In my role as a Guest Lecturer for the World Academy of Sport, I deliver sponsorship acquisition training to delegates across a wide range of sports. Their needs are often different, but the one thing that everyone agrees upon is that it’s way harder to keep finding new sponsors than it is to keep the ones you’ve already got.
Although most people will claim that they look after their sponsors very well, the reality is that far too many deals collapse at the end of the first season or at best, the end of the contractual period.
So how do you ensure that you keep your sponsors fired up and eager to renew when the time comes? There are many ways, but the one that I’ve always gone for as the primary action is to build in a measurable set of objectives. If you’re smart, you can also use the discussion about these as a very effective way of actually closing the deal.
How do you measure sponsorship? Marketing gurus tell me how they measure brand coverage on TV during a race meeting. They then add the print and social media coverage statistics. So why aren’t I impressed? It’s probably because I consider myself a professional salesman rather than a marketer. My simple philosophy has worked for me at all levels of motorsport, up to the multi-million pound Formula 1 deals that I secured with FedEx, Gillette, Marconi and many others.
If you agree on a set of objectives with the decision-maker as part of the negotiation process, and if you monitor them at regular intervals throughout the sponsorship, you’ll have a much stronger position at renewal time.
However, you need to ensure that the objectives are easily measured. A large number of racers and teams don’t have the resources or budget to hire agencies that provide accurate viewing stats. So don’t fall into that trap. Also, TV viewing of motorsport, apart from Formula 1, is somewhat limited. Create objectives that are simple to measure, which the prospect agrees are important. Remember that however a company might dress it up, their primary objective in life is to sell more products or services. That hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.
What has changed quite dramatically are the ways in which products are sold. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the introduction of television advertising, Sky TV, Sunday supplements, tablets, PCs, lap tops, Amazon, streaming, PPV and so on. Don’t let that confuse you. The primary objective hasn’t changed! OK, if you are the Marketing Director of Coca-Cola, of course, you’ll have access to every statistic that you could wish for, but the majority of sponsorship seekers are not approaching the Coca-Cola’s of this world. It’s far more about SMEs. So when I talk about setting objectives within your sponsorship strategy, my advice is to keep it simple. The objectives should relate directly to the 3 or 4 key points on which the sponsorship was probably agreed.
The reality is that far too many deals collapse at the end of the first season or at best, the end of the contractual period.
In your first meeting, through questioning, you would have identified a small number of your sponsorship property’s capabilities that your prospect agreed were important. For example, “product sampling” and “sales incentive platform”. You would have then developed a bespoke proposal, based on these two specific key points.
In the same way, encourage discussion with the prospect to create and agree on some forms of measurement to show if the sponsorship is heading in the right direction. This might be as simple as having monthly progress meetings with the key personnel, or measuring this year’s sales figures against last on a quarterly basis, to measure how effective the sales incentive programme is.
By now, the prospect tends to be surprised and encouraged that you, rather than him/her, have raised the subject of introducing measurements. That can only increase your credibility. A key factor! Most importantly, however, is that through regular meetings and communications, as problems become apparent, and they always will, they can be dealt with and usually sorted, rather than left to become disasters. That’s how you keep your sponsor.