Over the past few years I have seen a new trend emerging within sponsorship, particularly from those who I consider market leaders in this space and to who I pay close attention to. It’s called Sponsor Pre-Servicing.
What Is Sponsor Pre-Servicing?
Sponsor Pre-Servicing isn’t an industry phrase, it is something I have made up as I think it best describes this new trend I am seeing emerge.
What I call pre-servicing is the process of actually providing attention, value and, in some cases, benefits to sponsors BEFORE they are actually on-board as a sponsor.
Isn’t That A Waste Of Time And Money?
It can be, however, some of the best sponsorship sales execs I know have been doing this in bits and pieces for years with great effect.
One of the better commercial organisations here in Australia have used this method for as long as I know as a sort of ‘pool’ for when the situation arises that they need to find a major partner. They have a bunch of businesses which they invite to events, take for lunch, get along to games and genuinely make part of the family.
When a major sponsor leaves, rather than go through the slow process of prospecting, cold calling and making long and expensive pitches, they instead go to this pool first, tap someone on the shoulder and effectively say “It’s your time”.
Obviously they make a business case and present appropriately, however, to date, over the seven years I have known about this, they have never had to reach outside of the pool to find a major partner when they needed one.
So, whilst in the short-term this is an outlay, the investment has saved them a lot of time, stress and money over the journey.
How Else Can It Be Used?
There are a few applications to this across both existing partners and those who you want on board.
Pre-Servicing Existing Partners
This is the process of identifying partners that you want to upgrade, giving them a taste of what they would be getting if they did upgrade and then once they have become attached to those extra’s you move in for the upgrade discussion.
This process is actually an age-old tactic within sponsorship practice because we all know that it is cheaper to retain and move sponsors upwards than it is to find new ones.
Pre-Servicing New Prospects
This can be applied in three ways depending on your resources, budget and size.
- Investing in them. This means you giving some benefits to hot prospects to give them a taste; effectively taking saleable inventory and giving it away to those who you think are worth the investment.
- Using distressed stock. Distressed stock is that dreaded list of inventory which, close to an event, have gone unsold. As an organisation you have 3 choices to make with distressed stock - 1. sell it cheap, 2. give it to current partners to over deliver or 3. let it expire. In recent times we have seen organisations with greater oversight of their distressed stock be able to introduce a 4th option – using distressed stock to bring in new prospective partners without costing themselves money by using saleable inventory.
- Relationship Delivery. This is the newest form of pre-servicing which I am seeing on a greater level. I categorize this process as using the benefits of being involved with your organisation without actually giving away any inventory. This may be by making introductions to some business opportunities, simply championing a brand to others (knowing the brand will become aware of this) or simply sharing some exclusive content and insights normally reserved for sponsors.
But Budgets Are Tight And I Can’t Afford This
By using the above approaches, you can achieve this with economy of scale no matter if you have the cash to spend or not.
Just this week I have seen a practical example of this from a national sporting body and brand whom I am particularly close to.
The national sporting body was using a product as a customer of the brand. They loved the product and began to share their experiences with others. They made mention of them at an event, where other potential customers were in attendance, and made some email introductions on the basis that their commercial outcomes are improved through this product.
Earlier in the month this organisation had made an inquiry about purchasing this product for their member organisations. The result of the introductions, and special treatment over a short period of time, saw the brand coming forward, unsolicited, to make a contra offer to that national body simply because their pre-servicing showed some real potential value in an ongoing partnership.
Now, I am not pretending the above process is not time consuming in an already time-poor industry, however, it is certainly a new trend showing great outcomes across the board. Some are discovering ways of streamlining their sponsorship admin which is allowing them time to focus on pre-service relationships, as well as their existing ones, and this approach will certainly pay commercial dividends going forward.
Have You Got A Unique Sales Method Or Pre-Servicing Idea?
I would love to hear from you and I am sure others would too. Get in touch and we will share your approach or idea in our weekly sponsorship e-news in the coming weeks.
Mark Thompson // 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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