Credit Crisis Poisons Corporate Sponsorship Well

The fallout from the credit crunch is starting to be felt in sponsorship marketing. Most acutely effected are the financial services giants who were aggressive players in a broad range of investments, from the arts to pro-sports. AIG is pulling out of deals core to its European strategy: rugby, football (soccer) and golf. WaMu’s entertainment sponsorship strategy will ride the coat tails of deals it’s already financed, but any new initiatives are being erased from the white boards, according to Charlie Scharf of JP Morgan Chase, who is helping to manage the absorption of the failing WaMu into Morgan Chase.

How to survive in this mess as we wait for the next shoe to fall? Here are three things you can do to save your sanity and sponsorship portfolio:

1. Be proactive. Remember, good sponsors are your business partners. So, call your current sponsors and ask how they are doing. Offer moral support and be willing to discuss new terms. Yes, if they need different payment terms, be open to it if you can. Remember, it is easier to keep a sponsor than find a new one. Of course, if the sponsor’s company is tanking, there’s little you can do, but I would resist the temptation to watch in horror on the sidelines. Consider that some personnel may leave the failing operation only to resurface elsewhere.

2. Help more with activation. Some sponsors will not be willing to cash in the brand equity they’ve earned with their sponsorship alliances. Especially title deals. Cadillac will want to keep its ties to the Cadillac Award for Audience Choice of Best Feature Film, yes? But it may want to cut the cost of promoting the tie. So look hard at your own media, especially Web-based media and see where you can deliver more to help your corporate sponsor stay involved.

3. Get out of the house. Forging corporate sponsorship deals is a contact sport. Every single contact you currently work with has a Rolodex. Or is Linked In to some extent. Get out there or invite folks in to visit or tour a new, uplifting initiative. Being compassionate when people’s businesses are hurting is the right thing to do, but it can also help you gain access to a sponsor’s network. Often, sponsors develop their own emotional ties to the properties they invest in, that is if you’ve done your job right. So, they hate walking away leaving you empty handed. The warm leads you can win in these times may be your best hope for next year.

Above all, remain hopeful. Keep in mind the longer view is quite positive. This is the point in our civilization where we shed what is no longer useful to create a new world order based on a very different exchange of value and a redefinition of currency. Yes, the RenGen is upon us, so take heart.