Here’s How To Create Sponsorship Levels That Work And Brands Love
Everyday, sponsorship seekers all over the world create and send sponsorship pitch decks with the intention of securing lucrative sponsorship deals with brands.
Often, the sponsorship packages consist of carefully thought-out sponsorship levels like Gold, Silver, Bronze or some other similar naming convention which correlates to a hierarchy of importance and investment.
Each level in the hierarchy increasing in price as you get to the higher levels such as Gold, Platinum etc.
The benefits themselves normally consist of logo placement/inclusion on marketing material, an allotment of free tickets and the ability to activate the sponsorship.
Unfortunately for the masses of people using this very approach, it rarely works.
Let’s say one day you’re extremely busy because you’re focused on running your business and I approach you out of the blue and I offer to sell you a ‘Gold Level’ sponsorship package to a concert you’ve never heard of for $5,000?
This Gold Level package comes with tickets for you and your clients, you can hand out your business card at the event, or you can come up with some other way to promote your business at the concert and I’ll consider allowing it, we’ll put your name on the screen/programmes and we’ll even shout your name out on the microphone.
Firstly, if this scenario is something you like the sound of and it doesn’t raise a bunch of questions then I’m afraid this article won’t add much value for you.
On the other hand, this if you found yourself asking a tonne of questions like ‘what is this concert?’, ‘what do you mean I can hand out business cards at a concert?‘, ‘that sounds like the uncoolest thing ever, people would be so pissed off like who is this idiot passing out business cards?’ then this article is for you.
‘You’re going to say my name on stage? Why? No one is going to the concert to hear from me, they won’t even know who I am, they’ll boo‘.
This very scenario plays out in some way, shape or form all over the world when it comes to sponsorship.
In this article I’m going to explain how to provide sponsorship levels that actually work and sponsors love.
1. Research before you pitch
Before you even begin pitching to a brand, you need to research.
The example in the beginning of this article shows a lack of understanding about what that business values and also what their current business challenges are.
Being able to present sponsorship in a way that is going to be well received comes down to research.
Start by trying to understand what a business needs and wants AT THIS POINT IN TIME.
Perhaps you’re talking to a telco and they’ve recently been pushing new phone & internet packages, or promoting a new mobile phone. Perhaps they’re talking about the Internet of Things in their marketing material.
You could offer them the ability to showcase their technology at your event in a way that will add excitement or entertainment to the concert goers.
Or you could come up with another way to get their product integrated into the event somehow which will add value for everyone.
Your goal before you pitch any sponsorship opportunity is to research the company you’re approaching and try to find out everything you can about them such as:
- – Who are their customers? (demographics)
- – What do they sell and how do they make money?
- – What are their goals as a business?
- – What are their current areas of growth or development?
- – What language/terms do they use or promote?
- – How can you help them?
To do this, start by doing the following:
- – Browse their website looking for key information
- – Look at their social media channels to see what they post about
- – Look their employees up on LinkedIn and see what they post about and share
- – Talk to people who work there and ask them questions
- – Check the business news to see if they’re appearing in the media for anything recently
Imagine being able to provide a solution or something a business is really after, exactly when they need it? Research is the key to getting close to this outcome.
2. Avoid using sponsorship levels when pitching
Are you using some form of Gold, Silver, Bronze or other similar naming convention which you send to potential sponsors? Stop doing that!
The problem with levels like this is they appear rigid. They also stifle imagination and they tell potential sponsors that they have to fit into your box.
This is fine if you’ve got sponsors knocking down your door to sponsor you, but from experience, there are only a select few sponsorships which wield this type of power and they still don’t use this approach.
When you use these types of approaches to sponsorship, you’re essentially telling would be sponsors that you don’t care about them.
You’re saying ‘here’s what you can get, and that’s that!’. ‘If you want to come on board, you’ll fit into this category and get these benefits, which is no different from anyone else who is also at that level’.
The problem with predefined levels is that most businesses will likely pass. They’ll likely pass because every business is different, and so is every industry. What works for one business may not work for another.
One would also be wise to assume a business doesn’t know about your organisation, potentially doesn’t know how to get the most out of a sponsorship and may even not know what to do with benefits such as ‘free tickets’ or ‘ability to activate’ (which would then make your proposed benefits a barrier or hurdle, rather than the benefit it is intended to be).
This is especially true when brands have tunnel vision and are focussed on their day-to-day objectives.
I’m not saying to not have levels all together. Obviously, the amount of money and contra you receive from sponsors will vary and you’ll know who your ‘top’ sponsors are. This is fine to consider them part of an internal hierarchy for the sake of determining how much time/resource to allocate to servicing them. But you should not share this information with your sponsors as it weakens your negotiating power.
Now you may be wondering how to refer to your sponsors, or even how sponsors can refer to themselves if you’re not using Gold, Silver, Bronze etc. Instead, you can use terms such as Major Partner/Sponsor, Supporting Partner/Sponsor, Naming Rights Partner/Sponsor etc.
Alternatively, look at only allowing one partner per industry, for example; Technology Partner, Vehicle Partner, Travel Partner, Banking Partner etc while adding a premium for exclusivity.
By doing this it allows you two things:
1. It gives you the ability to provide bespoke and tailored solutions to each business based on their needs and;
2. It allows you to negotiate without having to lay out or show all of your cards in your arsenal.
By not using pre-determined sponsorship levels with fixed price points, you are allowing yourself to use discretion and achieve the best possible outcome when it comes to negotiating price.
You may have a sponsor who can commit $50,000, another at $30,000 and another at $20,000 and you may wish to assign them all as a ‘Major Sponsor’. Whereas, let’s say you have a predetermined ‘Gold Package’ which is $50,000. If you sold this to a sponsor for $30,000 you are automatically devaluing your offering and your organisation. That sponsor will know they never have to pay full price in any future negotiations, or they may expect more for less. It’s a tough road to come back from if you wan to increase your prices.
Without predefined packages, you’re free to negotiate based on value, and you’re more likely to engage a sponsor who recognises value in what you offer.
3. Pitch three main ideas instead of sponsorship levels
If you’re going to pitch for sponsorship, and you’ve completed your research on that business effectively, then you’ll no doubt have identified a number of ways you think you can add value to that business.
Maybe you found out they’re wanting to launch a new product, or get people to trial a service, potentially they were in the news for poor customer service, or maybe they’re struggling to recruit staff.
Take those golden nuggets of insights and pick three ways you can help them with those challenges using benefits which you may offer.
Let’s say you researched a bank and you discovered they’re trying to:
1. Drive more online sales;
2. Get people to book an appointment with one of their financial specialists and;
3. They’re keen to showcase real life businesses on their social media channels as a way of showing how to use their services for success.
You might pitch three ideas to them like so:
Idea 1 – Keep it Correct: We’d like to work with you to help develop a campaign around driving more online sales. To do this we want to create a once in a life time experience at our event. People who update their contact details with you will go into the draw to win this incredible experience.
We will also let you have a stand at our event where people can update their contact details with you. Every 20th person who updates their contact details will be upgraded to VIP.
We know that having the correct contact details for customers allows you to provide the right marketing experience at the right time which means you’ll be able to provide timely marketing messages or prompts when someone is ready for an upgrade/renewal. This, in turn will help drive greater online sales which we can measure or test.
Idea 2 – Specialist Treats: Apply the same concept above except make the incentives around booking a session with one of the bank’s financial specialists. Then you can also measure the increase in the number of financial specialist bookings against a normal period.
Idea 3 – Team Behind the Team: We’d like to put together a special behind the scenes content series where we film the logistical planning, problems and financial struggles of putting on our annual event.
Event planning, budgeting and the overall organising of the event takes months and months of work. We’d love to showcase working alongside some of your financial specialists during our financial planning and how working with the bank helps with the overall success of the event itself.
We’d love to show the highs, the lows, and all of the interesting and often unexpected realities of putting on our event. We can release this on your social media channels as part of your business success showcase.
These ideas are fairly basic examples and I’m sure you could come up with some more creative solutions or ideas. The point is, they’re tailored towards specific challenges the business has.
You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned sponsorship levels or listed a bunch of benefits such as logo placement or ‘the ability to activate’. I also haven’t mentioned anything about ‘Gold, Silver or Bronze’ levels, or any type of naming convention. Instead, I’ve provided some examples to showcase I understand their business and to get a sense for if they’re interested. I’m pitching a service rather than looking for a handout.
If one of those ideas piques their interest then we can work out all of the finer details in the negotiation.
To recap, most sponsors don’t respond well to rigid pre-determined sponsorship levels such as Platinum, Diamond, Gold, Silver etc.
The goal of sponsorship is to add value to a business or assist in helping achieve their organisational goals/objectives.
Each business and industry differ from one another and therefore what they need from a sponsorship will differ.
To deliver sponsorship levels that work and sponsors love you have to research them before contacting them. Sponsors love when you can speak their language, understand their challenges and are able to put forward helpful solutions.
Use naming conventions such as Naming Rights Partner, Major Partner, Official partner and Supporting Partner.
Also, look at naming conventions which speak more to the sponsors business e.g. For a car company you may choose XX event – Driven by <Car Company Name>, or for an energy company you may choose xx event – Powered by <Energy Company Name>.
Once you’ve researched a business to identify what challenges they’re facing, or you’ve identified a way in which you can help them achieve some business objectives they may have, then you can pitch them three ideas highlighting how your sponsorship will help them.
If this piques their interest or begins a conversation then you’re free to negotiate all of the finer details.
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