You’ve been pounding away for months now, cold calling potential sponsors only to get the brush off from a gatekeeper or sending out proposals that never get a response.
It’s becoming depressing, and you’re starting to get upset, angry even, that no one can see your potential.
Don’t stress; you’re not alone. It’s the dilemma of many sponsorship seekers.
If this is happening to you, then it’s time to stop, re-group, and have a serious think about your approach to sponsorship.
The reasons why you’re not getting sponsored can be summarised in three simple words: Who, what, and why.
When you come into contact with a potential sponsor, they’re going to ask themselves these questions:
- Who are you?
- What’s in it for me?
- Why should I choose you?
As a sponsorship seeker, it’s your job to provide the answers to these 3 questions in a way that makes you and your opportunity the logical choice.
Let’s look at each of these questions in detail and discuss ways to improve your answers and get sponsored.
1 – Who are you?
The first question a potential sponsor is going to ask is who exactly are you. They aren’t going to ask you directly. Why would they? That’s like asking your mother how special you are.
No, they’re going to “ask” the question more subtly by looking at your deeds, your reputation, and branding in the market.
To effectively answer the “who are you” question, you need to build your brand, define your niche, and separate yourself from the pack.
I’ll admit, this is easier said than done. The art is to amplify your natural abilities…
Can you inspire others to take action? Can you influence the decisions people make? This is a compelling quality sort after by potential sponsors.
Sponsors will naturally gravitate towards you if you are seen as a leader in your niche to inspire your audience.
Does your audience want to be like you? Do you represent what your audience can aim for?
This usually takes the shape of a transformation. For example, a person goes from dangerously overweight to a fitness guru, from rags to riches, and from obscurity to prominence.
These are extreme and rare examples, and I’m not suggesting you go and lose 80lbs and start your own range of fitness products. But they do illustrate the idea of transformation, going from a negative to a positive.
Do you have any stories that illustrate how you went from a negative to a positive? Something your audience can aspire to?
Good news stories sell, so tell your story and sell yourself to your sponsors.
Do you engage with your audience? Can you make them laugh, cry, think, forget?
The key here is to “engage,” connect with your audience, so they get to know and ultimately like you.
If you can entertain your audience, a potential sponsor already has something they can work with.
To be successful in sponsorship, you need to rise above the pack and differentiate yourself from the competition.
The key ingredient is hard work; you’ve got to do things your competitors aren’t able or willing to do. And most importantly, you have to answer the question; who are you?
Here are my 7 tips to get you started:
- Implement a social media strategy and build an audience. It’s costs very little
- Use press releases and PR to blow your own trumpet (no one else will)
- Network, network, network
- Create a website and update it regularly
- Align yourself with a cause you believe in
- Seek out publicity opportunities like speaking engagements and interviews
- Develop relationships with complementary organizations
2 – What’s in it for me?
The second question a potential sponsor is going to ask, once they’re satisfied they know who you are and want to deal with you is, what’s in it for them?
Whoa, Kym – isn’t sponsorship all about me and what I can get out of it? If this is the way you think, you are doomed to failure when it comes to sponsorship.
When you buy something, you always ask yourself what’s in it for me? What am I going to get out of this investment? Your potential sponsors are asking the same questions.
So give them the answers.
Return on Investment
One obvious answer is that the sponsor will get back more than they invest. I discussed this at length in the 10 essential steps to create a winning sponsorship proposal.
- Establish the sponsor’s marketing objectives
- Agree on how you will measure sponsorship success
- Ascertain the value to the sponsor
- Develop your unique marketing initiatives
While this is an important answer, it’s not the only one.
Consequences of Inaction
One of the great motivators is scarcity. What will happen if I don’t take advantage of this limited opportunity and miss out on the benefits?
You need to make the psychology of scarcity work in your favor by giving a potential sponsor the impression they will be worse off if they don’t sponsor you.
It positions your sponsorship opportunity as a premium product rather than a commodity.
But how do you do this? Here are some simple techniques that marketers have been using for years:
- Make the sponsorship offer for a limited time only
- Offer a limited number of sponsorship options
- Make the sponsorship offer exclusive to lock out the competition
- Have options – let the sponsor know you’re in discussions with their competitors
- Increase the price over time – this month it’s $10,000, next month it’s $12,000
Think carefully about using these techniques, and don’t switch between scarcity and abundance as this sends mixed messages.
Benefits by Association
One of the great advantages of sponsorship over other forms of marketing is the intangible benefits of being associated with a brand the sponsor’s audience admires.
Take, for example, many high-profile sporting sponsorships. These are as much about return on investment as they are about how they make fans feel.
And where it makes sense for you, highlight these intangible benefits to your potential sponsors.
How effective this strategy is depends upon how much effort you’ve put into developing your audience, which we discussed at the beginning of this article, and the following characteristics of your sponsorship opportunity:
- How loyal is your audience
- How influential are you
- How visible are you in your niche
- How exclusive is your sponsorship opportunity
- How well connected are you
3 – Why should I choose you?
If you’ve successfully navigated the “who are you” and “what’s in it for me” questions, then the final hurdle is “why should I choose you” over other types of marketing (like traditional advertising)?
This is where you play to your strengths and what sets sponsorship apart from passive / at-a-distance marketing options.
If one of the advantages you come up with is logos on things, slap yourself and head straight to the back of the class.
What we’re talking about are those marketing opportunities that only your niche can provide. This will most likely revolve around establishing and nurturing the relationship between your audience and your sponsors.
Experiential marketing is where sponsorship can really shine over other forms of marketing.
Creating unique experiences for your audience to interact with your sponsor’s products is designed to create a positive and lasting impression.
And if you can engage all of your audience’s five senses, the positive impression can be magnified.
So, what unique experiences can you create for your audience to best showcase your potential sponsor’s products? Think about:
- What environments do you operate in?
- What assets do you have at your disposal?
- What people-power do you have?
- What problem can you solve?
- And how can you weave your audience and your sponsor’s products together using the criterion above to create a unique experience?
When a business advertises in the newspaper, magazine, or online, they compete with similar businesses for space and eyeballs.
With your sponsorship opportunity, you can offer exclusivity. I.e., you won’t work with the sponsor’s competitors within a specific category or categories. Thus, your sponsor can effectively lock out the competition.
Many sponsors will expect this. Therefore, make sure you are prepared with a list of categories that allows you to monetize your opportunity appropriately and provide a workable level of exclusivity.
Access to an Engaged Audience
If you’ve been doing your job right, you should already have an engaged audience ready and willing to embrace your potential sponsor’s products.
It’s this shake-and-bake customer base that the sponsors want to get their products in front of; the larger and the more targeted, the better.
Say, for example, you’re in charge of the sponsorship for a niche music festival. Way before the event, you start to build your audience via social media, keeping the punters up-to-date with the latest acts.
As the numbers start to swell, you begin to approach potential sponsors. You’re armed with many unique experiences, exclusivity, and an engaged audience (social proof in the form of thousands of fans).
Until next time… happy sponsorship seeking.