The approach you need to make a winning sponsorship proposal
The secret to successful sponsorship proposals is to invest the time to get to know your prospects and what they want. You need to do your homework!
If you are seeking to land a major sponsorship, the odds are you will have to work hard to get it and provide good value for money to the sponsor. If you are not prepared to work hard with your preparation, then don’t waste your time! Easy money doesn’t come along even if you have a good cause. Sponsors want to get their hard-earned money’s worth. You need to put a convincing business case to them – and then honor your promises by providing them with good commercial value for their investment.
Don’t misuse your time splashing standard sponsorship proposals around the marketplace in hope. This approach is all about you – but you need your approach to be about them – potential sponsors and their requirements. You need to develop a tailored sponsorship package for each individual prospect. This will get your foot in the door.
As a former corporate affairs manager, I used to get dozens of these standard offers every week. They wasted so much of my time because those sponsorship seekers had made no effort to find out what we actually wanted from our sponsorship commitments.
In essence, you are selling a marketing product and you have to show your value by knowing what your customer (sponsor) wants, work out what you can do to match their needs and develop a proposal that competes strongly with all of the other groups who are chasing sponsorship.
How to connect with potential sponsors
Your success rate will improve if you follow these tips:
1. List your attributes
Look at what you can offer. Analyze your events, membership lists, key contacts, attendees, network, office-bearers, media interest, social media activities, etc to uncover everything that could provide value to sponsors and what you are comfortable offering to them. You don’t want to sell your soul – eg to a tobacco company. You might have speaking opportunities to offer. What about government contacts? Think about the sponsor’s product or service that could align with your name or activities. It’s not just about exposure of your logo. Create a list of as many attributes you could offer so you can mention them when a prospect wants to discuss more than the old-fashioned, limited topics like media exposure.
I have drawn up an extensive list of attributes and possible benefits you can offer a potential sponsor in the article titled, appropriately enough, “Many benefits you can offer sponsors.” You can use it as a thought starter.
Don’t draw up a list of the attributes you can offer a sponsor, and then divide them into a standard hierarchy of sponsorship levels, ie Gold, Silver and Bronze, or the equivalent with different names. This is essentially done for your convenience, not sponsors! Be more flexible by creating broad bands of sponsorship categories rather than fixed, tight bands. More in item 2, below.
2. Avoid standard ranking of sponsors
If you are seeking various sponsors at different levels, avoid simplistically putting them into the traditional “Gold, Silver and Bronze” categories. Customize what you offer according to your available attributes and each prospect’s interests.
Ranked structures typically comprise classifications like Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc. This makes life simple for you because standard benefits can be applied quite easily. For instance, a Gold sponsor might be entitled to XXX benefits while Silver sponsors might get XX benefits and Bronze sponsors might just get X benefits.
Problems with this can include you being stuck with allocating standard benefits in each structure. For example, a certain amount of logo exposure, tickets and hospitality for your VIPs and key customers, product displays. These standard benefits lack creativity, and therefore lack appeal to sponsors. These benefits are not tailored to the interests and needs of individual sponsors. Basically, these categories suit you rather than fit the needs of sponsors.
It is better to broaden the name of your categories to something like bands or ranges to give more flexibility. The important thing is to tailor or customize what you offer the top sponsors to suit their specific requirements.
- The top range could be called Principal Sponsor, Primary Sponsor, or Head Sponsor. (More than one sponsor at this level is undesirable.)
- The second level is often called Major Sponsor, although I think this can be confused with a Principal Sponsor. Other suggestions are Eminent Sponsor, or Distinguished Sponsor, or Key Sponsor.
- The third level can be called something like Supporting Sponsor. Other options could be: Local Partner, National Partner, Community Supporter, Pro Bono Supporter, or In-kind Supporter.
Find out what are their marketing priorities and the type of activities they think will most benefit their marketing strategies. You can even get together with them in informal brainstorms in which you can bounce ideas around.
3. Spread your sales net more widely
Use your imagination to see what creative connection there could be with a wider circle of prospects. For instance, I know a racing driver who was successfully sponsored by a brand of underarm deodorants because, well, driving a racing car is hairy stuff! In the same way, you could brainstorm about possible inventive connections between your attributes and possible categories of new sponsors. Bring in external people as well as your own people for such sessions. Think about involving your advertising, PR, and marketing contacts and relevant others from your network in this process.
4. Sell value, not price
An essential task for you is to calculate the value of your attributes. This is a complex topic, which I have discussed in a separate article, “How to calculate sponsorship fees.”
You need to construct a package that contains your solutions to the sponsor’s needs, shows the strength of your brand and demonstrates your capacity to help them achieve their targets. Therefore, you need to provide perceived value-for-money to the sponsor.
One important thing is stick with your overall package price. Once you understand the prospect’s priorities, don’t present the package to them and allow them to just pick out parts of it they want. You can re-negotiate with them about the content of the package if you think they are still definitely interested. Perhaps they say they can’t afford the total package or they might say they are only interested in the best parts of it. Then they might try to get you to quote for each of these parts separately, and leave you with only the less-attractive parts to take to other prospects.
The trouble is that concessions like this eat into the total revenue from the package. Therefore, use your judgment and walk away if a prospect tries to chisel you down on your offered deal.
5. Develop a positive relationship with key prospects in different bands
Where a prospect’s business looks promising, try to meet with them and develop a positive relationship. Follow up by talking over the phone about the things that will help you reach an appealing mix of items for them. It is vital to find out what really hits their hot buttons, and satisfy their needs! But above all, don’t just push a standard package at them as the first step.
6. Don’t get sucked in to send a standard proposal
A big alarm signal when you first contact a potential sponsor is when they just tell you to fill in their sponsorship application form, or to send them your sponsorship proposal . What they are really saying is they aren’t interested, but don’t want to appear rude by saying “no” straight off.
Therefore, see if you can persuade them to spend at least a few minutes on the phone so you can understand their requirements. You could say something like:
“We individually tailor each of our sponsorship proposals to the needs of the potential sponsor, so I would like to ask you some quick questions about your business, who your target market is, and the benefits we can offer you that will help you achieve your business goals.
If they are still not interested in further discussion with you before you send in a proposal, say “Our policy is not to proceed any further with applications unless we can gain a better understanding of the sponsor’s requirements.”
Having developed some rapport over the phone, you could suggest a brief meeting and a super-short proposal document of 1-2 pages that will allow you to test the waters. If the contact gives you some encouraging responses then, you can spend productive time developing a more detailed custom package to suit their needs.
My ebook, How to win corporate sponsorship, explains in detail how you should go about seeking corporate sponsorship, including putting together a list of your attributes, valuing what you have to offer, writing a sponsorship proposal, marketing to potential sponsors, and managing a sponsorship.