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Sponsorship seekers should tailor each offer to fit potential sponsors

01 Jun, 2020 Sponsorship

One of the biggest and most common mistakes in seeking sponsorship is to think only of your own needs and wants. But you should be focusing on the commercial benefit you can offer sponsors and their target market. Overall, sponsorship seekers should tailor each offer to fit potential sponsors rather than focus on what sponsors can provide.

Sponsorship is about the commercial benefit you can offer. There is no magic bullet that will motivate a sponsor to throw money at your deserving cause – unless you have thought out a win-win proposition. You need to package a combination of benefits that will provide them with value for money.focus on what to do for sponsors

Sponsors aren’t holding their breath waiting for your approach. They are besieged by heaps of applicants seeking money. Therefore, the power in the relationship lies heavily in their hands, and you need to tailor the content of your proposal to suit the sponsor’s unique requirements.

You need to be able to offer a sponsor an avenue for them to reach out to their target market. In this sense you are a ‘middleman’ or conduit – a way for the sponsor to strengthen their connection to their target market.

If all you are doing is focusing on your own needs, you are effectively asking for a donation – because you are not offering the sponsor their money’s worth. Donations and philanthropy are totally different from sponsorship.

Tailor each offer to fit potential sponsors

As a corporate affairs manager, I received dozens of sponsorship applications every month and found that 90% of them were merely photocopied, mass-produced documents that made no effort to relate to my organization’s marketing and communication needs. Some of these frustrating examples:

  • I particularly recall the local ballet company expecting money to fall to them because the husband of their business development manager was a consultant to my organization. Their application made little attempt to look at our requirements. In effect, it was a thoughtless and arrogant attitude. Not surprisingly, they got nowhere with us.
  • Same with the high-profile children’s hospital. They assembled a rather arrogant proposal that strongly implied it was our moral duty to support them. But their offering was just a token. They had made no attempt to understand our requirements. If they had wanted a donation, that would have been a different matter under a different policy, but they were pursuing me for sponsorship that was all about take, take, take. They would have given us no value for our money.
  • Same with the police helicopter. Under political pressure from the State government (before my time), we had agreed to sponsor the police helicopter for three years. What did we get? For our $200,000 each year we got a 12-inch by 9-inch decal with our logo on the two sides of the helicopter. Nothing else. The government changed, and when the three years loomed up I could hardly wait to use the money elsewhere. I gave the police plenty of notice, but that didn’t stop them complaining to the CEO and the newspapers. The CEO knew quite well the deal didn’t stack up in commercial terms, and he supported my decision.

Do your homework on each potential sponsor

To win ahead of other applicants you need to do your homework and look to offer something a bit different. Don’t plaster the postal system with mass-produced applications. You may think that sending out many proposals and following up with phone calls may impress your boss. But don’t confuse activity with effectiveness. Many people also use this busy technique with media releases. But in both cases, busy outputs are counter-productive. In fact, such outputs are merely junk mail.

If you take a professional approach you will not send out many proposal documents at all because you will have filtered out the irrelevant companies and just focused hard on those who fit well with what you can offer. Above all focus on what to do for potential sponsors. My eBook, How to successfully seek corporate sponsorship, gives more guidance.

A tailored sponsorship proposal doesn’t mean sending a mail-merged covering letter and some primitive mail merging within the document. The proposal needs to genuinely address that sponsor’s specific needs.

Do your research

The consensus among experts is that 75% of sponsorship proposal time should be spent on research. Research each potential sponsor. Look for the fit with what you can offer to suit their unique needs. Their website or a Google search will reveal most of their priorities. Try to understand them and how you can help them reach and strengthen their relationships with their target audience. Check their sponsorship record to get a better idea of their strategy.

Hold a creative or brainstorm meeting to identify the benefits you can uniquely offer each sponsor. Look closely at what you have access to in terms of target audience and access to it. Time and effort invested in creativity can win you the money. It doesn’t have to be stupendous creativity, just find smart angles to show how the sponsor can connect better with their target audience through you. You are effectively the broker.

Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash.

If you enjoyed this article, we recommend this book

How to Win Corporate Sponsorship How to Win Corporate Sponsorship

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from

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