The need to manage sponsorship agencies - it is just one complexity in the world of sponsorship management. It is the fact that when you are dealing with a partner, you are not always actually simply dealing with the partner.
Instead, you’re potentially dealing with them and their sponsorship/marketing agency.
This added complexity can be both a blessing and a curse. Well, “curse” is a harsh word, but you’ll see what I mean in a minute.
An agency are a blessing in the way they bring in extra expertise and can really drive much greater value out of partnership (which at the end of the day is what we want). They can, however, also be a drain on the budget that could otherwise go to you or be used in the execution e.g. activations.
I would think that about 50% of the partners I have worked with over the years have had agencies working with them. Some have been major successes and I have gone on to have a great working relationship, and sometimes friendship, with them for many years.
Some have been much harder work.
For example, I have had one or two situations over the years where a level of mistrust has developed between the rights holder and the agency. The rights holder thinks the agency is poorly advising the sponsor (and potentially talking them out of the partnership) and the agency thinks that the rights holder is trying to get the sponsor to drop them so they can spend more money on the partnership.
This is not a good situation.
When I look back at why some were successes, and others weren’t, I keep coming back to these three key learnings when dealing with a partner’s sponsorship/marketing agency.
1. Full immersion
Just like you sold the sponsorship to your new partner, you have to sell the partnership to their agency. This is crucial. You need to ensure that the agency becomes a big advocate for you as a sponsorship property. To do this you need to educate them on what are the benefits you sold the partnership on and on all the details/selling points of your sponsorship portfolio.
I like to call this the ‘full immersion’ and it is where your partner has a full grasp on what you are about and is completely sold (like the sponsor) on the partnership.
2. Include them
Once you have fully immersed them, you need to include them. That means all planning sessions, meetings, activations ... whatever. If they are feeling like you are shutting them out or trying to exclude them in the partnership then they will not become an advocate for you. In fact, worse, mistrust can develop.
3. Invite them
This is the cherry on top for me. If you have any events that you are inviting your sponsor to then you also should invite the agency. Just as it is important for you to develop personal relationships with the people managing your sponsorship, it is equally important to develop a relationship with the people from the agency.
As I mentioned earlier, I have personal friends that have developed out of agency relationships and it can all be put down to making the effort get to know who you are working with.
This not only develops mutual respect, but trust that you all working for the greater good of the partnership – not against each other.
There is a caveat though. All this needs to be done whilst still maintaining the strongest relationship with your sponsor. Meaning that this is done to compliment your sponsor relationship and not in replacement of that relationship.
This is critical.
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