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Well Gee Whiz! And Other Outdated Sponsorship Practices

by Emily Taylor
28 09 2010

There’s really no denying that sponsorship has evolved over the last several years.  And there’s no denying that sponsorship has never seen tougher days.  Some people ask us why we chose to launch SponsorPark the very year that the economy, and sponsorship along with it, took a nose dive and dollars were more protected than ever.  Well, it definitely hasn’t been easy, but I will say that we believe that now more than ever before, properties need a leg up when it comes to being seen and heard by sponsors, and not only that, but the quality of information being communicated needs to be relevant and helpful to proactively determine smart fits.  So, that’s why we launched into beta in 2009, to do just those things for the people in the sponsorship community.  But even our core team will be the first to tell you that SponsorPark is not the end all be all for sponsorship… at least not yet!  There are some serious items you need to consider for what happens after connections are made, and what you do with partners once they’ve been established, and we want to support the education of those efforts too.  One thing we really like to highlight is sponsorship best practices.  We have a wide range of clients who use our tool – some have been in sponsorship for years and are quite experienced, others for just a short time, and still others have never had to think of sponsorship before – maybe a not for profit who used to rely on donations for example.  We want to make learning about how to progress in your sponsorship efforts as easy as following our blog, and we’re even pointing to other great resources; because we all win when we learn and grow. 

So back to our point that sponsorship has evolved.  There used to be a day when things were “swell!” and Andy Griffith might have been playing on your black and white tv – and you would have been considered advanced in your technological display being the savvy consumer you were.  Now, if you have a black and white boxy television you’re not considered so advanced or trendy… with sponsorship, there are some behaviors that are now considered outdated and ineffective that you must stay ahead of if you want to stay competitive in the valuable leveragability of your partnership offering.  Here’s a few examples:

“Place your logo here!”  If all you can offer is a sponsor’s logo up in a place visible to your target audience, you’re practicing outdated sponsorship.  While a logo representation can be the cherry on top of the package, it cannot BE the packaged deal.  In fact, there are some brands that are finding that the younger generations are responding favorably to less brand visibility, saying that the glamorization of brands is a turn off.  Actions speak louder than words, and the consumers demand interaction in order to get past their callous response to another logo in their face; in fact if a sponsor is just another logo in the clutter of brands, they won’t likely even be remembered.  If your partnership activation efforts do not allow for a creative and unique interactive leveraging component, you’re not likely to be nearly so memorable, effective to the consumer, or popular with the sponsor.  Most sponsors won’t throw dollars at signage with their logo on it anymore, don’t be foolish enough to make that your big push.

We have the same target audience!!  Do not mistake this one – it is entirely necessary that you get your sponsor in front of their target audience.  If you ask a sponsor to partner with you without this key element of your offering, you can expect to get laughed out of their office – as we mentioned in a previous blog; “birds of a feather flock together.”  But what has evolved is that you can’t stop there.   Just because they’re in front of their audience doesn’t mean it’s a memorable or even favorable impression.  We’ve likely all had the experience of going to an event or participating in a program where you had no idea who the sponsor was, you just know there were sponsors… and you might have even had an experience where you have no idea what to attribute to the sponsor if you did remember them.  Ineffective activation is as good as a sponsor throwing dollars away.  And today’s consumer requires more out of an activation effort in order for it to be effective.  Don’t forget that we live in a world that moves fast, attention span is shortening, there’s breaking new technology every day it seems like, and this same high level of interaction and high expectation for entertainment carries over in marketing.

My kid and your kid play on the same soccer team!  There was a day that networking might have been the most important part of finding partners – and it’s still not a bad thing.  But just because someone likes you, or your program, or you have some interesting connection does not mean that you will gain their support.  There’s more accountability, and the good old boys that run the show have to be able to report to their superiors why they chose to run with your program.  I can remember a time when the branch manager of one of my previous work places used to sign on our company each year as a sponsor of a local hockey team because he loved hockey and loved the VIP tickets they gave him for his support.  No longer… you have to be able to prove your worth to the bottom line of a company, and prove it well in order to be truly considered.  Your value, the fit, and the ability to leverage the program you offer must be clearly communicated, and while it seems like the sponsor would have the most to gain from coming up with these matches, the truth is there are so many options that it’s really best if you start to do some of this work for them. 

Now, we’re just really getting started, but those are just a few considerations.  What else do you see that has changed and evolved in the world of sponsorship?  We love hearing from those of you in the front lines, learning and setting directions for us all!


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Verbal Artistry; Good Gossip vs. Bad Gossip and Why it Matters

by Emily Taylor
20 09 2010

People love a good story, there’s no denying that; and corporate America is not immune.   We’re just people that like to be entertained, and we love good entertainers.  It’s discerning to keep in mind that there’s some story telling that can breathe life into your brand/property image and even you as a person, and some story telling that’s better avoided at all costs.  Awareness of what we’re prone to as humans is not a bad thing, and isn’t it true that if there’s some savory morsels of juicy drama spilling from mouth to ear, it goes down so easy doesn’t it?  If our words are paint and our mouths are paintbrushes, and we really want to be Van Gough’s in the art of speech, it’s wise to think before we open our mouths instead of recklessly slinging our words without consideration since the truth is that we’re painting impressions. 

Consider this, it’s the end of an event or program and you’re recovering from the crazy last few weeks of activation, intense communications, and you’re reflecting on your experience with your partners.  Maybe there was a partner that disappointed you; either they didn’t deliver at the level you expected, or their team was unorganized, maybe they were generally just hard to reach until D-day, or maybe for some reason you will not be renewing their partnership because of faults on their part.  After going home and screaming into your pillow, there’s a very short list of decision makers that you should straightforwardly and graciously communicate this issue with for the purpose of determining a solution to the problem.  Your anger or frustration should not trickle down into the ranks of volunteers or other sponsors, even though it’s tempting because we all need to let out a little steam here and there right?  And letting off steam can be a good thing, when done with the proper boundaries.  Here’s the problem with opening your mouth too fast to the wrong person:

  1. Never burn bridges.  None of us knows what the future holds, and so you never know what person you might offend and in what way they might have the power to impact your brand or you personally.  So you’re better off being discrete with your opinions or frustrations.
  2. When you talk badly about partners it’s an indication of how you might treat a new partner – without integrity and decency.  You might end up offending or frightening away a new partner as a result of careless or indiscrete words.  We all feel a little more secure with our reputations when we’re around people who consider us when we speak.
  3. It’s unprofessional, and the parallel carries over to others’ impression of you as well as your brand.   A previous job I held put me in close contact with a team member who literally could not go one day without angrily complaining about company initiatives, customers, and colleagues.  To the above point, I honestly wondered what the heck she had to say about me, but it also gave me a sour taste in my mouth every time she tried to engage me in a conversation or discuss implementation.  She was actually very good at her job, quite efficient and goal oriented, but If given the opportunity, I would NEVER hire her for the reason that she was not careful with her words, and it impacted her environment; which leads me to my next point.
  4. It takes major points away from motivating/insipring a team.  As a leader/decision maker, part of your job is to light a fire under the feet of your team so jobs are done with energy and passion.  When you have unproductive conversation about a partner, it takes away the motivation to activate with excellence, and makes a team feel less confident in partnership decision making.  Notice I said “unproductive” conversations – there is a such thing as productive conversations with your team where you can highlight opportunities and even point out issues in a partner, but it should not be done to blow off steam.  These conversations should have a point, and be solution oriented. 
  5. It’s just plan mean.  Why would you want to hurt unnecessarily, or cause pain and trouble for a company or individual when given the choice?  If a brand or organization you previously partnered with has trouble gaining new partnerships, it shouldn’t be because you stabbed them in the back.

Now, on the flip side, the opposite is true of good gossip.  You maintain bridges and helpful connections, people trust you and want to work with you, you paint a professional self and brand image, and you keep your team inspired.  People are refreshed when they spend time with a person that offers good gossip, and sometimes it’s as easy as taking a brief moment to just say what you experienced.  Consider a time when something someone said about you came back to your attention.  If it was good, how did it make you feel?  Was it encouraging and inspiring?  Did it make you trust and even respect them more?  Did you feel understood and appreciated?  When we’re mad, we’re so quick to feel an urge to tell someone, but when something good happens we need to react just as quickly. I recently had a sponsor approach us with interest in one of the properties listed on SponsorPark; this property also happens to be one of the greatest pleasures to work with.  So I shot off a quick email to let the sponsor know how much we enjoyed working with her, and she responded back with a “very good to know, thanks

 I heard in a leadership conference once that really good leaders share credit – have you shared credit or pointed directly to a person, team or brand’s efforts lately?


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The Monster in the Closet, and Other Fears of Sponsors

by Emily Taylor
13 09 2010

I love the new commercial with the little girl who solemnly faces a gigantic monster standing at the foot of her bed, saying: “it says you don’t exist…” and as the monster responds in disappointment she patiently replies, “sorry.”  Cracks me up every time.  Ah, don’t you wish we were all that brave and matter of fact when facing our monsters?! 

Since most of the sponsorship opportunity reps using our resource are looking for new sponsors, I find it appropriate to address the fears of many sponsors in signing a new partner.  The fears of signing a new partner can be very different from the fears a sponsor has when they’re maintaining an old partnership.  In a direct parallel to the example above, you as a property will play the part of the internet or smartphone (with the answers), the sponsor is the little girl in her bed, and the monster represents their fears or hesitations in moving forward with you.  So what are some of those monsters?

  1. The Unknown.  I think this is perhaps the biggest monster ever.  The unknown can pertain to many things – newness, no proven results, starting from scratch in sponsorship activation ideas, a brand new team of partners, a lack of ROI reference, what will this new partnership do to their brand?  In short, it’s a risk.  There can be labor pains to birthing a new partnership.  Newness can be scary for anyone, because everyone likes the familiar – the tried and true.  Sponsors like to say,” well, last year we did this and it worked really well”.  Or, “we have done racing sponsorship before, and here are some activation ideas that really seemed to make an impact on our bottom line.”  If you’re a new partner, you need to think long and hard about what sets you apart, paint a very clear picture about why your assets can deliver, then look directly into that sponsor’s face and say – “this fear doesn’t exist, and here’s why.”  Send that monster packing.  Now, the more homework you can do about a company, the better a fit you truly are to a sponsor’s mission, and the more clearly you define why it’s mutually beneficial, the better of you are at scaring away the monster.  One other tactic is this – remember the blog of key take-aways from the Global Leadership Summit?  One thing I mentioned was Bill Hybel’s point of getting from “here to there.”  You have to summarize why staying here is unacceptable, and why going there is the best answer for growth – this is a great approach with sponsors; keep in mind, however, that you need to do this in a way that’s not insulting, you need to paint a positive picture for why you answer a need without implying they’re failing in some way. 
  2. Minimal Budgets.  – And budget cuts.  Sometimes properties forget that they aren’t the only ones facing the slashing of resources.  Sponsors are less inclined to move forward specifically for this reason – they have to explain every dollar they spend, and there’s less dollars than there were yesterday.  The honest truth is you can’t really do much about company budgets.  Obviously providing some valuable activation ideas, and some ROI examples for how you grew other partners in the past is a good start to proving that you’re well worth their dollars.  But you can’t pluck leaves from a Maple tree in the winter.  If there’s no money available, there’s no money.  But do you stop there?  Absolutely not.  You need to stay on their radar if you’re still a good fit.  After all, spring does come around after a while, and those leaves come back.  So, do your due diligence to stay in touch, drop them a line here and there, keep them in the loop with your efforts, stay connected, and maintain the position that you’d be the best thing for them as a marketing resource.  If it’s possible to negotiate a multi-year contract with discounts as a reward for long term commitments, this could be what makes the difference for you.  Face the monster bravely.
  3. No ROI or history to report on.  It’s surprising to me that there are so many properties that don’t provide ROI support.  I just had a call with an individual rep. today that upon my asking about their ROI reporting, said, “Oh, we don’t really do much there yet.”  There is no good reason why a good partner shouldn’t be working with their sponsor to provide something to reference for ROI.  But what about those brand new programs and efforts that would love to reference something, but they’re in their first year and simply cannot.  You have a monster to face, and I won’t lie, it can be a tough one to overcome – this ties back to the fear of the unknown monster, they’re great friends actually.  But just because you’re just starting your efforts for the first time doesn’t mean you can’t offer measurable data to offer.  It would be crazy to attempt to launch a new event or program without having done tremendous research on your target audience, a need, your reach, your competition, etc.  You don’t start a business without a business plan.  So, you DO have something to reference.  You need to give educated guesses a sponsor can reference for the questions they might have, and support it with data that is tough to argue.  It’s not as reliable as a previous experience, but it’s a great start.  The benefit too, is that sponsors ARE looking for fresh new ways to reach their target market, new ideas can be the best ideas.

So, prepare yourself for some high quality conversations and face those monsters bravely!  Have any stories on monsters you’ve faced – some not even addressed here?  Please tell us, or if you’re a sponsor, maybe you can fill us in from your perspective; our goal is to make sure you’re getting the best, most helpful presentations ever! 


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