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There's No Room for "Happy Go Lucky" in Sponsorship Activation

by Emily Taylor
30 04 2010

There are moments when being “happy go lucky,” or to be spontaneous, and “fly be the seat of your pants,” is an attractive luxury or personality type.  Certainly the thought of an upbeat and easy to please individual seems like a low maintenance, low stress relational effort on our part, right?  But there are times when those characteristics make you not very likable and definitely not an attractive long term relationship.  My husband recently had a minor back surgery and I can assure you that our Dr. was far from “carefree,” or spontaneous.  He carefully reviewed his MRI and x-ray, he weighed out the pros and cons, planned out  every detail of the surgery - and if he hadn't we would not have relied on his expertise.

Recently I tweeted a tip of the day: “The best thing you can do for your sponsors is find out what your audience wants, then activate accordingly.”  You simply cannot be unintentional and carefree and gather this kind of information.  If you let your efforts begin and end without doing your homework, without intentionally investigating and rethinking how you can improve your activation in order to grow the level of satisfaction from your audience; it’s not going to happen on its own.  This can be applied really with all kinds of sponsorships whether it’s an event or a program, whether it reaches thousands or hundreds; it really just takes being intentional. 

So what does this kind of information gathering consist of, and what do these efforts look like?

What your audience wants or needs is a question related to finding where you’re missing the mark altogether in their overall experience, or where you could improve it.  There are several ways of finding out this information.  The truth is, your sponsor would not be there without your audience, your program or event wouldn’t survive if they weren’t interested in what you’re doing, so the bottom line is figuring out how to create that sticky factor, and how to draw more interest.

Pre/post surveys
While there are many great reasons for an event survey (so many people/departments can benefit from this information); most people think of these surveys as a way of gathering information the sponsor specifically wants to know about.  You’ve sat down with your sponsor’s marketing team and discussed what their goals are, and then put together questions that answer whether or not their objectives were met.  In addition to this purpose of a survey, you can also ask questions like: “what could make the event better?  What did you like most about the experience?  Least about the experience? “ etc.  Obviously your questions would be much more customize to fit the unique experience you’re creating, and perhaps you’ll even have to get creative about giving incentive to complete these surveys – let’s face it, not everyone wakes up to go to a music festival and looks forward to spending 5-10 minutes completing the invaluable survey you put together.  But if they can turn it in for a free beverage or a discount on food, maybe they would. 

Every property caters to someone specific.  You need to know your target audience for 100 reasons more than the reason I’m giving you here.  If you don’t know the answer to this question, stop everything you’re doing and find out.  Conduct the necessary research to uncover the defined group you have access to so that you can intelligently communicate this information. Smart sponsors won’t give you a second look without it.  OK, back to researching for the purpose of identifying what your audience wants.  Are you catering primarily to female professionals?  Find out what the trends are with this age group, what celebrities they like, are they using social media, etc. etc.  Unique trends can help you incorporate these interests into your program or event.  Uncover audience statistics through an array of resources available at your fingertips!  Maybe you’ll market differently because you find out that most professional women spend 2 hours a day on social media, and 9 out of 10 are part of groups.  (Completely made up information by the way…).  Know what’s attractive to or effective with gaining the attention of your target audience, and use that to your benefit.   It will make them happier, your sponsors look better for activating to meet their needs; and we all know that happy partners tend to be long term partners.

What do you experience?
You may or may not fall into the classification of your target audience.  Find someone close to you who is, and pick their brain.  Make a list of basic observations.  What do they experience that maybe you didn’t notice since you’re too close to the program?  Simply taking a step back and opening your eyes and ears can give you some quality observations.  Would this be an event or experience you would return to if you weren’t behind it?  How do your volunteers feel?  Is the idea or theme that you’re going for being expressed and experienced the way you wanted it to? 

Once you’ve embarked on this how to improve exploration effort, the worst thing you can do is sit on the information for too long.  Take your observations back to your team; find a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.  Embrace a solution oriented idea session.  Come up with some action plans, ideas, and activation suggestions and take it back to your sponsors as part of their ROI package.  This really piggybacks on last week’s post – this information helps them think about future efforts and gets their mind in a place to consider renewal. 

So shake off that “happy go lucky” whatever works attitude and save it for your Saturdays.  Your audience will love you for it, and your sponsor will take you seriously as a result.  The name of the game is intentional. 


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Categories:   sponsorship activation
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Pinpointing Behaviors that Drive Results

by Emily Taylor
26 04 2010

How can you win if you can’t see the scoreboard?”  Susie Egr – my favorite supervisor back in my retail days used to often ask in her tours.  Her coaching was gold; at that stage in my development as a leader and a manager proved to be not only right on, but the challenges were invigorating, empowering and most of all – results oriented.  “The behaviors that drive results;” was a phrase my team and I were very used to hearing and implementing; not surprisingly, when we wrapped our minds around the principal, it proved incredibly valuable. 

A fact is a fact is a fact:
In sponsorship, this same principle can be applied.  As a sponsorship opportunity representative, there’s likely a routine that you have in place for analyzing efforts.  These are the things you have established as critical information; it’s what you need to know in order to even begin to report value of what transpired to those who care (supervisors, partners, internal implementers, board of directors, etc).  Ex: Reviewing reports, crunching numbers, uncovering growth or lack thereof, comparing this year to last year, logging how your efforts were implemented, noting the state of the economy or outside impacting factors, consider your projections vs. your realities, etc… The first round of these efforts is fact – it is what it is.  Basically put the entire experience under a magnifying glass and observe away.  These things are not arguable, they are statements of reality; “our sales at the concessions stand went up 8 percent this year; and the average attendee ranked this experience at a 9 vs. last year at a 4.”

Infer based on fact:
Once you have established some clear and valuable facts; you can start inferring what I call the “whys.”  X happened because Y happened.  You tie a result to an action step; “we had more volunteer support this year than last year, from 76 to 89.  There were more volunteers this year because: a- our sponsor involved their internal staff this year with 15 more volunteers than last year; b- we promoted the opportunity through social media over 4 different mediums for 6 weeks; c – we rewarded our volunteers with 5 free tickets to the event, plus held a “thank you” party on their behalf.”  This step is critical because if you stop at the results, you never understand why you got the results that you did – you end up crippling your ability to plan well for your next year/effort.  When you make logical inferences, you’re then able to speak to the root cause of that result.  Perhaps you were talented in your ability to implement and activate, but if you can’t speak to why, you just look plain lucky – and we all know that luck runs out at some point; you know this and your partner knows this.  

You can break this down even further.  “Sarah Smith was in charge of our sponsors this year.  She visited our partner and met with their management team, drew up a plan to invite internal staff to volunteer, and offered sign up forms that were distributed throughout each department with clear instructions for how and why to be involved.  Last year we did not offer these forms – it was all web based sign ups.  In addition, the thank you party was a huge success, with a motivating speech, food and ‘dress rehearsal’ skit of what to expect; volunteers ranked their level of excitement and preparation for the event at an 8 instead of a 5 last year.”  This is clearly just an example, but can you see how this string of thought processes enables a manager to more clearly communicate to the appropriate individuals what’s working and how the partnership proved valuable.  You can even take this information back to a chat with Sarah Smith to say, thanks for your efforts – your ability to motivate and inspire as well as plan and drive execution resulted in ….”  You get the picture.  Obviously before you can report on these insights, you must have accurate reports to reference which point back in support of your inferences.  This builds credibility and strengthens your insights.  Sponsors can be like small children, always asking “why?” especially when you are inferring something that might be a behavior you want to see from them.  It’s easy to argue with opinion, but it’s tough to argue with supported numbers.

So… what does this have to do with sponsorship best practices?
Before you start thinking you just read a blog on management and reporting vs. sponsorship, let me explain to you why this is so incredibly relevant.  Being able to drive behaviors that achieve results can make or break the longevity and success of a sponsorship opportunity.  When you can speak intelligently to what works and what doesn’t, your sponsorship partners are more open to getting creative, they trust your insights, and they can speak intelligently to their superiors about why they should continue the relationship with you.  What's more, you drive accountability and leverage strenghts. Money is tight, sponsorship is competitive, people require helpful reporting as your partner and it can be the reason they don’t come back if you don’t report well or in a timely manner.  When you report, stay accurate.  Sponsors appreciate knowing what worked and why; as well as what didn’t work, or were your opportunities were - along with a proposed solution.  If you can get their wheels spinning around how to improve an effort for the next year, you’ve already got them thinking about the future of your relationship.  When you know the behaviors that drive results you can create action plans around what you want to see happen. 

Here’s another reason.  During all my time in management, the number one reason why I see individuals failing in certain positions is a lack of role clarity and the ability to speak intelligently to the cause and result of their efforts.  Once they can do this, you’ve empowered them to self motivate and self adjust.   If you can coach your team (or if you’re not the coach, if you can proactively figure this out) what’s working and what’s not, you will be able to see the mood elevator in your team improve, the ability to lead and earn the respect of your team will be easier to maintain, and you will be better able to inspire and motivate towards a behavior that drives a result. 

So do you know what your scoreboard reads?  Any great examples on reporting – inspire the sponsorship community with your examples!


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Categories:   ROI | tips
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What You Should Bring to the Table That Most Sponsors Aren't Expecting

by Emily Taylor
19 04 2010

Whenever I chat with various sponsors about SponsorPark, or on behalf of one of the opportunities we represent (yes, we do that – check out the Premium and Professional level packages if you haven’t already); my primary goal as I take a deep breath and enter a conversation is: engagement – grasp their attention and draw them in; surprise them with something they weren’t expecting.  There’s really lots of ways to do this, and the first ironclad truth I’ll throw out there is this is almost NEVER is this done off the cuff.  If you aren’t preparing for some brilliant conversations with individuals who are constantly being asked for money, you probably aren’t going to wow anyone.  So prepare.  Not really surprising (hopefully) to most of you; and I’m straying; the point of this blog is: how do you surprise a sponsor?  How do you give them something they weren’t expecting?   

Have you ever considered pointing out your sponsorship opportunity’s weaknesses?  Yep, you read right.  We are all so hyped up about our chance to pitch, that the typical sales person puts their “I can sell ice to eskimos” hat on, and ramble away about the 5 reasons their opportunity is the best opportunity in the world, pull out some statistics for good measure and if they’re really smart they’ll throw in some ROI from previous events.  Not that most of this is bad information; it’s just what they hear every time they’re pitched! If you really want to engage and be honest, you’ll highlight some ways that you could see the event improving.  After all, what sponsor wants to get involved in an event they can’t make better with their hands in it?  We have to remember that a sponsor wants to be your partner for the reason that they are affiliated with making the overall experience better for your audience.  If there’s something you can see your sponsor doing for your audience that hasn’t been done yet, or could improve the experience in some unique and valuable way, this is critically relevant information.  Those are the sponsors that get remembered, and those are the activation efforts that you can really draw ROI from that underscores your case for a long term relationship. 

One example I have is of property who offers an annual event drawing a large crowd of over 100,000 attendees to an event that also receives televised exposure.  Now, the area this event takes place is sadly in need of better parking to accommodate their guests.  Half of the frustrations of their attendees have to do with trekking to the event from some far off parking space they were able to discover half a continent away.  It’s an extra effort they don’t prefer, and the event director started worrying that it could become a reason for people not to make it out to the event.  They recently have been negotiating a contract with a major bus line that happens to serve the region quite well.  The involvement of this bus line would serve those attendees in a way that would improve the overall experience by taking them to and from established parking lots and the event itself.  This convenient and free method of transportation gives the sponsor the “hero” image and the event a greater appeal to the families who would like to attend without getting a workout.  Problem presented leads to new sponsor pursued, problem solved, a happier audience, and a growing event.  (By the way, they did connect as a result of SponsorPark!)

It’s also good to remember a couple of things that as people we gravitate toward.  One thing is a good story.  Another thing is being part of a good story.  I read these books recently which highlighted that as men and women, we deeply want to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure.  I don’t think we separate our work lives from that truth.  As a sponsor, if someone can find that they can fill a much needed gap somewhere in a great story – hands down they’re going to seriously consider it at the bare minimum. 

So before you put on your “ice to eskimos” face, let’s get real; Eskimos don’t need ice!  Eskimos need coats and gloves – make your sponsor the coat and gloves for your audience, and they’re bound to be intrigued.


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Categories:   sponsorship sales | tips
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