August 22, 2012

The Rule Book: 5 critical strategies for keeping sports sponsors happy

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Sports organisations put a huge emphasis on selling sponsorship. The people who sell are seasoned professionals and often reasonably senior. This is in stark contrast to what happens after the sale, with many major sports relegating sponsor servicing to an admin-type, benefits-delivery function staffed by people with relatively little organisational clout.

 On one hand, that’s fair enough. Getting the money in the door is critical to your success. On the other, better servicing could mitigate the need for a lot of those new sales, and even create new revenue streams.

 As with so many industries, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to keep, and expand your relationship with, an existing sponsor than to chase new money to replace sponsors who have exited. Great servicing not only makes it a lot easier to renew your sponsorships, it lays the groundwork for longer, higher value contracts and fosters advocacy. That’s right, your sponsors could be helping you get new sponsors – but not if they’re not extremely satisfied.

 So, with the goal being extreme satisfaction, there are five critical strategies for effective sponsor servicing.

1 Understand their business

Before you can service any sponsor effectively, you have to understand their business. This includes:

  •  Overall marketing objectives – The objectives for any given sponsorship will be a subset of these, and if you know the overall objectives, you can probably help them achieve more. It is often most effective if you reframe it to “What perceptions are you trying to change?” and “What behaviours are you trying to change?”, as every genuine objective will fall into one of those categories.
  •  Target market profiles – You’re after psychographics (who these people are) not demographics (what they are). Psychographics include motivations, priorities, self-definitions, and preferences. This is the information that drives preference, purchase intent, loyalty, advocacy, and more.
  • Marketing channels – Brands are sold through different channels and every channel has its own marketing opportunities. In addition, if a brand is sold through an intermediary market (retailer, broker, reseller, dealer), you can work with a sponsor to include those markets in the leverage plan.
  • Internal buy-in – The more buy-in a sponsor has, the more effective a sponsorship will be. Ask the question. You may be able to help facilitate (see below).

 If you really want an insider view on how sponsors sponsor, the opportunities, and their challenges, check out The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.

2 Budget for servicing

The magic figure is 10%. You should budget and spend a minimum of 10% of the gross value of a sponsorship (including genuine contra – stuff you would have had to pay for) to add value to the sponsorship. Build it into the fee, so it doesn’t cut into your revenues.

 Use this money to:

  •  Provide additional benefits (planned, ad hoc, or opportunistic) to the sponsor.
  • Provide sponsor networking functions and/or education programs.
  • Run a sponsorship-driven research program.

 The bonus is that if you have any sponsors who have entitlement issues – always asking for something extra – you will be able to say, “As you know, we have a budget for adding value to your sponsorship. We’ve well over-run that budget now. Maybe we should be discussing a larger sponsorship that is more in line with your needs.”

 You can download a long, long list of sponsorship benefits you could provide to sponsors from my website. It’s called the Generic Inventory. This is a great resource both for building your offers and adding value.

3 Service the objectives, not the individual

Sponsorship and brand managers don’t tend to stay in one job for too long – often not more than a couple of years. With most significant sponsorship contracts running three years or more, kissing the personal bum of the person who signed your first contract is unlikely to assist you with a renewal.

 My advice is to not go overboard with individual perks and concentrate your added-value efforts on helping them to achieve their objectives. This is another very good reason you need to understand exactly what they are trying to achieve and with whom.

 4 Foster creativity

There is a misconception that if someone is in marketing, they are creative. The reality is that some are creative, some aren’t, and some are just a bit lazy. The problem for you is that creativity drives great sponsorship leverage, and leverage is where sponsors get their results. No results, no renewal. End of story.

 So, even though it isn’t your responsibility to help a sponsor come up with creative ideas, it is definitely in your best interest. Some options:

  • Brainstorm some ideas for them. Pretend you own their company and had this sponsorship. What would you do with it to achieve your objectives, if you could do anything?
  • Brainstorm some ideas with them. The entire leverage brainstorm process is outlined in The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit and there is absolutely no reason you can’t facilitate it.
  • Provide them with some creative case studies to get their juices going.
  • Get your sponsors together and have your most creative sponsors do mini-case studies. (Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing.)
  • Host a leverage workshop. I do a lot of these, bringing all of the sponsors through the process live. It works a real treat.

 5 Teach them how to measure results

In sponsorship, as with so many things, if it isn’t measured, it didn’t happen.

 To ensure your sponsors understand the real results they’re getting against their objectives, you need to get them to take responsibility for it and measure it well. A good start might be to refer them to this blog, “Sponsorship Measurement: How to Measure what’s Important”.

 The upshot

If you make the decision to up your servicing game, and follows these strategies, there is no question you will have happier sponsors, getting better results, and be well on your way to a high-performance sponsorship portfolio. Wouldn’t that be better than chasing your tail?

 Kim Skildum-Reid’s latest book, including CD Rom, is The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit. It is a comprehensive manual for corporate sponsorship that guides readers through the mindset, strategies, and tactics to develop amazing, best-practice sponsorships. The book is available for purchase here.






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