If you are looking to grow your business, regardless of what stage it is currently at; Sponsorship is a great tool to help achieve that growth. By seeking sponsorship, it is my belief that your business can not only benefit in the short-term, but also for the long-term. This type of marketing will provide you with a cash-injection, along with an opportunity to get in front of a new audience and forge some new partnerships that provide mutual benefits to all parties involved. By seeking out sponsorship, as a business owner, you will be able to leverage a wider audience and really benefit from cross-promotion, and of course get that crucial financial support. In my own career, I have both sought sponsorship as well as been a sponsor for a large number of brands and properties.
What Is Sponsorship?
First of all, sponsorship must be mutually beneficial, and it is important to remember that both parties stand to benefit from this arrangement. It is essentially a type of advertising where companies will pay to be connected with specific personalities, events or properties. Sponsorship could also be sought in order to appear on a particular blog, if there is a niche audience or a large number of followers. Big or small, sponsorship spending globally is set to grow according to IEG. In Asia Pacific alone, spending on sponsorship is set to reach US$15.7bn in 2017, which is an increase of 4.8% versus 2016.
Why is Seeking Sponsorship a Good Idea for Business?For a business owner, sponsorship is a great way to raise some much needed funds. It is also a great way to elevate your business and increase your potential exposure by leveraging your sponsor’s network, reach or client base. In this post, I will elaborate on how to find the right type of sponsor for your specific niche as this is one of the key reasons that sponsorships are a good idea for businesses.
Why Brands Are Looking to Sponsor Businesses Just Like YoursBrands are always looking to raise awareness of their own products or services within their target market. Sponsorships give them a different way to reach this market. It allows them to forge relationships and support other marketing efforts. Sponsorship is also a great way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, it is great for PR and helps them to expand their audience often outside of their own general reach.
Know Your Customer and your business objectives
One of the very first things you are going to need to consider is Who to approach, swiftly followed by How to approach them, in order to stand the best possible chance of success. Alignment of objectives, values and target audience is foremost when selecting who to target for sponsorship.Alignment is key in any kind of partnership, especially where you are targeting the same audience for non-competitive reasons. For example, if you align yourself with a company which has a product that is directly relative to the same audience as your own product, as well as similar values to your company this is when you have a match made in heaven. Before deciding who to approach for sponsorship, you first need to know and understand your customer. Understanding your customers, what they like to do in their spare time, where they hang out, what things they enjoy is all crucial to understand before you look to align yourself with the right type of sponsor. A good sponsorship match will help you to reach your prospects, possibly in an unexpected way and give them a flavour for your brand, without having them feel like you are forcing your product or service upon them. Positively influencing their attitudes towards your brand through effective brand interaction and engagement is the goal you should set for your sponsorship. You can be as creative as you need to be with this element, as long as you are not pushy. One example of a great match that I had the pleasure of working on in a previous role is Electrolux’s sponsorship of Taste festivals. Both brands target real foodies, and came together to create an immersive and engaging experience for their audience. This audience could try dishes from popular and new restaurants, see presentations and masterclasses from famous and up and coming chefs, as well as participate in hands-on cooking sessions.
Understand your prospective sponsors Now that you are clear on your objectives, you need to put in the time and effort to do some research to find the right sponsors to approach. Once you have established who you are going to target, you can then start to drill down into the finite details. Research what properties or businesses they have sponsored in the past. Can you find any case studies or media articles they might have published? The key to getting your pitch angled correctly is knowing their business and what they are trying to achieve. Can you see what products they have recently launched or items they have in their pipeline? Are there any events listed on their website or announcements in the press section of their site? A good place to start, is by looking at companies whose product or service comes before or after yours in the customer journey, or even could be a complementary product or service. Thinking outside of the square can also pay off, if the link isn’t too tenuous.
How Do You Approach Them?It is simple. Give them exactly what they want. According to Amex Business, this is the best way to proceed. Nothing will make you appeal to potential sponsors more than this. Make your pitch all about how you can help them, and not what they can do for you. Show them clearly how much value you can add to their brand and their business. You need to outline the number of people you can reach, along with any opportunities for lead generation and conversion. How you are going to measure and report back is also important, along with any evidence to back up your numbers and claims. As long as you can justify and demonstrate a return on investment as well as a return on their objectives, the offer will seem appealing enough for them to seriously consider it. It’s fairly common for business owners to get stage-fright when they start to think about asking people for money. Don’t. Most larger businesses will have a budget set-aside for sponsorship, and the people responsible will be measured on delivering results. They need to hit their targets, and they need to show a Return on Investment for their budget. In other words, they are looking for these opportunities. If you have targeted the right sponsors, who have commonalities with your own customers, then you should be able to easily relay to them estimated projections such as reach, frequency, exposure and conversions. You need to tell them how many people will you be able to put their brand in front of, and over what period of time. How will you make your marketing and sales activities work for them? There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you should expect to work hard for their brand in return for their financial input. It is important to be aware that whatever the brand is paying you for the sponsorship is likely not all they are spending on the relationship. Having managed many sponsorship properties in the past, the general rule of thumb is that you will need to spend the same amount as the cost of the sponsorship on leveraging it. This means simply put, that if a brand is paying you $50,000 for sponsorship, they will be spending an additional $50,000 to maximise the relationship through other activities. If you choose to target the brands or organisations that fall into the same theme area of your own business, then you are giving them an opportunity to be in front of a hand-picked set of prospects that align with their own demographic, which is something that would be worthwhile to them.Add to this a clear proposition, that aligns with their company objectives and is within their budget, and you should have no trouble capturing their interest.
What Will You Ask for In Return?
Once interest has been piqued, you also need to be explicitly clear about what you would like in exchange for what you are offering them. It does not always have to focus solely on the financial element of the sponsorship. For example it could be time. Perhaps they have an influential speaker who could speak at an event, or could write a guest blog. Whatever you need and are prepared to give in return, I recommend presenting a tiered approach, with different levels of financial commitment delivering different levels of value to your sponsor. If you have aligned yourself correctly, then a joint mail-out to a customer database could prove to be a very worthwhile exercise, you might even include a logo placement on a piece of advertising or a newsletter. In an increasingly digital world where content is king and attention spans are getting shorter, consider what content can be generated and re-used to gain maximum reach. The end needs to justify the means. Whatever you ask for, and whatever you choose to do, you need to communicate the value clearly and set any expectations in advance.Generally, the bigger the company, the more levels of approval they need to go through. So the less you ask of that business, the easier you make it for them to approve your request for sponsorship.
Sealing the dealBefore making any final commitments, ensure that there are proper sponsorship agreements in place which contain the clear commitments and expectations and protect the brand and investments of both parties. It is also crucial that you agree on a clear sign-off process for any activities. Nobody wants their brand to be portrayed poorly, or have the wrong image or logo put on display at an event, as this can do more harm than good.
Monitor and MeasureThere is often a lot at stake with sponsorships, hence it is all the more important to regularly monitor and measure performance against the objectives that you should have agreed up front. After all, the sponsor will want to know what return they got for their investment and if they should sponsor your business or event again. With regular monitoring and reporting you will have the possibility to turn things around if they don’t appear to be on track. As well as your sponsor’s objectives, be sure to track and measure yours too, as one-sided success will not benefit anyone in the long run.Being able to demonstrate what value you have added to the relationship will also make future conversations much easier, especially if you decide it is time to increase the sponsorship fee. At the end of the sponsorship, don’t forget to compile a full report containing performance against all objectives as well as any press clippings, content, survey results etc. By demonstrating where you have achieved and hopefully exceeded objectives, you will be better placed to open up the discussion about them signing up to another year or even a multi-year deal.
Plan to Succeed
Planning is everything. If you need sponsorship for next month or in the current quarter, this could be a limiting factor. It depends on the business you target and their available resources. That is not to say, if you need sponsorship within eight weeks-time that it cannot be done. You just have to make it easy for them to say yes. The less you expect from them in terms of activities and resources, and the more you can deliver in terms of results, the easier you make it for them to say yes. Ensure that you consider sponsorship as part of your annual marketing planning process, as it will allow you to be on the front foot by giving potential sponsors as well as you, the opportunity to properly plan how to maximise activities to generate the best return.
I first wrote this article in 2017.