What Is a Sponsorship Form?
Online forms are undoubtedly convenient, which is why every company these days has one. Besides the standard contact form, on the sponsor company’s website, you might have seen a sponsorship form as well. What exactly is this?
A sponsorship form is an online form that you can fill out to request sponsorship. The information in the form can be broad or more specific, such as for business versus sports sponsorship.
This is perfect, you think. All you have to do is add your contact information and you’ll hear from the target sponsor soon, right?
Well, not exactly. In today’s article, I want to discuss what sponsorship forms are, when they work towards furthering your sponsorship goals versus when they don’t, and what you should do instead.
Sponsorship Forms 101
Let’s start by talking more about sponsorship forms.
As I mentioned in the intro, a sponsorship form is a brief form that sponsorship seekers fill out, usually on the target sponsor’s website. It’s different than a contact form because you’re specifically asking for sponsorship.
Sponsorship forms are usually quite generalized. Here’s a sponsorship form in the wild courtesy of Goodyear Tire. Yes, even major brands that are household names might have sponsorship forms on their website.
Let’s examine theirs, as most sponsorship forms tend to follow the same format. The form asks for your first and last name, the name of your company or organization, and your home address, email, phone, and website.
Then there’s a box marked “Other Info” where you can type in details specific to your sponsorship event.
The form continues to the right side of the page where Goodyear asks about your organization’s scope. For instance, are you a local, regional, national, or global company or organization? Then they ask what niche you’re in, with the available options media, lifestyle, gaming, entertainment, and sports.
No, there aren’t a lot of options, but those are the niches that Goodyear wants to sponsor. For what’s it’s worth, there’s also an “other” section if your niche is just far too specific to fit into one neat box.
Then you can request one of two types of sponsorship, either a value-in-kind sponsorship or a sponsorship that may be value-in-kind but can include cash as well.
As I said before, that sponsorship form on Goodyear’s website is one example of many, but they all kind of look the same. Here are some sponsorship form templates you can browse courtesy of JotForm that prove my point.
Are Online Sponsorship Forms a Good Way to Get Sponsorship?
I completely understand the appeal of a sponsorship form. It’s like I said in the intro, these forms are as convenient as can be. It almost feels like you’re being handed a sponsorship opportunity on a silver platter.
Rather than try to find someone to connect with at the sponsor company, the sponsorship form is your in. You don’t have to write an awkward-sounding email or pick up the phone and talk to a stranger.
The sponsor company has all your contact information thanks to the sponsorship form. All you have to do now is kick up your feet and wait to hear back.
If only it was that easy.
It just so happens I’ve discussed the effectiveness of sponsorship forms on the blog before. And I hate to burst your bubble, but in most cases, the sponsorship form is not worth filling out.
It can be though, and I want to talk about when you should complete a sponsorship form versus when you shouldn’t.
The Case Against Sponsorship Forms
The thing about forms is this: you never know how many people fill them out. There’s no counter, at least not one that you can see as a website visitor. So you have no idea how many sponsorship seekers have already contacted the sponsor company via the form and how many more will.
You also have no timeframe for when you’ll get a response. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, or it could be never. I’ve had clients wait 180 days to hear back from a target sponsor after filling out a sponsorship form. Yes, that’s almost six months.
Do you know what happened? They were turned down. What’s worse, they missed their financial milestones for the quarter.
I know some sponsorship seekers look at a sponsorship form like it’s putting your foot in the door at the sponsor company, but it isn’t. It’s not like if you fill it out, thousands of dollars will come raining down from the sponsor.
It’s just a request form. If anything, the sponsorship form is like a cold email dressed up in a nice package.
Like cold emails, the sponsorship form likely won’t lead to a high response rate. If you’re hinging your hopes and dreams on it, you could end up like my clients.
You know, down a sponsor and missing their financial goals.
The Case for Sponsorship Forms
Your target sponsor sees their sponsorship form completely differently. To them, it might be a crucial part of the sponsorship process, even a formality. The company might need you to put in a formal request for their recordkeeping.
That was what happened to another client of mine. They didn’t start by filling out the sponsorship form, which was the right move. Yet as they began having more talks with the sponsor, it was mentioned that they had to complete the sponsorship form for–as I said before–formality’s sake.
Okay, so is the above example really a case for sponsorship forms? No. My client didn’t get the sponsorship because they filled out the form, it was just part of the process on the road to being sponsored.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Chris, if sponsorship forms are so useless, why do big companies like Goodyear put them on their website?” Probably to stop unsolicited sponsorship requests, nothing more.
Follow These Tips to Strengthen Your Sponsorship Program
It’s okay if you’ve been lured in by the sponsorship form and even filled out a few on your quest for sponsorship. You may or may not hear back from those companies, but I would advise you not to hold your breath.
What you should do instead of filling out forms all day is actively work on your sponsorship program. Here are some of my best tips for doing that.
Plan Your Goals
Even if you wanted to do a sponsorship form, you couldn’t until you know what your business or organization needs. Of course, you’re skipping the sponsorship form, but you still must have clearly defined goals.
The more specific you can be, the better. For example, if you usually attract 1,500 people to an event and this year you want 3,000 attendees, that’s a clear goal. Maybe you want 5,000 people to visit your website a month or you need $8,475 to host an event.
Your goals are in flux, and they’re allowed to change gradually over the life of the event or project. For instance, you might realize after you start planning an event that you now require $10,000, not $8,400. That’s fine. However, you can’t be like “oops, I actually need $100,000.”
Oh, and please, please don’t sell your event short and tell the sponsor you need less money than you do. The only time you should do that is if you have a concrete plan for how the rest of that money will be accounted for.
I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but sponsors aren’t mind-readers. If you tell them you need $4,500 when it was really $8,475, that’s on you, not them. Now you have to come up with another $4k yourself, and fast.
Before You Ever Contact a Sponsor, Do Your Research
The one thing that bothers me about sponsorship forms perhaps more than anything else is that they seem like a shortcut. Even for an esteemed brand like Goodyear, there’s no drop-down menu asking about your audience or anything pertinent.
This can give first-time sponsorship seekers the impression that research doesn’t matter.
The reality is, without research, your sponsorship program is going nowhere.
I just wrote a really great post about sponsorship audience segments that you should check out. It goes into detail about the audience survey, which is a survey you issue to your customers or donors to better understand them.
The goal of the customer survey is to divide your audience into very narrow niches or segments. One of your segments could be mid-20s males from Chicago who earn $75k a year.
Why do this? Your sponsor has a target audience too. If their target audience happens to include mid-20s males from Chicago who earn $75k a year, then now they’re going to be very interested in sponsoring you.
Sponsorships are, at the end of the day, less about you and more about your audience. It’s your audience the company wants to sponsor.
Plus, as I always say, understanding your audience benefits you as well. You can launch ultra-targeted marketing and sales campaigns to boost revenue and increase customers.
Find a Contact at the Sponsor Company
Do you know where your query goes when you complete a sponsorship form? Neither do I.
Sure, it could go directly to the head of the company’s sponsorship division, but more than likely, it’s redirected to an account that handles sponsorship queries.
Someone there will sift through the responses, and maybe yours will get forwarded to the right party and maybe it won’t.
That’s just as bad as calling the front desk secretary at the sponsor company. You’re talking to someone at the company, but not the right person. Unless/until you get put through to them, you’re stuck.
How do you even find someone you know at the sponsor company? Well, it doesn’t have to be someone you personally know. Maybe it’s a fellow colleague or yours or even a business partner. You don’t want the connection to be five people deep but reach out to your social circle and see who bites.
Create Irresistible Assets and Activations
In sponsorship, assets are tangible and intangible valuables you sell to a target sponsor. Activations are opportunities at events that garner positive reactions for a sponsor, such as a booth in the tailgating area before a concert that gives away free stuff.
Sponsorship seekers tend to assume what kind of assets would be most valuable to a sponsor when it should really be the other way around. You want to work with the sponsor to cultivate a custom sponsorship menu that works for both you and them.
How do you find such high-value sponsorship opportunities? You must understand the target sponsor’s goals, which you can then formulate into a sponsorship sales funnel.
I’ll use an easy example that I talked about in the link above. If your sponsor is a car dealer, they want people to take a test drive. That entails getting them to the lot, which means inviting customers, which means emailing them.
If your assets only increase a target sponsor’s email list, that’s low value. Yet if you can help get people to the car lot or even inspire people to take a test drive, these are where the high-value opportunities lie.
Assets and activations are not about zany, out-of-the-box ideas that are just for the sake of being zany. They’re about fulfilling the goals of your sponsor. If you can keep that in mind, your sponsorship program is already off to a great start!
Use the Discovery Session Wisely
Connecting with the target sponsor in any way should occur with the goal to schedule a discovery session. Even if you fill out a sponsorship form, that’s what you’re aiming for, a phone call or meeting with the sponsor.
This isn’t a sales meeting, so please don’t make that rookie mistake. During the discovery session, you ask targeted, pertinent questions to the sponsor. You should have already researched the sponsor by this point, so the questions you ask shouldn’t be about what you know.
Instead, you might quiz the sponsor on their target audience, their current goals, what they’re doing that isn’t working, and what they’re doing successfully. Choose wisely, as you shouldn’t ask more than seven discovery questions.
What is the point of the discovery session? You’re learning more about the sponsor so you can decide what–if anything–you can offer them.
Okay, but what if you can’t offer the sponsor anything? It’s better to know that now than to push ahead with a deal that’s an obvious mismatch. You will have to start over, continuing with the next sponsor on your list, so make sure you always have other target sponsors to research and pursue.
Sponsorship forms are not the holy grail of sponsorship. Taking five minutes to fill one out will not result in the target sponsor calling you excitedly by phone. It will likely lead to silence.
Don’t waste your time on 100 sponsorship forms. Instead, do audience research, prepare discovery questions, and plan that discovery meeting. These tasks will further your sponsorship program.
You’ll soon start to realize, as many of my clients do, that sponsorship forms are pretty much useless and very much skippable.
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.