How to spread your sponsorship net more widely
Sponsors expect more from their sponsorship investment these days. Therefore, sponsorship seekers need to stop and think how to offer a strong return for the investment. The solution: take a more strategic approach. Don’t just do the standard stuff.
If companies are cutting back their sponsorship budgets, then you should view your sponsorship offer in another light. How can you repackage your offer so it is not merely a sponsorship concept? Look closely at the company you are approaching. Can you restructure your offer so it appeals to other areas within a company? Consider areas whose budgets are healthier than the sponsorship budget, which is usually just a subset of marketing.
Although it is common to approach companies to talk of sponsorships as partnerships, the ensuing agreement usually isn’t really anything like a partnership of equals – in reality the sponsor totally dominates the relationship. The power is almost entirely in their hands. So why bother calling it a partnership?
Call it a business agreement, or something more upmarket than ‘sponsorship’ and not as fake as ‘partnership.’ Don’t call it a package – not very dignified. The terminology of accepting a sponsorship ‘package’ also subtly implies the sponsor is purchasing the offer and the power lies entirely with them.
The key thing is to do your homework! Look carefully into other areas within the company and be flexible about the offer. Find out what suits them and tailor your proposal tightly to that. For instance, HR may be looking for a deal in which they can find a create way to recognize and reward employees for good work. Your proposal may well suit their needs. What about the wider public relations budget? Or the government relations budget? Senior management may benefit from a proposal you can offer them. Perhaps the marketing department plans to launch a new product and your deal may tie in well with the new product.
A fairly new area for ‘sponsorship’ is Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is defined in various ways. Ideally, it involves a company making a commitment to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of its workforce and their families as well as the local community. Most companies these days accept their moral role to be good corporate citizens. Gone are the days when many in business thought an organization’s sole responsibility was to maximize its profits for shareholders. We have seen what happened with this outlook in the Global Financial Recession.
The broad definition of CSR would fit many sponsorship proposals. Therefore, develop your sponsorship proposals as CSR initiatives. To find out background information on CSR you can do a Google search on the term. Some websites specialize in this area. Try going to CSRwire and read the various company reports and information on the subject.
Then pause to think how you could rework your ‘sponsorship’ into a more politically acceptable CSR agreement that may be much more acceptable to the target company.
And try to construct your offer in a way that creates genuine CSR. Many people are cynical about CSR because they see some of the world’s dirtiest, nastiest industries actively promoting their token CSR programs to try to earn greater respect and acceptance within the community. (A range of these industries is represented, among others, in CSRwire.)
More CEOs are starting to acknowledge that business must have a purpose beyond profits, which can also benefit both stockholders and stakeholders over time. This turn towards activism is being driven by activist investors, advocacy social media campaigns, and a more diverse workforce. As part of a more activist approach, more CEOs are starting to support sponsorship of worthy causes.
Therefore, give some in-depth thought about how you construct your offer to align with this more activist trend.