money makes the world go ‘round. Money also pays your lighting technician, your contact at the venue, your caterers, and the printers who made those custom bags for your event. I know.

Money isn’t everything in all situations. Sponsors can offer you long-term incentives that might not help you right this second, but will be extremely handy in the days to come. Here’s a complete list of more than a dozen such incentives.

Wouldn’t vendor relationships be helpful for your next event? You can skip scouring the Internet looking for the right vendors if you already have trusted individuals to work with. You might even be able to get a discount because this vendor has worked with you before and they like you.

Maybe it would be better if your sponsor talked you up in the media. This will have other viable sponsors pounding down your figurative door. Now you’d be the one in the driver’s seat, able to pick and choose who you work with instead of begging sponsors for a minute of their time. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Any Sponsor Is Better Than No Sponsor 

I saved probably the worst bit of advice for last. If you’ve heard someone tell you that any sponsor is better than no sponsor, you might not want to take advice from that person going forward.

If you’re so strapped for cash that you’d accept money for your event from anyone, then maybe you want to budget better going forward. A sponsor can fund your event to a point, but it should never be 100 percent. Once you get into a desperation mindset, you can make some pretty poor decisions.

For example, you might skip some of the key vetting stages in choosing a sponsor because hey, money is money, right? Oh, by the way, you are indeed supposed to vet a potential sponsor just as they vet you.

Here’s one example of how choosing just any sponsor can backfire spectacularly. Your organization is about animal preservation and protection, so you naturally lean vegan. You want to host a rally but funds have run short, so you need a sponsor like yesterday.

You get a bite and you accept the sponsor, no questions asked. Only once your event happens do you realize that this sponsor is partnered with Tyson Foods or Hillshire Farm or any other meat brand.

Uh-oh. Now who has egg on their face? Sure, you got the funding for your event, but you also severely degraded the trust of your audience. Such a bad sponsor mismatch is likely going to end up getting media attention too, which can hurt your reputation even further.

A bit of foresight can prevent you from getting into a rushed situation with a sponsor, but nothing will ever beat good, old-fashioned research before you agree to anything.

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There you have it, six unfortunate pieces of advice that will do anything but get you a good sponsor. I hope this post has taught you that taking your time and doing your research is key in sponsorship. Thanks for reading!