I know what you’re thinking “another post about how we should stop using the term ‘sponsor’ in favor of something like ‘partner.’”
In fact, there is no word for “sponsors” because sponsors simply don’t exist.
Let’s start with the working definition of sponsor from our friends at Google Translate:
an individual or organization that pays some or all of the costs involved in staging a sporting or artistic event in return for advertising.
a business or organization that pays for or contributes to the costs of a radio or television program in return for advertising.
What’s wrong with that? Surely sponsors do exist, right? I mean, we all have relationships that match this definition.
MY STORY AS A “SPONSOR”
Long before I launched my own consulting business, before I became a sponsorship consultant with the British Grand Prix and before I ever worked for a rights holder, selling sponsorship (boy, this is making me feel old) I was a sponsor.
Except my job was corporate sales, not sponsorship. I was in charge of bringing in new corporate clients for my company. My only job, and that of my team, was bringing on new accounts (and big ones) to buy our B2B products. What does this have to do with sponsorship?
A lot, actually.
I had a business development budget and with that budget I sponsored industry conferences related to my target audience. If you had my target audience, I had budget for you. Simple as that.
In other words, I was a sponsor…but nobody called me that.
I wasn’t measured on my sponsorship dollars spent, how good the cause was or how many people saw my logo. I didn’t care about “Gold, Silver or Bronze” or eblasts. The only thing I cared about was the thing that I was measured on by my boss every single month, the only thing I measured my team on every single month: number of leads, sales meetings and, ultimately, sales.
If I got a bunch of logo placements and speaking opportunities but no leads, it was a bad investment. If I got no logo placements but met the right people, it was a good investment and I could justify even more money from my boss to invest in that sponsorship opportunity.
How many leads did I need? How many sales meetings did I expect for each pound spent? Only I knew that…and those properties who asked me what my goal outcomes were vs assuming certain outputs (like logos and eblasts) was what I was after. The properties that asked me about my goals were the ones I worked with every year and who successfully moved my investment up through their sales funnel.
I didn’t stop being in corporate sales and become something called a “sponsor” just because I engaged in sponsorship. Sponsorship was one of the many tools that my team and I used to achieve our only goal: exceeding quarterly sales goals.
SPONSOR IS A VERB
Sponsorship is an activity. A tool. Asking what “sponsors” want is like asking “what does running want?” It doesn’t want anything! It’s an activity used to achieve a particular goal. The real question is “Why do companies sponsor and why should they sponsor you over the hundreds of thousands of other opportunities out there?”
The answer of course is: audience, activation and measuring ROI!
A director of marketing or sales does not stop being a director of marketing or sales just because they use sponsorship to get more sales.
Do “sponsors” want logo placement? Exhibit space? Sampling rights? No, they want sales (or whatever their goal is) and you as the property have to find the best tools to help them achieve their specific goals. Your goal is not to sell them a sponsorship level but to help them achieve their goals.
The next time you find yourself or your team asking “what do our sponsors want?” stop yourself and remember that there’s no such thing as sponsors. The question itself is flawed and should be avoided at all costs.
The real question is “what do those who want to reach our audience want and what tools can we use to help them achieve those goals and measure their marketing investment?”
And there is only one source of this information…your prospect!
Sponsorship is a collection of marketing disciplines designed to help companies achieve their goals, that’s it. Call it anything you want…just don’t forget to ask your prospects what they want to achieve.