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Best Practice Sponsorship - How to be Extraordinary

by Emily Taylor
  
26 07 2011

Nobody wakes up and says, “Gosh, how can I be ordinary today?”  The truth is that most of us are invigorated by the possibility of being extraordinary, memorable, and impactful both personally and professionally.  Specifically regarding sponsorships, sales have been a really tough, ultra-competitive last few years, and we don’t land partnerships with sheer luck – it takes talent, and the application of well-timed, extraordinary best practices implemented consistently and intentionally.  So, that being the case, let’s go over some best practices that will make you stand out as extraordinarily talented sponsorship professional.  We've highlighted various best practices in several other blogs - so we took some of the tips we've offered in the past and pulled them together for both a great review and easy access in one spot; so without further adieu:

  1. Ensure you are pursuing mutually beneficial relationships. The best way you can ensure that you’re being taken seriously by a sponsor is to demonstrate that you know their business and have a reason to believe you’re a good match for their brand.  This might mean that you have to take off the rose colored glasses and realize that you are a great fit for someone, but not everyone. Since you can’t be everything to everyone, there’s a target group of sponsors you need to pursue knowing what you have to offer is most valuable to them.  We always ask our new sponsorship opportunity representatives on SponsorPark what sponsors they have an interest in and why, and you can always tell who has the sponsor in mind, and who is more concerned with their own needs being met.  Always remember – sponsorship is not a donation or charitable contribution, it’s a marketing platform for sponsors to reach their target audience through leveraging a partnership with you.  Answer the question for how you meet this need for them, and you’ll have their attention – and their respect.
  2. Connect purposefully:  Let’s face it; there’s no easy wave of a wand that will guarantee you an audience with the most appropriate decision maker.  But you can be purposeful in your efforts and here are a few suggestions:  Ask for referrals from current connections (my favorite!); pick up the phone, nothing will take the place of a prepared for and well-timed phone call – not as easy, but definitely useful.  Network like a champ; these days it’s crazy not to use social media as it has definitely made people more connected – it can open some doors when used appropriately.  Attending industry specific events puts you in the right place at the right time with the right people.  Think outside the box.  What would get your attention if someone were trying to gain an audience with you?  Dare to be different – sponsors are inundated with stacks of the same old thing.  These are just a few ideas, but remember, it usually takes time.  I can’t say I often connect with the right person on the first attempt – unless it is handed to me.  Have patience and be persistent. 
  3. Cast a vision based on credible research:  Charisma and credibility are the dynamic duo when it comes to sales; though they rarely come out of spontaneous conversation- it takes preparation and measurable support.  When you make it clear that you have done your research about their recent marketing campaigns, note trends or changes in trends, their previous efforts with a charity, a new product launch, etc; this shows that you have specific and informed interest in them, as opposed to anyone who will offer you money.  And when you’re telling the story of your event or program, include your sponsor in the picture of what could happen if they were involved. What about your audience’s experience would be impacted in a positive and memorable way because they were present?  The ability for them to impact an experience valued by their target audience is tremendously valuable to their brand.  With enough qualitative and quantitative support paired up with a verbally competent, charismatic voice, you’ve likely won yourself a distinguished place in their evaluation of your value.
  4. Honor their time and invite a dialogue:  Honoring a sponsor’s time commitments is both respectful and attractive.  And remember, they didn’t agree to offer their valuable time with you to learn all about you necessarily; they’re there to learn about why a partnership is a good idea for their brand.  That means you need to focus the conversation on their brand vs. your opportunity.  Even if they ask about who you are and what you’re doing, make sure to be aware of how much time you spend talking about yourself knowing that you will put out any spark of interest if you produce a monologue about who you are, why you’re amazing, and why they should partner with you (for your benefit).  Your ultimate goal is to engage them in a dialogue that intertwines your efforts. At the end of the conversation you want them to see how valuable they are WITH you.  Separate yourself from 99% of other sponsorship requestors and engage them in their goals and objectives.
  5. Get creative – avoid outdated activation ideas.  Dinner and a movie… yawn.  Logo coverage on a banner… double yawn.  When you’re trying to make a real impression, innovation is the key.  Consumers bore easily in our fast-paced culture, and brand clutter or the “same old thing” just won’t make an impression anymore.   You can start off by getting innovative with your assets and ideas while you’re pitching them, but ultimately you want to invite them into the conversation so that their ultimate interests are met and the creativity potential explodes.  If they’re excited about the new and creative way they’re impacting through innovative activation efforts, they become more reliable and loyal. 
  6. Prepare to offer helpful ROI: Measuring your efforts for dynamite ROI is something I’ll always advocate as a best practice, but keep in mind not all numbers are helpful.  You want to make sure you’re reporting back information your sponsor can use, it proves the value of the investment.  Do this by asking your sponsor what they want. Do they want more brand recognition?  Do they want to see sales of a particular product spike?  Do they want to reach a new target audience?  Do they want to see more test drives?  You then take this information and create an activation strategy that gives you the ability to measure outcomes more ingeniously!
  7. Do what you say you’re going to do – Have you ever heard empty promises from a partner?  Or maybe started fulfilling your end of a deal when suddenly the charismatic counterpart ended up renegotiating his piece halfway through the deal?  Or worse – they don’t deliver at all.  If you want a bitter partner with a mouthpiece, being unfaithful to your promises is the fastest way to paint a target on your back.  If you follow through faithfully and do everything in your power to put action steps in place to honor your promises, your sponsors will be not only singing your praise, but count major points in the positive towards considering a contract with you for following years – being reliable is invaluable.  But don’t stop there; go above and beyond when you get the chance.  My husband once told me we should take a quick vacation with the 15 days I had between jobs.  I thought he would take me to Des Moines to see his family, or maybe Kansas City for a weekend getaway – he surprised me with tickets to Cabo.  The reaction was undeniably favorable; he had big points in my book for a very long time.  When you’re able to find ways to add value to a sponsor’s partnership without requiring more of them is a fast way to earn points and distinguish yourself as a partner.

Implementing these best practices is a great way you can rest assured you put your best foot forward as an extraordinary sponsorship professional! 

Categories:   sponsorship sales | tips
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Where Next For Sponsorship? The Challenge of the Digital Age.

by Simon Rines
  
20 07 2011

Simon Rines comes to us from International Marketing Reports (IMR); a global sports marketing intelligence publisher.  IMR is best known for publishing Europe's best selling and most highly aclaimed sponsorship report; Driving Business Through Sport.  More recently the company has published titles examining sponsorship law ans sponsorship and CSR.  The company is currently working on new titles examining the roles of experiential and digital marketing in sponsorship.  To read more about IMR, see thier listing on our resources page.

That the sponsorship industry has matured in the past ten years goes without saying and this has happened in several stages. Sponsorship started as a ‘media buy’; in return for a set fee, the sponsor gets its name on either perimeter boards, player shirts, cars or it has rights to the official name of tournaments or stadia etc.
The industry then moved on to realise that it was important to ‘activate’ those rights. This involved using public relations, sales promotion, hospitality, merchandising and other marketing techniques to link to the sponsorship, bring it to life and drive the objectives.

Arguably the next development was to realise that sponsorship wasn’t just about marketing to the public and building the brand. It could also be used for internal communications, business-to-business relationships, communicating to the media and analysts etc. Effectively, sponsorship became a business platform for many companies and rights were used across a range of departments within organisations. Indeed, in the next issue of the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship we will publish research that proves that companies that sponsor are actually better companies – and this is irrespective of whether they met their sponsorship objectives.

The question is where will sponsorship go next and what issues does the industry face? The big buzz in the past few years has concerned digital media and this represents both huge opportunities and threats.

Sponsors are increasingly keen to utilise digital media as part of their activation strategies for three reasons. First, it is becoming increasingly difficult to use conventional media to engage with large numbers of people. The media has become fragmented and many segments of the population simply no longer read newspapers or watch TV in the way that they used to. Digital media helps to plug the gaps and for some demographics this is the preferred option.

Second, digital media offers an opportunity to develop a more interactive and, the theory goes, deeper relationship with the consumer. For example, Sprint’s NASCAR sponsorship has included a sophisticated, informative and fun section on its website, which allows visitors to view and interact with data concerning NASCAR. IBM’s sponsorship of Wimbledon has included a dedicated app that allows spectators to simply point their phone to navigate round the Wimbledon site and to receive information about matches being played on a particular court. Other sponsors have used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc to entertain and inform.

Finally, one of the great benefits of digital media is how it offers the opportunity to react more quickly to events to create greater impact – a message about a cup final victory delivered within minutes of the action finishing is much more powerful than one the following day.

The big problem with digital media in sponsorship to date, however, is that very few companies have really got to grips with it. Some will post a video on YouTube, others will create Facebook page, Tweet or produce a microsite and develop apps. But most are playing an uncoordinated game of catch up, waiting to see what others do and, when practicable, taking the good ideas.

At a recent sports marketing conference featuring some of the world’s leading sponsors, all the speakers present said that they still didn’t know how the use of digital media would pan out in the future and didn’t think that they were making the most of it.

Interestingly, later in the day, the audience was asked to vote on which companies gained most from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The answers included Puma, Nike and Bavaria (a small Dutch beer brand), none of whom were official event sponsors.

It is interesting to note the reasons why these brands fared so well. Bavaria’s success was entirely down to a publicity stunt in which they had smuggled a group of women into the stadium who stripped off their outer clothing to reveal a ‘uniform’ of orange (Bavaria’s colours) hot pants. FIFA overreacted to the ambush and ejected the group and they were threatened with arrest. The story went global within minutes and its spread included a significant element of social media distribution. Nike and Puma on the other hand invested heavily in, among other initiatives, digital media to create content featuring players signed to the brands. They didn’t need official rights to create the content and despite the fact that they couldn’t directly refer to the World Cup, it didn’t really matter. They were promoting soccer at the time of the event with major stars from the event – they saw no need to spend tens of millions of dollars on official rights when that money could be spent on creating and distributing content.

This represents a major challenge for the sponsorship industry. If major corporations believe that they can achieve significant results from digital campaigns without buying official rights, the value of those rights could fall. Similarly, at events where there is more than one official sponsor, the one that gets the digital activation right can eclipse all the others and effectively reduce the impact and value for those other sponsors.

It will therefore be up to the rights holders to ensure that they do more to help all sponsors to make their rights offering work and this certainly includes improving their levels of understanding of digital media. One sponsor, for example, recently told me of a rights holder that hadn’t introduced wifi to its stadium which severely curtailed an idea to create mobile content.

Another debating point is whether sports clubs that create Facebook pages are actually losing their audience. The argument here is that if fans opt for Facebook, rather than club websites, has the club effectively lost them? The digital media industry will point to the argument that says you should trust the public to take content, run with it and distribute it for you - and this can indeed work. But an opposing argument says that once they have left, you have no control over what they might do and they might not come back.  

Rights holders have traditionally been slow to understand the sponsorship process and how brands use rights. They now need to take a quantum leap to find a balance that works for both them and their sponsors in the digital age.

Similarly sponsors are going to find that the old ways of doing things will no longer suffice. Even if ambushers or co-sponsors don’t outwit them, the public now has an appetite for great content and a huge pool of providers to choose from. Official sponsorship rights still give brands an advantage, but it is one that requires more hard work than ever to get the desired result.

Categories:   industry happenings | Social Media | sponsorship activation
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Spotlight on Sponsorship! “Massage on the Go USA De-Stress Express College Tour”

by Stephanie Lochmiller
  
11 07 2011

As a way to draw increased awareness and attention to some of the standup sponsorship opportunities on our site, we’ve set apart one blog per month to put the “Spotlight on Sponsorship”! If you have a premium level listing on SponsorPark, and would like to have your event featured, please contact [email protected] to submit your event, as we are currently looking to fill the remainder of our 2011 Spotlight calendar.  This month our spotlight shines on “Massage on the Go USA- De-Stress Express College Tour”.

What is Massage on the Go USA all about?

Massage on the Go USA is the leading nationwide seated massage company for the college market providing massage, relaxation and spa events to college campuses across the country since 1996. Massage on the Go USA has the largest following of schools who do massage and relaxation events in the country, with a reputation of satisfaction second to none.  Most often, this is not simply a one-time event for schools and campuses looking to provide services year-round as a reminder to the students to take better care of themselves. Happy students mean better retention, and as alumni they feel a strong positive bond toward their school of choice. 

What Makes this Opportunity Unique?

One thing that makes Massage on the Go USA stand out is the fact that they offer every potential sponsor the opportunity to reach a broad range of students across the country.  They have the ability to customize packages to reach incoming freshmen, to outgoing seniors; or athletes or stressed out exam takers.  Couple with that, the ability to target specific areas of the country and MOTG offers sponsors a unique way to target their desired audience.  In addition, Massage on the Go USA has built a substantial social media following on both Facebook and Twitter, and uses these outlets to further the reach of their sponsors.  By connecting with students and campus decision makers Massage on the Go USA is always working to showcase what their sponsors have to offer. 

Surviving Sponsorship in a Heated Economy

Massage on the Go USA has noticed in recent years that universities are cutting their budgets due to lack of funding, and this has had an impact on their ability to maintain many campus programs.  However, this challenge has also opened up new avenues for their sponsors to be seen as the organizations that really make these programs possible.  By making these positive and relaxing events possible, students begin to see Massage on the Go USA sponsors as trustworthy partners, rather than another brand looking to gain attention on a college campus.

Massage on the Go USA has also turned to SponsorPark in order to get their listing in front of the most appropriate potential sponsors.  According to event organizer Meredith Gansrow, “SponsorPark has been a great resource for bouncing ideas around and really staying on point with what sponsors want and what will benefit them most.” 

Preferred Partners?

Massage on the Go USA offers opportunities to make different sponsor categories, but some great partners would include health and fitness brands, vitamin supplements, sports drinks and fitness clubs.  While these health related sponsors offer products in alignment with student wellbeing, Massage on the Go USA offers great opportunities for any brand looking to get in front of a university based demographic including recruiting, technology and car brands.  For more information about Massage on the Go USA visit their SponsorPark listing

Categories:   Elements of a Proposal | featured listings | General | industry happenings | Introductions | ROI | Social Media | Sponsorship resources | sponsorship sales
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