When I was a sponsorship manager, sometimes I would sit at my desk ready to prepare our recap documents for our sponsors, who had just endured, with me and my organisation, a series of poor performances.
It may have been a bad season (which in my case was multiple) or a poor turn-out at an event. As sponsorship managers, these are well out of our control yet are things that can well and truly impact our ability to do our jobs well.
When I worked in professional Rugby this used to stress me out. Then, however, I had the opportunity to work within the charitable sector and I learned a valuable lesson that I want to share.
I left the sporting sector to work in partnerships and fundraising for a homeless charity in Australia. This charity had no broadcast numbers, no win/loss record, and certainly no fan clubs. But it did have stories.
The stories were impactful and they aligned outcomes and objectives together to drive reporting to donors, sponsors, and grant makers in a way which purely aligned to a set of basic objectives.
The stories were ones of positive change. They used messages of change, with the support of certain brands, to generate brand positioning pieces which also told a story to new audiences and communities with the aim of positive recall of said brands down the line.
This organisation, without massive membership bases or viewership numbers, raised millions of dollars off the back of these stories and even more off the back of the reporting of outcomes against objectives at the time of renewals.
This forced me to think “What could sport learn from this and how can I, upon my return to the sporting world, use this lesson to be better at reporting to my sponsors?”
In true fashion, I have broken down my key learnings into three key areas but first, we need to understand a key element.
The Key Element
Yes, selling a successful organisation is easier because people buy on emotion. As a sponsorship manager, reporting on success feels good, however, it never actually gets to the core of what we need and should be reporting to our sponsors.
Reporting, however, is a totally different proposition. Reporting needs to cut through the emotion and drill down to the facts. The facts of:
- Why a brand is sponsoring us;
- What they are getting out of it;
- When they are expecting impact of their sponsorship to occur; and
- How they are measuring that impact.
Three key elements to good reporting
1. Have a good process of reporting
Knowing the above information sets off a process in sponsorship reporting which helps to navigate away from the emotion of poor performance and instead focuses on the operational and business reasons a brand is involved with a rights holder. The process is a continual effort in sticking to the Why, What, When, and How so that your report for each sponsor is hitting the right points and telling the right stories.
The process shouldn’t be a once-a-year proposition when poor performance has seen your sponsor disengage. Instead, it should be an ongoing story which is building against the objectives and metrics set-out at your annual preview or those which were established at the time of sale.
2. Always be building and communicating
One of the big things that helps this process is constant communication. Regardless of what is happening on the pitch, reporting against set objectives can tell a totally different story to that of a poor performing team. That’s because it focuses on business measures and growth is tangible, controllable, and constantly measurable. All of that allows you to control your story telling.
3. Quality presentation matters
Effort in presenting the information how the brand needs to see it is vital. Think about it; a brand might have 12 partnerships, all of which report and provides WIPs in different ways to each other. Other rights holders will be making assumptions about how a report should be presented and may even be asking the sponsor to provide some information for the report.
Not only are they asking the brand to give them money or in-kind, they are also asking them to waste time on adhering to your administrative process and consume and understand reports that may not be suitable for them. Instead, be the one who understands what information they need and how they want their information presented to them and they’ll be more likely to engage and understand with your report.
Getting it right
Understanding that sponsorship is now a marketing strategy, rather than a meaningless spend on fun and entertainment, it is super important in getting this right.
Aligning opportunities and sponsor engagement with proper commercial objectives, in a marketing sense, is far more reliable than waiting for individuals to perform in a manner that you absolutely can’t control.
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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