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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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Can Your Proposal Speak For Itself?

by Emily Taylor
2 03 2010

I love talking.  A part of me seriously believes that a person’s thoughts are validated with words – whether by mouth or by pen.  When I was a kid I remember being reprimanded for speaking on behalf of my twin brother.  “Let him speak for himself, Emily,” I was told.  “But I just know what he means to say, and I can’t help it, I want to make sure they know what he’s thinking,” I insisted.

In sponsorship sales, there will be times that your proposal will have to speak for itself.  Maybe you’re a talker too – maybe the delivery of your presentation would be enough to earn a standing ovation in a boardroom; but know that you won’t always have the luxury of personally presenting your take on why a sponsor should get excited about your opportunity.  Your contagious enthusiasm and your passion for activation that you eagerly display in conference rooms and personal pitches can’t be your greatest strength.  Especially with more substantial partnership opportunities, there will likely be instances that the proposal has the platform with a number of individuals who will reference it as they weigh out the possibilities.  You might have a chance to speak personally with one or two of them, but you need to write your proposal in such a way that if you were in the room while the corporate decision makers were reviewing the document, you wouldn’t feel the need to interject or add to anything to what they were seeing.

So how can you make sure what’s in your proposal is head turning and eyebrow raising?  I encourage you to reference the “Elements of a sophisticated proposal” theme that we posted previously to gain some insights – it’s a great starting point.  Keep in the back of your mind that especially with the competitive nature of sponsorship requests right now, it’s very important to consider how to  write your proposal in such a way that it stands out as unique from all the rest.

Back when I was in retail, I remember preparing months in advance before a visit from Corporate.  All the big wigs were going to be there, people we had only seen in videos, press conferences or the news.  They hadn’t been to a visit in our area for nearly 10 years, and as a new store manager I would have their attention for about an hour – and so would hundreds of other store managers.  As the weeks drew nearer I recall some very wise advice from a more experienced store manager; “consider the one take away you want them to remember about you most – design all of your interactions to underscore that point.” So I did – the visit went so well I won an award for it.  I was the youngest and most inexperienced of my entire team, and I didn’t win the award because I was brilliant, my store did well but it was by no means the biggest or the best – I won it because I sent a clear, valuable and memorable message.  If you want to stand apart like a diamond in the ruff – one proposal among tens, hundreds or more; you need to quickly, and clearly communicate a message with value. 

I remember hearing one story about a property representative that pitched a sponsor by sending them a formal proposal which cast a vision in a very unique way – it was prepared much like a storybook – the cover was entitled “XYZ marathon presented by XYZ sponsor… the possibilities.”  The possibilities were then unfolded in a draft that highlighted their assets – painted a picture for how this specific sponsor would be able to capitalize on them.  It made the opportunity into an experience and made it very easy for the sponsor to catch the excitement before a meeting was ever initiated.  The sales rep was on the phone a day or two later to follow up and schedule a meeting, and the potential sponsor was on board to engage in a serious discussion about “the possibilities”.  His attention had been captured.  For this property rep – even the delivery of the proposal was unique.  The encased document was uniquely designed and even delivered via FedEx in a package straight to the desk of the decision maker.  Create your proposal to be memorable, then sit back and be prepared to let it speak for itself.


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Sponsorship Connection Tip #9: Don't Sell Yourself Short

by Emily Taylor
15 02 2010

Even in a world where you might have to add perks you wouldn’t normally add to sell the sponsorship, or consider additional assets to bundle for more package options, make sure your pricing aligns with the value you’re offering a sponsor.  When the economy bounces back, you don’t want to be stuck in a rut because you undersold your sponsorship previously.


Since SponsorPark is not involved in the actual sale of the sponsorship at all, we want to make sure our members are well prepared to consider the best approaches when entering into sales conversations.   Sponsorship sales are more competitive than ever – we all know this to be true.  We all know that many corporate sponsors are cutting budgets, dropping sponsorships, and the “sure deal,” isn’t such a sure thing anymore.  It’s tempting to react out of panic and desperation in order to keep your events and programs alive, but stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath and let’s consider a few things to get a big picture perspective before you make a calculated response.  You have options, so consider them wisely before moving forward with negotiations.

Truth: it’s a buyer’s market.  Sponsors are really in a place right now that they can be choosy and even make demands that they never would have been able to before for the sole reason that they know you need them. 

Option #1: Add perks to sponsorship packages that you “throw in,” in order to make a package more valuable.  It’s better to add perks than to drop your price.  When you drop your price too low, you start to set yourself up for some painful sales in the future.  When a sponsor is used to getting a package of benefits at a particular price, they’re going to be a tough sell when you offer the same thing at a higher rate in the future.  This doesn’t reward their loyalty, and it will require you to communicate value under scrutiny.  Plus, when you reduce the cost of a package, you’re going to have to make up for it somewhere else, and we all know that finding more sponsors isn’t the best option - plus when there are too many sponsors, value of partnership is reduced - too much brand clutter.  What does this option require of you?  That you get creative about the perks you offer.  Dig in to uncover assets you’ve never considered valuable before, use sponsor summits, or access to your target audience in new and inventive ways that don’t cost you more money.  Maybe you’ll feature them in a newsletter as well as sending out an email campaign on their behalf – free and simple. 

Option #2: Offer a deal with a multi-year contract.  It’s true that sponsorship partners are able to accomplish more with longer partnerships.  The pressure for annual sales is relieved, and so maybe you give them discounts on year two and three if they sign now. 

Now, if you’re not going to undersell your sponsorship, you have to make sure you approach a sponsor with an edge.  What’s that edge?  Know your stuff.  This isn’t the season to not be sure about your target audience or know what to expect for attendance.  This is the season to have great ideas about activation, to approach with confidence knowing the power of your potential partnership and communicate the ROI you expect for your partner.  This is the season to know how your opportunity is distinguished from your competition.  You should get to the point quickly, ask for next steps efficiently, and approach with plenty of time in advance.  Don’t waste your time in multiple meetings with a sponsor when you can find out in meeting one whether or not this is a realistic partnership.  Can you deliver for one another what you both want in order to make this work?  Basically, apply the other 8 tips we’ve already mentioned! 

So, how have you applied some of these efforts in your sales push?  Are there some additional options you recommend to keep from selling yourself short?  We’d love to hear them – and so would many others in sponsorship sales!


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