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What Do Your Sponsors Actually Want? 

by | April 11, 2022

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You’ve put together your sponsorship menu, your prospect has looked at it, and they decided on some things. You earn those almighty sponsorship dollars, and the rest doesn’t really matter, right?

It does matter, or it should. 

The problem I’ve come across is that many sponsorship seekers think they know exactly what they’re selling to their prospects. In reality, they have no idea.

This article will explain the mistakes you could be making when you offer your prospects the wrong assets. I’ll also help you determine what your sponsors want so you can get it right the first time. 

Let’s go!

What You Think Your Sponsors Want

There’s a quote from the great management consultant Peter Drucker that came to mind when I was putting together this post. That quote is: “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells him.”

You may think you know what your sponsors want. What can reinforce this incorrect belief is having had prior sponsorship experiences where your sponsors seemed happy with your gold, silver, or bronze tier list of assets. 

It wasn’t that the sponsor was happy. They were able to select the asset(s) they wanted among the tiers. 

You weren’t successful, per se, but lucky. It’s like guessing the winning lottery numbers. Sure, it’s awesome that it happens once, but it likely won’t happen again. 

You’ll often realize that for yourself when you go to your next sponsorship prospect with the same asset tiers, but this time, the prospect isn’t biting. 

You didn’t take the time to sit down with the prospect, have an in-depth discovery session, and get to know them. 

Even if you did have a discovery session, if you didn’t ask thoughtful questions, or if you didn’t listen to what the prospect is really telling you, then you don’t know what they want.

Sponsorship seekers can let their own assumptions get the best of them. I’ve seen it happen a lot, and it can often result in lost or failed sponsorship deals.

You think you know best. Whether that’s the attitude you’re trying to convey or not, when you assume you know what the sponsor wants, you come across as acting like you know better. 

The sponsor can be trying to tell you in every subtle and overt way that they want more of Asset A and less of Asset B. You think they really need Asset B though and not so much of Asset A.

So what happens when you sit down and put together your sponsorship package, even after having a few preliminary conversations with the sponsor?

Well, you know they need Asset A, even if they weren’t saying it. After all, your company manufactures Asset A or is part of the industry that heavily uses Asset A. 

Once your sponsor buys Asset A and uses it, they’ll come around.

Your prospect buys your sponsorship package (hypothetically). They get a lot of Asset A and barely any Asset B. 

The sponsor knows its problems because these are obstacles they face personally day in and day out. They knew that Asset B would be a gamechanger, but you barely gave it to them.

In other words, you seriously under delivered. 

What happens when you underdeliver on sponsorship objectives? Well, several things can happen, and none are good.

For one, the sponsor will not want to work with you again. Depending on the verbiage in your contract, you could even be in breach of contract, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. 

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A Story About Learning What Sponsors Want

To further illustrate my point, I want to share a story that happened to a friend of mine. I hope it shows you what can be if you’re willing to ask more questions of your prospects. 

So my buddy took over a senior leadership position selling sponsorship. During her first week in this new role, she took the time to reach out to all her sponsors. 

As she contacted them, she opted to use the same sponsorship package that the former senior leader had. 

She met up with each sponsor one by one and issued them the sponsorship package. She also brought a pen.

No, not for the sponsors to sign on the dotted line. Rather, my friend asked each sponsor to cross out the assets in the sponsorship package that they didn’t care for.

Keep in mind that these were assets that the sponsor had already bought prior and used, so if they didn’t like the asset, they had personal experience enough to say that. 

To say this is a bold move is an understatement. Imagine ordering a gift basket or blind box from a company and then the company asking you which items in the box you didn’t like. It’s brave!

So what happened to my friend, I’m sure you’re asking? What did her sponsors say?

In almost every single case, the sponsors crossed out more than half of the assets in the menu.

Yes, that’s right. More than half.

My friend then asked what the only logical question in a scenario like that is. She asked each sponsor why they bothered buying those assets in the first place.

Although my friend spoke to a lot of sponsors, they all had pretty much the same answer. Her sponsors told her that they bought a gold, silver, or bronze package to get an asset or benefit not listed in the package.

My friend then decided to do away with that sponsorship package and began tailoring her sponsorship packages according to what her sponsors need and/or want. 

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What Your Sponsors Really Want

And that, dear reader, is what a sponsor really wants. They want custom assets tailored to them.

You’re a consumer too. Do you like it when you have to buy several things just to get the one thing you really want?

For example, you have a favorite burger place. The burger you like most is only available as a combo meal, but you don’t want a combo meal. You just want the burger. 

To get the burger, you have to buy the fries and drink. You do it reluctantly, but it doesn’t feel good.

Maybe you like fragrances. You’ve searched high and low, but your favorite fragrance is only available in a box set with three others. You could take or leave the other scents, but again, you begrudgingly buy them just to get what you want.

When you trap engaging assets behind a silver package, you’re forcing your sponsor to make the same type of decision. They’ll do it, but they feel like their arm is being twisted. 

Being coerced into a decision, so to speak, does not make a satisfying business relationship. 

Now imagine if after learning about a prospect’s challenges during the discovery session that you worked with them to come up with a custom list of assets that you know will solve their problems or fulfill their needs.

When the time comes to deliver on what you promised, you do so in spades. Your sponsor is ecstatic and eager to work with you again. 

Sure, this kind of thing means that you can’t recycle the same sponsorship package from one sponsor to another. You have to take time to customize the elements.

The hard work is worth it. Going back to the story of my friend, as she produced her fulfillment reports and realized that she knocked it out of the park, she went back to her sponsors.

She asked them that if she included two times more Asset A, would her sponsors be interested in paying twice more for a sponsorship deal?

Well, 30 percent of her prospects said yes! 


Most times, your sponsor doesn’t want only awareness. They’re not interested so much in free tickets, silver sponsorship packages, social media, or shoutouts from the stage either. 

If your sponsors are buying these things, they’re doing so purely coincidentally. Eventually, that bubble will burst–often sooner rather than later–and you’ll start having sponsorship prospect after prospect turn you down.

Instead, you have to ask deeper questions, like “what are you really after?” or “what are you really purchasing by working with us?” or even “how can we help you increase those benefits?”

If you’re willing to put in the work and customize your sponsorship packages, then more of your prospects should be happy to part with their hard-earned money to buy what you’re selling!

Remember, you can always sign up for my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program if you’re struggling to close deals with your prospects.