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YBI Creative

Rob Sharp interview – part 1

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Hi and welcome to the very first interview here on Practical Sponsorship Ideas. It’s great to finally start chatting with some experts in the sponsorship and marketing fields.

Meet Rob Sharp…

My first guest is Rob Sharp, from YBI Creative in Australia. Rob started his career in advertising with Clemenger BBDO in Adelaide. For 9 and half years Rob dealt mainly with above the line marketing, which includes TV, cinema, radio, the press and magazines etc.

During his time with Clemenger, Rob was introduced to the Australian National Drag Racing Association (ANDRA) who was a client at the time. When the opportunity to work with the new Sports Compact group came about, Rob joined ANDRA as the communications manager.

When Rob joined ANDRA there were exactly zero championship sponsors. Over the next 18 months the ANDRA team took that number to 9 which represented a significant investment in the sport. And that’s when Rob began his association with sponsorship, creating valuable sponsorship opportunities and commercial properties for businesses right around Australia.

4 years later Rob returned to Clemenger to work specifically with Mitsubishi and their marketing programs, receiving and reviewing sponsorship proposals and providing advice to senior management.

After 2 years with Clemenger Rob joined YBI Creative, a full service brand management and communications business, where he works today as the commercial director.


So let’s get started…

Kym: Hi Rob.

Rob: G’day Kym.

Kym: Rob, I’d like to start with a few specific questions about sponsorship. This first one is a high priority for me at the moment having just sent off my first proposal which was not as successful as I had hoped.

Rob: Sure thing.

Kym: So… in your opinion, what is the best approach if you’re coming from a completely cold standpoint, if you don’t know the people to talk to at one of your target sponsors?

Rob: What I’ve found best, and it will vary from person to person, is it’s always best to start with a verbal. People respond better to someone that they feel they know already, or can at least identify with.

So, I’ve always found that taking the time to get a relationship going before you hit them with a sponsorship proposal is a good way to do it. It just makes more personal sense.

Going back to cite a Mitsubishi example, they had one week where there was 174 sponsorship proposals in a single week, and it was one person’s job, over and above to do all of these other marketing functions, to have a look at those proposals.

I can tell you, hand on heart, that there is no way he was ever going to have the time to get through 174 sponsorship proposals in a week. So, a lot of those would have flown over his desk without him having to give them a second thought.

However, if he was expecting something to come…now, a lot of times, he won’t take a call or she won’t take a call, but I would persist with a verbal before they get the proposal, and they at least know what it is they’re about to be getting.

Imagine an organization like McDonalds, they have sponsorship at all sorts of levels; everything from a local little athletics club to the AFL to international stuff. A lot of what you can do is just establishing who you should be talking to, who it should be addressed to, and you know, sometimes, it’s not even a bad idea to give them a deadline, to actually give them something to action, or as a part of your letter. So, “I’ll be calling you on Day X. Look forward to having a chat. Let me know if there’s someone else I should be talking to.”

All of those sorts of things, just to get a conversation going. The problem with sending something cold is it’s just a monologue. You’re not engaging them. You’re just giving them information. They’re surrounded with information on a daily basis. So, if you can make it a bit more personal it would just help out.

Engage with potential sponsors…

Kym: So if I could summarise then, the idea is to…

  1. Research your potential sponsorship targets. Look at the marketing messages that they’re actually working on and if that actually fits with what you can provide.
  2. Try and make contact with somebody within the organisation verbally, to find out if they’re the right person or if they’re not, who’s the right person to speak to.
  3. Once you’ve made contact and they’re interested in hearing from you and what you’re about, maybe provide a one or two page executive summary, and at the end of that, the idea of actually having a face-to-face meeting. So at that point, you might send them an email or a letter just outlining your offering for example, and then a chance to meet, not including cost, not including details, just an idea and then meeting with them to actually discuss their objectives.

Does that sound about right Rob?

Rob: Yeah, 100%. Look, your first point is a good one. Reconnaissance is everything, and you have to remember that when you’re sending this to a marketing person, you keep in mind at the start of the year, they’ve set up a marketing plan that will have all these different facets, and it’ll have sponsorship. It’ll have advertising. It’ll have corporate communications. It’ll have brand guidelines. It’ll have all sorts of things.

There’ll be 30 different areas that make up that sponsorship, and it’s bigger now than it’s ever been thanks to social media, paid Internet, banners. It’ll just be enormous. They’ve got all these different facets.

Now, the one thread that sews all these things together is the unique selling proposition (USP); that single minded proposition for their brand. So, you need to establish what it is. Right, but to use McDonald’s as an example, 95% of McDonald’s sponsorships is done on grassroots level. So, it’s a good opportunity for your field athletics club, or your triathlon club, or your local self life service, or your kid’s go-carts, or your junior dragsters.

They are the sorts of areas that McDonald’s loves. Now, what they will be looking to get out of their sponsorship is very different to what they’ll be looking to get out of their above the line communication. What they look to get out of sponsorship is simply grassroots connection with their audience, but they’ll have a message that they’ll want to get through that as well.

You need to establish what it is that they’re trying to get out of their marketing plan, where your particular opportunity will fit within that marketing plan and make sure that what you’re sending them is relevant. So, if you’re sending them something that is just a generic presentation for McDonald’s, it’s unlikely that the same presentation will work at McDonald’s as it would for Mitre 10, for example. So, you need to just find what angle it is that you need to see, and I’ll give you a good example.

I’ve recently did some work for a friend of mine who is a musician and he’s going to the States. Now, there’s a local…I won’t say who…but a local for me, beer producer who is very interested in grassroots sponsorship, but if you go to their website, and this guy’s a very intelligent well-regarded guy, but he didn’t do the research up front. So, what he gave me, what he was going to present, and I basically told him to throw it in the bin. The key message is that they don’t want to sell logos. I mean, at the end of the day, they could go through a media buying house, and you could get your reach and frequency numbers and you could really specify all the socioeconomic data and make sure you’re segmenting that data beautifully to get a maximum impact to your buyer.

So, that’s not what they’re after. What they’re about was putting the product in the hands of potential consumers. So, it was almost an experiential point of view, and given that they’re a manufacturer or producer of beer, it makes sense that it would have a social element to it. So, we put together a proposal that was very much based around taking the product to the marketplace in an environment where it’s suited, rather than selling…you know, we’re doing 23 shows and we’re on stage for an hour and a half. We’ll put a sticker on the drum kit here and you’ll do that. It wasn’t even vaguely, really, what this company was about.

What they’re about is they think they have a great product and they think that if they put it in the hand of consumers, that they’ll get a good result and I suspect they’re right. So, we looked at that proposal to make sure that what we had in there was relevant. So reconnaissance, to your point, absolutely paramount.

Kym: Well, given the reconnaissance idea and research strategies, what sort of resources should people be looking at? Obviously, the company websites and their shareholder websites and stuff like that, but are there any other types of resources people can use to really get to understand the potential sponsor’s marketing message and, as you said, their unique selling proposition?

Ask them what their key performance indicators are…

Rob: One thing that I always do that is always great; after you’ve made verbal contact with your company representative, ask them what their key performance indicators (KPIs) are. Say, “Give me your top five KPIs.” to make sure that in this area, you’re successful, and then write them all down, and then make sure in your proposal that you have got everything in there to cover those KPIs.

Because, what you have to remember is generally, if you’re going to be shopping for something that gives you a decent value for money, then there’s going to be a couple of levels to get approval here.

That person needs to on present what you’ve given them with an opportunity to say “And, here’s where I tick all the boxes.” Now, you need to make it as easy as possible for these people, so they can go, “You know what? I feel comfortable that he has got me covered.”

If you can understand those KPIs, you understand the business issues that go along with the brand to which you’re talking, it will put you a long, long way ahead, and that’s what I mean about just tailoring that specific response. So, if you see a generic presentation that’s just had a couple of names and details changed versus a tailored approach, then you’ll definitely be more successful.

Kym: Okay. So, if we look at, on average, what do you think an appropriate lead time is? Let’s say you’ve successfully negotiated getting in contact with them, you’ve had a sit-down meeting, you’ve discussed the KPIs and objectives, now you’re going to go back and create a custom proposal for the potential sponsor, what sort of lead time are they looking at? Is it 12 months? Is it six months? Is it…?

Rob: It really does vary; I’ll be honest with you. First thing you need to do is understand what their financial year is because their fiscal year will have everything to do about when you can get access to the funds.

Iif it’s calendar year then you need to be talking to them kind of July. Give them a couple of months to get started. You know, I’ve seen them turnaround as quick as two weeks to be honest, because they just happened to be in the market for the right thing.

So, it really does vary, but understand when their financial year is, because at the end of that, they’ll have a budget locked away. That marketing plan that they produced at the start of the year will have a whole bunch of figures attached to it, and they’re non-negotiable.

Although everyone will have a little bit of extra should something else come along, you’re probably not going to get what you want unless it’s been budgeted for. So, you need to get in a long time before their financial year ends and starts and make sure that you’re included in the budget before they get to the marketing plan.

Kym: Okay. So, let’s say their financial year is the July to June period. Is the best time to approach them in March for the following financial year, or…?

Rob: Yes, that’s exactly right. I mean, basically, a lot of the retail brands will have a busy, busy over-Christmas period. January will be a kind of reset, February will be planning for the rest of the year, and March will be filling in the boxes. So, you’re spot on with the timing there, Kym.

Well that concludes part 1 of my interview with Rob Sharp. Part 2 is now available for your reading pleasure.

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