Ask not what your target sponsor can do for you, ask what you can do for your target sponsor.
We are regularly approached by teams and individuals asking us to find them sponsorship.
These conversations always start with a download on who the person is, what they have achieved, what their ambition is and sometimes they share what they need the money for. I haven’t had a call yet that starts by someone explaining to me why managing the sponsorship will be of benefit to my business. So almost immediately I’m disengaging – you might be the very best U12s football team in the county with the greatest ambiance, the best kids, the most delicious post-match teas, but what does that mean for me as a business? Why should I get involved? What’s in it for me?
I’m being facetious, but hopefully landing a point. Too often people approach companies for sponsorship funds only viewing the opportunity as benefit to them, not what the opportunity does for the business. Supporting initiatives through sponsorship will be a business decision, even if it has a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or Community focus.
Having been on both the selling and the receiving ends of sales pitches, here are our top 5 considerations when looking for sponsorship funding.
To mash up the words of John F Kennedy at his inauguration to become the President of the United States in 1961:
Ask not what your [target sponsor] country can do for you, ask what you can do for your [target sponsor] country.
1. Do your research. Every business has a website and a lot of them now publish their sponsorship and community engagement strategy. This is often agreed at board level and can cover many different projects for example providing support for local community initiatives, funding environmental projects, tackling medical issues in developing countries etc. Do you fit their criteria? Also find out who internally is responsible for making the sponsorship decisions – it could be the CEO, or the CMO, or perhaps the community manager. A call to the head office will find you the right contact.
2. What are the organisation’s business’ challenges? This is an extension of point 1. How can partnering with you answer their business challenges? Will they be looking to raise their brand profile? Do they have large numbers of clients they want to entertain? Are they looking for money-can’t-buy opportunities for small numbers of clients or are they wanting to inspire their internal workforce? Put yourself in their shoes. Why will partnering with you make good business sense for them?
3. What rights do you have to offer? At every level – from global deals to community projects – there are rights to sell, from shirt branding to hospitality events. Have a thorough look at you, your team, your set up, the events you are involved in. Where could a brand get involved and what’s in it for them?
4. Who are your followers? Know who your fans are – where they are based, what age they are, their gender – these are all insights that can be gleaned from your social media and website analytics. By knowing who follows you, this can also help open doors to new companies to approach. Identify this audience and look for a brand who will be wanting to engage with this audience in a meaningful way.
5. What are you looking for from the company? Is it cash or is it ‘value in kind’ – say the loan of a car, or free equipment. Explain very clearly what funds you need and why you need them. Remember that even for an automobile manufacturer, loaning a car will cost them money – it’s a car that they could otherwise be selling. Don’t underestimate the cost of VIK to the business.
When you have answered all of the above questions, research the businesses that you feel can be a natural fit and make your approach. Don’t let your passion and belief in your team/your sporting abilities take over the sales job – this is ultimately a business transaction, albeit one with perhaps more heart to it than many others that take place each day within their organisation.
Demonstrate that you know about their business, that you have done your research on the type of projects they are involved with, that you understand their business challenges and explain to them why a partnership with you will make good business sense.
The very first objective once you have done your research and the outcome of the first approach should be to secure a meeting in person. No one can sell their proposition without the personal touch and it takes time to build this relationship.
Business rationale provides you with the lever to open the door, but it is the personal relationship that will see the partnership get over the line.
And keep trying – many doors will close, however don’t lose heart, it can take up to 8 attempts to reach a new prospect.
Good luck with the search.