Sponsor's objectives; they are the key to a great partnership and help ensure renewal. The problem is, sometimes, when you ask a sponsor what they want to achieve, they don't know!
Over the past four posts, I have outlined how to align benefits to sponsor objectives. The series covered eight core objectives and you can re-visit them here:
- Part 1 – Brand Awareness and Brand Positioning
- Part 2 – Networking and Building an Audience
- Part 3 – Relationship Building and Community Engagement
- Part 4- Qualified Leads and Generating Sales
Through the series, however, I have had some feedback from some people along the lines of “I’ve been in meetings where the potential sponsor just isn’t clear on what their objectives are. What should I do?”
It’s a tough situation because you expect them to know what they are trying to achieve through sponsorship; maybe not in a concrete way (as they may wish to discuss it with you) but in a general sense at least.
My advice to the above dilemma is that, “You should not just revert back to old ways and spaghetti mix your benefit offering to get them to say ‘yes’. Instead, it simply means you need to work harder to draw out what their objectives are and what will be valuable to them”.
Luckily, there are three questions that you can ask that will lead you straight to the answer (even if the potential sponsor has no idea themselves).
BEFORE YOU START
Before you get into the conversation, you need to remember that sponsorship objectives are directly linked to marketing objectives (which are driven by marketing strategy). If your potential sponsor doesn’t know what their sponsorship objectives are, ask if you can look at their marketing plan where the objectives should be listed.
If they don’t have a documented marketing plan then swing into asking them the first question but, always remember, sponsorship is just part of the overall marketing mix and sits inside the promotion element.
Question 1 - What Are You Current Marketing Activities?
This is an important question as it will give you an idea of who they are trying to connect with and how they are trying to connect with them. An added bonus is that you’ll also determine what potential alignment you may have with their marketing appetite.
Ultimately, you should be able to deduce what their objectives are by examining the channels and activity their existing marketing is utilizing. For example:
- If they execute large market facing campaigns e.g. TV advertising, it suggests Brand Awareness and/or Brand Positioning objectives.
- If they run surveys, content marketing campaigns or public marketing activations suggest Community Engagement or Generating Leads as objectives.
- If they run competitions, where people need to provide personal details to enter, then this suggests that Building An Audience is an objective.
- If they attend structured industry events then this suggests Networking is an objective.
Question 2 - What Is Attractive To You About Our Organisation Or What Do You Find Attractive In Other Rights Holders You Partner With?
By asking your potential sponsors what they find attractive about your organisation, or if they have other successful sponsorships already, and what they find attractive in those partners, you will begin to see what they value as corporate objectives.
At this point, it is important to differentiate between what the individual enjoys vs. what they find useful as a business. If they say they love the hospitality options, because they have a good time, this isn’t necessarily something that will add value to their business. For example, how would it help them achieve an objective such as Brand Awareness that you may have uncovered in asking the first question? It won’t.
If they say, however, that they love hospitality because it gives them an intimate opportunity to engage with clients and deepen relationships, then this suggests Relationship Building and/or Networking are objectives.
Question 3 - What Does Success Look Like?
Finally, this is the key question to ask a potential sponsor and should help validate what you uncovered by asking questions one and two. Simply ask them to describe what success would look like at the end of a sponsorship or review period with you. This might include asking them about how they need to report success inside their organisation including what key elements have made the difference between a mediocre and a successful partnership with other rights holders.
For example, some big companies will say, “It’s all about media exposure”, in which case Brand Awareness and Brand Positioning is where you should focus your efforts.
The point is, it’s not about what the individual enjoys. Instead, the answer to this question is all about how you can replicate other successful sponsorships they have had, or deliver new success, through the right mix of benefits that are aligned to their objectives. This will prove critical come renewal time.
Pulling It All Together
The answers to the above questions will hopefully draw out one, two or three of the core objectives, listed above, which the potential sponsor would like to realize from partnering with you. As such, it is extremely important to let them talk and walk themselves through their own strategic objectives. It is your job to pose the questions and then just listen and take notes whilst guiding them through their thought process.
Someone once told me, “The art of selling lies in the listening; not the selling”. It didn’t make sense to me at first, however, over the years it has rung true a number of times, particularly when going through this process with sponsors.
Mark Thompson // Managing Director
Mark specializes in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.
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