November 11, 2008

Sponsorship 101, Part 1

Here's the thing about sponsorship: it's hard. I could be all euphemistic and say it's challenging, but let's be real: it's hard. It's stressful. And, it's a pressure cooker because more often than not the program for which you're seeking sponsorship survives on that corporate support. And, unfortunately, you're not alone: almost every company -- small, mid-size and large -- is bombarded daily by national/regional/local events and organizations seeking product, cash, media, support and/or bartered services. It's madness. Many companies are so overwhelmed, they no longer directly accept sponsorship proposals; you have to go through their agencies, which act as filters, or, worst case scenario, submit online through Sponsorwise or other similar online system. From an industry standpoint, sponsors are grouped into categories (automotive, spirits, beauty, QSR - quick service restaurant, financial services, etc.); each category has industry-wide standards for sponsorship success that directly relate to revenue channels, and each individual brand has its own specific benchmarks for success. If you're dealing with a parent that has sub-brands, each of those sub-brands has its own positioning, strategy, budget, contacts and performance yardsticks. So, any time you make a call to a prospective sponsor, you want to keep in mind the general goals of that category (e.g., drive retail traffic, drive qualified leads, drive new subscribers, sample product, etc.) and also the specific positioning of that brand. If an apparel company is positioned as a hard-core athletic brand, don't call with a jazz fest. Big duh, I know...but, I swear, you'd be surprised! And, all is well and good until you get down to brass tacks and start talking activation. The devil is in the details, mi amigo, the devil is in the details. Sometimes, sponsor expectations (Can you guarantee 10 A-list celebs at the indie screening?? Can you provide me a 50'x50' space right outside the theater on that main Manhattan avenue? WTF!?!) are so unrealistic, you just have to laugh...and then figure out how to deliver. But! But! When you get a sponsor that really gets it, you know 'it' -- what you're trying to do, who you are as a brand, what your audience is all about, how to think outside that itty-bitty box -- well, then, sponsorship can be a blast because that's when you get creative, collaborative and constructive (don't ya just love alliteration?). That's when the magic happens, partnership is fun and you feel a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. THEN the real work begins...
~ Liz

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