Last time I checked, there wasn’t a manual for selling sponsorship; and how could there be when every sponsorship by its very nature is fundamentally different. Based on my experience, the best sponsorship development executives use a balance of creativity combined with the persistence, patience and relationship building skills that you would find in a traditional sales person. Most of these executives would also consider themselves marketers first and fans second; they craft compelling stories that resonate with brands and win with consumers.
If you’re too busy focusing on why you love the sport and who your favourite team was growing up, you could lose sight of what’s important to the potential sponsor and client sitting across the table from you, who may or may not be a fan.
Objectivity is critical. If you can separate your own personal interests and focus on what’s important to your prospect, you’ll fast-track the sales process and enhance your probability of closing the deal. It’s paramount that you become an expert in sponsorship before you start to think about which property you’re selling. Would you feel comfortable if your doctor wasn’t an expert in the medical field?
Whether it’s the Olympics or a local festival, if you can’t articulate why sponsorship works, how can you possibly convince a brand to invest in a sponsorship. If you want to sell sponsorship, understand the mechanics that drive it. Ask yourself why should I buy sponsorship over a more traditional advertising vehicle such as television, print or radio?
One way to position sponsorship is to help articulate why it’s different or how it could be used to amplify other marketing tactics. Advertising shows your customer who you are, but sponsorship demonstrates what you have in common with them. This shared-interest and common ground provides the foundation to create a meaningful dialogue, which ultimately builds a relationship and trust. This leads to an emotional connection that is unmatched by other marketing options. If you can’t get them past first base (why sponsorship works) you’ll never get them to home plate (closing the sponsorship deal).
Relationships and big ideas make the sale. Marketers like shiny new toys and sponsorships are a perfect match since they come equipped with an unlimited supply of new concepts, relevant promotions and other compelling stories to share. These in turn create a unique point of differentiation – a hallmark of sponsorship. Everyone wants the next “Kraft Hockeyville” or the new version of what P&G has created with its Olympic-inspired “Mom” platform. Helping your prospect understand why there’s a fit and how it can impact their business is critical, but in order to take it to the next level, identify how this sponsorship can be activated across multiple stakeholders and business units.
It’s important to help the prospect understand how to activate the sponsorship. Create the concepts and ideas that demonstrate how the sponsorship will come to life. How they can engage different business units (e.g. with a bank, think about retail banking, credit card, wealth management and insurance) and how different stakeholders will benefit. The more business units and stakeholders who can benefit from the sponsorship, the higher the probability that you can access more budgets and close the deal. More importantly this creates sustainable value that keeps the sponsor engaged and invested in the long-term. It’s one thing to capture a sponsor, but it’s another to keep them. In sponsorship, what happens after the deal is signed is equally if not more important in retaining them.
Although sponsorship isn’t your typical sales job, it’s still selling, and a strategic numbers game. 80% of your opportunity is going to come from the top 20% of your prospects.
Basic understanding of the sales process should be mastered in order to maximize your time and overall effectiveness. Prospect, present and follow-up as they say. How do you determine who to call, when to call and how much time to spend with each prospect, combined with the time and creativity you invest during the sales process, is the art behind the sale. Creating an ideal customer map that helps you understand what your ideal sponsor would look like will help streamline the process and allow you to focus on the high probability partners, and more importantly, the ones who will stay. Spend some time understanding what the ideal sponsor looks like. Do they have the wherewithal to buy, but more importantly money left to activate the partnership? Do they understand the value of sponsorship? Are their customers your fans? These are just some of the guideposts you can use when prospecting.
Preparation is the true mark of a pro. What happens when the quarterback doesn’t prepare, or the coach doesn’t watch the game tape of their next opponent? You work in sports; you should know that the greatest champions invest everything on and off the field of play. It should be no different in sports business. Whether it’s a presentation, cold call or other form of communication, prepare yourself for success and plan (don’t hope) to win.