When they think of sponsorship, a lot of folks immediately think of sports. And why not? After all, sponsorship is no more at home than at a stadium, ballpark or arena. And just like sports, sponsorship is indeed a contact sport!
For those of you who have been at selling sponsorship for any length of time, you know exactly what I mean. And for those of you just starting out – don’t worry, you’ll discover this soon enough. Because your success is going to be directly related to how often and how well you make contact with your prospects.
You’ve got to be in front of your prospects, and you want to stay connected to them all year long. Not just before or at your event, and certainly not just when you’re looking to sell them a renewal, but all year long. Why? Because you’re definitely not the only group out there looking to secure corporate underwriting.
Your sponsors certainly have plenty of options.
They don’t lack alternatives to investing their marketing, advertising and promotional budgets. In these modern technological times, their customers have a seemingly endless supply of options to be entertained, educated and involved. Your event is certainly one such way to reach their customers, but you’re by no means the only way to do so.
So you have to be disciplined, dedicated and prepared to demonstrate exactly why your event, tournament or race is the place for them to spend their marketing dollars.
One of the best ways we have found to do this is what we call “Sponsorship 365.” It’s a way to not only get out in front of your prospects and connect them with your attendees, clients and participants, but keep them out in front. The concept is simple: Offer sponsorships that run longer than just a single event, program or season.
Now that might sound crazy. After all, you think your tournament is running for just three, maybe four days. So how in the world can you keep this sponsorship candle lit for 52 weeks?
Simple…use all the weapons in your arsenal to promote not only your program or communicate with your members and participants, but keep tying your sponsor in with them all year long. (Not just hanging a banner up over the mainstage with their logo on it. That’s for “rookies” – you’re far better than that!)
So let’s start by asking one basic question: “What do you currently have (or could easily create) that could help a sponsor stay in front of your audience (their target consumer) all year-round?”
We have taken the liberty of sharing our seven best strategies for extending your sponsorship offerings beyond your event or season:
1. Social Media. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of ways to use social media before, during and after events that can be valuable to potential sponsors.
Example: Hold a contest on Instagram for your members six weeks after the event, giving prizes to members, fans, etc. that send in pictures of them wearing your event T-shirt or holding up your program in your sponsor’s store. Or use Facebook and Twitter to send discount links to your sponsor’s sporting goods store, six weeks before the tournament telling them that there’s no time like now to get their equipment before the big tournament.
2: Website. Anyone can post sponsor logos on their website and say, “We would like to thank our sponsors… Blah, blah, blah!” If you really want to add “365” value to this sponsorship asset, integrate your sponsor into the fabric of what you’re doing on your website.
Example: Have sponsors for different sections of your website. For instance, have a page of event pictures and have it sponsored. Let your participants download the pictures and print them out – with each picture having the sponsor’s logo as a subtle “watermark” on each shot.
Likewise, a “Members Check In” sponsored update section or an “Ask the Experts” feature. Members can submit questions with every question or the best question, winning a coupon to the sponsor’s product/service.
3. Emails. Email is one of the most common ways we contact our event participants. For that reason, these emails can be one of the most powerful sponsorship assets you currently own and a great way to extend a sponsorship beyond the execution of your event. You can send multiple types of emails and choose exactly how you want your audience to see the sponsor’s marketing message.
4. Newsletter. Newsletters are very similar to emails in that they offer you a variety of ways to extend a sponsor’s marketing message. We recommend making your newsletter a physical hard copy instead of going 100% digital. Yes, a printed newsletter costs more, but it also is held on to longer, and the content is often consumed many times over and by others than just the original recipient.
5. Webinars/Podcasts. Webinars and podcasts are great ways to engage with your audience and can be sponsored assets. The neat thing about these—you can have each episode sponsored by a company or you can go a step further by letting a sponsor have input on a discussion topic or have them on as a guest speaker.
6. Streaming/Digital Content. Streaming and hosting digital content is becoming easier these days; all you have to do is find the right platform and figure out how you would like to activate the sponsor’s marketing message. Even Facebook has live streaming. Put the sponsor’s logo on the page and in the bottom corner of the video.
7. Use of Logos/Marks Brand Side Activation. The best and most complex (yet simple) trick we decided to save for last. Most of your sponsorships will give both organizations the right to use each other’s logos/marks. If your sponsor is smart, they will use this logo to promote their association with your organization/events. This does not always happen and therein lies the complexity… If you grant this opportunity to a sponsor and they do not take advantage of it, there is little you can do. It is not your job to “hold their hand,” but if you want happy sponsors renewing year after year, it is in your best interest to help them get the most out of their sponsorship. So we highly recommend you encourage your sponsors to not be shy about promoting their association with your organization internally, in-store, in their marketing materials. It not only promotes your event, but it lets their customers know that they’re actively involved in supporting the local community.
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Sponsorship can take you just about everywhere. And you’re controlled mostly by your own creativity. We know—we’ve been at it for over 20 years at The National Sports Forum (sports-forum.com). Like many others, our event initially struggled with generating cash flow. The one thing that changed our financial trajectory was when we made a conscious decision to inject our event with sponsorship. Not the $500-$1,000 one and done “sponsorships” that you have to renew every year. No, we focused on maximizing revenue from sponsorships of $10,000+ a year for multiple years.