Any sponsorship seeker living in the real world and paying attention to the news could be forgiven for cowering beneath their desk. These are tough times. We have been getting calls from organizations desperate to plug budgetary holes with last minute sponsorship deals. This is not a realistic approach.
Now more than ever it’s important to be practical. Take a deep breath. Then tick through the following list of real-world features that are common to successful sponsorship campaigns. If there are things on the list that are missing in your organization, address them.
Spend your time gearing up, not freaking out. The post-advertising age is scary, yes, but many of the tenets of sponsorship—connection to communities of consumers, powerful emotional context for brands, product infusion into settings to seed trends and engage users—are objectives at the top of any brand manager’s To-Do list.
The Reality Check, checklist:
1. Think about your organization’s reach. Do you have an established marketing effort in place so that your organization keeps in touch with its constituents through e-mail, a Web site, events, newsletters, conferences, town hall meetings, television, radio or print advertising, or parties or celebrations?
2. What do you know about your organization’s demographics? Have you collected recent information on who participates and why? Where they live? How far they drive to participate? Whether they are repeat users? Whether they are young families, empty-nesters, or teens? Your demographics dictate the sponsor categories on which you should focus your efforts and the ones you shouldn’t waste time and energy on.
3. Have you worked with sponsors before? Do you have any testimonials from a corporate executive about the value of your organization to its community of users? Do you feature those in press kits and other marketing materials for the organization?
4. What is the competitive environment like? Look around. Are other organizations of your organization’s type and in its region getting sponsorships?
5. Do you know your prospect base? To gauge the effort involved in reaching sponsors and meeting face-to-face, create a list of companies headquartered in your area. What do they produce, and to whom do they sell? Are there cross-promotions you can work up that will help them sell to one of your existing sponsors or team up with an existing sponsor?
6. Are you a member of civic organizations made up of businesspeople, so that you can gain insight and entrée into the business community? Relationships trump cold calling, period.
7. Is there an entrepreneurial spirit in your organization? Are new ideas welcomed, and do they receive thoughtful consideration? Have other commercial or revenue-generating initiatives been realized over the last five years?