How many times have you worked your butt off onboarding a brand to sponsor you or your organisation, only to have the following happen?
– They don’t spend any time or money actually leveraging, promoting or activating their sponsorship.
– They expect to get a return on investment from their sponsorship fee alone without leveraging their involvement.
– They say things like ‘We’re not getting a return or making any sales from this sponsorship‘.
You’re not alone, this is a common challenge in the sponsorship industry and we’re going to explore how you can navigate that in this article.
1. Managing expectations – Sponsorship is like a gym membership
The first step in getting brands to spend extra money is to manage expectations.
First of all, you should be making it clear in your negotiations that in order to get a return on investment they will have to spend extra money on leveraging the sponsorship, otherwise they will likely get very limited value from it.
Sometimes you may get a blank stare back at you. No need to be disheartened, take it as a chance to educate your sponsor.
One of the best ways to manage expectations is explain that sponsorship is much like a gym membership.
When you buy a gym membership, you’re buying access to the gym, the gym equipment, the changing rooms, the classes and other benefits.
If you don’t actually turn up to the gym and workout, or use the facilities then you don’t get the rock star abs or results you were looking for when you signed up.
Sponsorship is the same!
When you pay to sponsor an organisation, event, charity etc you’re paying to access their facilities, their expertise, their audiences or their event etc.
You don’t actually get the results without leveraging, promoting or activating (i.e. working out).
If you sit back and do nothing with the sponsorship then you won’t get the rock star abs your brand is looking for when you signed up.
Pretty good analogy, right?
2. Come up with leveraging ideas yourself
No offense to all the brands out there, but lots of them lack imagination and creativity. It’s why they hire big brand agencies and look for sponsorships like yours to help build their brand.
Plenty of the people you’ll be dealing with are also too time poor to invest adequate mental energy on being creative.
The other part of the equation you need to understand is no one is going to understand your event, charity, brand, team etc better than you do.
The best people at getting sponsors to spend extra money on leveraging are constantly listening to their sponsors about what their problems are and also for the ways that brand prefers their image to be represented in the market.
Those same sponsorship seekers regularly put forward their own leverage ideas of how a brand can get additional value or how they can bring that brand to life through sponsorship.
Presenting your own leverage ideas is also a fantastic opportunity to pitch ideas which help you add value to your own customers, followers and participants.
Presenting leverage ideas to a sponsor is a much stronger proposition than simply offering someone ‘the ability to leverage or activate‘ at your event/charity/team etc.
The first thing which comes to mind for many brands when you say the above line is they’ll often go straight into confusion mode with questions like…
– ‘Huh?? What does the ability to activate at your event even mean?’
– ‘Where can we activate?’
– ‘What can we do?’
– ‘We’ve never been to your event, we don’t even know where to start?’
Offer your ideas instead and do the thinking for them. It means you’re more likely to get what you want.
Even if you don’t hit the mark 100% with the ideas you put forward, you’ll likely spark some imagination or ideas within the brands own thinking which is also a win.
Once they can visualise their brand coming to life at your event then they’re more invested in exploring sponsorship with you further.
3. Focus on them
When you’re pitching leverage ideas it’s important to relate it back to your sponsor’s objectives or reasons on why they took on your sponsorship in the first place.
Let’s say you have a technology company or telco who sponsors you.
They said they’re interested in promoting sales for their new phone, or latest gadget.
Let’s also say you want to build a new high tech customer engagement zone at your event with gaming stations, mobile charging stations, interactive virtual reality and immersive digital experiences.
Rather than simply saying, ‘why don’t you create a tech engagement zone at our event?‘. You could pitch it to them as a great way to showcase their product at the event, and how you’re going to facilitate engagement between fans and the product.
Talk about how it’s a fantastic fit for showing the company is more than simply just that one gadget or phone. Take it further and mention how you can give exclusive access or benefits for their customers within that area.
Include the ability for them to sign up new potential customers while also loaning out their new phones for people to take photos with at the event as a way to encourage trials of the new phone and showcasing the latest camera technology in that phone.
Get a graphic designer to design some plans which brings the idea to life so they can visualise it and see how their brand fits within this idea.
By focusing on what’s important to them and providing leverage ideas/opportunities which help them achieve their goals, you’re changing the narrative.
You’re making a shift from ‘can you please spend some more money and activate with us?‘, to ‘here is a way to solve your problems and kick some goals, score some points or chalk up some wins for your company‘.
When you solve people’s challenges they’ll be more motivated to get onboard with your ideas, and will be more invested in ensuring the outcome is a success.
4. Get others involved
Sometimes you’re going to get responses about how a brand isn’t able to get enough budget to leverage.
Chances are, you’re probably only dealing with one team within that brand’s company, such as the Marketing team or the Brand team.
The challenge when you’re only working with one team and they’re saying ‘we don’t have additional budget for leveraging‘ is that you’re also only working with one budget.
But, guess what? Luckily, other teams in that company are also going to have their own budgets too.
Ask about those teams, get to know what their goals and pain points are as well. Then offer to solve their problems in exchange for accessing extra budget.
HR may be struggling with staff engagement which you can assist with by offering bespoke staff experiences as a reward. Or perhaps having staff volunteer with you as a team building exercise. Maybe you’ve got access to expert knowledge and can create bespoke content especially for staff like a healthy diet plan, or special training.
Sales might be struggling with sales. You can create co-branded products, provide incentives to the sales team, host their top clients or incentivise purchases with a fantastic experience/reward.
The I.T. team might be wanting to showcase some new technical features within your product range or app. You can showcase that technology at your event, or help promote it via your own marketing channels to incentivise trialing it.
Suggesting leverage ideas which tick the organisational objectives of other teams will allow you to start conversations around working with those other teams.
Expecting the one team you’re dealing with to be thinking along these lines already? Don’t, it’s easy for us to become siloed and be concentrating on our own areas of interest (especially within larger organisations).
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