Often one of the more challenging parts of any endeavor is simply getting started. Sponsorship sales is no different; it’s important to have an approach that makes sense and will help you reach the end goal of securing a deal. While I will go into specifics throughout this blog, there are two common approaches for finding potential sponsors the right spot: Best Fit or Best Benefits.
Prior to determining Best Fit or Best Benefits, it’s imperative to be well versed in methods of outreach. Understand that without delivering information in a way that a potential sponsor will be receptive to, the rest of the approach may not even matter. It is not always extremely obvious whether a prospect prefers to be cold-called, emailed, is an inbound lead, or likes to meet in person – but as a salesperson, you must pay attention and take note when that becomes evident or the rest of your efforts may become moot.
The Best Fit approach can be generally defined by approaching a potential sponsor pitching how well its brand fits with your venue, event, or assets. Fit can mean alignment on any number of levels; however, fit is most commonly defined as when a brand marketing goals or objectives have a very clear connection to the venue, event or asset(s) that you, the rights-holder, have available. A couple of obvious examples include a baby-product brand that is sponsoring a baby-changing station at a Fair, or a cell phone service company partnering on cell-phone charging stations at a baseball game.
The Best Benefit approach is more about leading with your flashy, high visibility assets, inventory, or hospitality benefits. For some prestigious rights-holders, this can simply be by dropping your name. If you are the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Yankees, you’re going to get many more responses than if you’re calling from a museum or local art & wine festival. This can also mean approaching a potential sponsor with premium hospitality benefits like backstage access at a music festival or a VIP suite at a sporting event, or maybe even the most visible asset you may have like venue or event naming rights. The bottom line, is you’re trying to pique a potential sponsor’s interest by leading with the most intriguing assets, whether it’s for a local tax firm or a multi-national firm.
Take a look at the image below. It's quite obvious Coca Cola and Nike are sponsors of Atlético Madrid from their prominent positions on the scoreboard - especially when you consider how clearly one can see those logos and brands in comparison to the brands populating the sidelines. This may be an example of combining both methods: clearly, scoreboard signage is among the most prominent in the stadium. But you know what else? That prominent spot could lead to more beverage sales: how many times do you think a fan looks at the scoreboard each game?
Photo by Liam McKay on Unsplash
Alternatively, think about the Toyota Center in Houston, where the NBA's Houston Rockets play and the signage pictured below. Of course, Toyota has the naming rights, which is a major benefit - but why Houston? Why an NBA team? Houston is home to other Big 4 franchises - what would stand out about the Rockets' home arena?
Photo by Alexander Londoño on Unsplash
WHICH IS THE RIGHT ONE?
The Best Fit approach tends to be my natural go-to approach when I’ve got a potential Sponsor on the line, but we have to keep in mind that while we’re going for a sale – it’s more important to make sure potential sponsors’ wants and needs come first. I am a firm believer that sponsorship sales are best conducted with a “solution-selling” or consultative mindset – which simply means that while we are obviously trying to make money, we’re going to do that by helping solve a problem for the Sponsor. For them to buy into those roles, we need to ask questions to figure out if they are more interested in a perfect fit or just outstanding assets.
What is your primary goal in partnering with XYZ event/property/rights holder? How does that fit in with your greater marketing mix? What is the ideal outcome of your marketing efforts with regards to this partnership? Listen carefully when your sponsor answers these questions. If they are more focused on engagement and experience, it is likely that the Best Fit approach will be most appropriate. If they are more interested in visibility, volume of eyeballs, or Hospitality; Best Benefits may be the way to go. Often times it will be a combination – but by understanding both, and being attentive, thoughtful, and creative throughout the process, you’ll be able to construct the right mix and put yourself in the best position for success in approaching potential sponsors.