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How to get sponsored – 7 tips you need to know

Have you struggled to get noticed by sponsors? Do your emails go unread and your phone calls unanswered? Or perhaps you’ve been able to pitch to a sponsor, only to receive a “thanks but no thanks?”

Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. While there’s no magic bullet or secret to success when it comes to sponsorship (planning and hard work are effective, however), there are approaches you can take that will help you get sponsored.

There’s an area of psychology called behavioral economics, which tells us that people don’t always purchase something based on logical reasoning. In fact, many purchasing decisions are based on emotional reasons.

In today’s article, we’re going to explore 7 tips on how to get sponsored from the science of persuasion and the art of influence:

  1. Give so you can receive
  2. Look for similarities
  3. Create scarcity and urgency
  4. Build your social proof
  5. Stand out from the crowd
  6. Get agreement
  7. Take the pain out of the price

Tip 1 – Give so you can receive

To be seen by a sponsor, you need to rise above your competition (other sponsorship seekers or alternative marketing opportunities). You’ve got to cut through the noise and clutter and make an impression on the sponsor.

It’s well documented that if you do something nice for someone, they are more likely to do something nice for you in return. This is the law of reciprocity in action. Put simply, you need to give before you can receive.

So how can you rise above the competition and trigger the law of reciprocity? By giving the sponsor a gift. This may feel strange initially but read on…

To get noticed, give your researched and qualified sponsor a “gift” before approaching them to discuss your sponsorship opportunity. If done correctly, this simple act of giving will put you on the sponsor’s radar and they are more likely to agree to a meeting.

These gifts need not be expensive. However, to be effective they must be unexpected and thoughtful. You want to be remembered positively when you contact the sponsor to organise a meeting.

First, you need to learn a little bit about the sponsor. Their LinkedIn and social media profiles can be a wealth of information. Next, you’ll also need some clever ideas to make your gift memorable. Perishable gifts (e.g. chocolates and flowers) or corporate trinkets aren’t going to cut it.

Think personalized, useful and memorable. Here’s an example…

Let’s say you want to approach a local sports equipment company. First you go to LinkedIn and find the company, list the employees and check out the profile of the marketing director.

From here you go to Facebook and Instagram and search for the director’s name. You locate the correct profile and it’s filled with pictures of sports like paragliding and rock climbing.

I did a quick search and there plenty of gift ideas for your avid rock climber that don’t cost very much. For example a “nut tool”, for removing anchors from cracks, retails for about $15. Engrave the director’s name on it and you have a personalized, useful and memorable gift.

Include a personal note with the gift, follow up a 3 to 4 days later with a call and ask for the meeting, where you can show the director why sponsorship is good for business.

Tip 2 – Look for similarities

People prefer to say yes to those they are similar to.

But before you can work out what personal similarities you have with a sponsor you need to get to know them. Please DO NOT send a sponsorship proposal until you have developed some level of rapport with the sponsor.

Send them a gift (see tip 1 above) or get a referral from a mutual contact, then follow up with a phone call to organise a meeting. Just don’t send them a sponsorship proposal.

Once you are able to meet with the sponsor, look for personal similarities before getting down to business. Ask them non-business related questions and listen for opportunities to create a connection. Perhaps you have a similar interest, mutual friends or went to the same school.

Whatever it is, build on that connection so the sponsor gets to “know, like and trust” you. Ultimately, this will make it easier for them to say yes to your sponsorship proposal.

Tip 3 – Create scarcity and urgency

You’ve seen the ads; “Hurry, only a few tickets left” or “Limited edition, don’t miss out”.

These ads are using the scarcity and urgency principle to tap into the fact that people want more of the things they can have less of; it’s the fear of missing out.

You can use this principle to improve your chances of getting sponsored.

Create competition by approaching multiple sponsors in the same category. Where and when appropriate, don’t be shy letting each sponsor know that you’re also speaking with their competitors and that negotiations are progressing.

Make each sponsorship category exclusive and detail this in your proposal. This creates scarcity and encourages a sponsor to lock out their competition by sponsoring you.

Generate urgency by putting a time limit on your sponsorship opportunity. You can frame this by indicating that the relationship needs to be in place by a certain time, so you can work with the sponsor to plan and deliver the various marketing activities you detailed in the sponsorship proposal.

Tip 4 – Build your social proof

Social proof is the phenomenon where your interest in something is influenced by other people’s interest in something.

Take for example two restaurants on the street next door to each other. One is very busy while the other has very few customers. Social proof tells us that you are much more likely to go into the busy restaurant because it’s more popular (and therefore better) than the restaurant next door.

Most people have an innate desire to like what others like and do what others do. Knowing this, we can improve our chances of getting sponsored.

Given the rules of social proof, it’s easier to attract new sponsors if you already have existing sponsors. This can be difficult if you’re just starting out on your sponsorship journey.

In this case, you want to concentrate on some smaller sponsors to start with. This could include:

  • Friends, family and existing business relationships. For a nominal fee, get them onboard your sponsorship program
  • Approach smaller sponsors for in-kind or product sponsorship, where businesses give you products and services in exchange for you promoting their brand to your audience

Once you’ve signed up a few small sponsors, use these brands in your sponsorship program and marketing collateral to approach larger sponsors.

Tip 5 – Stand out from the crowd

As a sponsorship professional, I’ve seen lots of proposals. Many are poorly written and designed, often badly formatted, generic Word documents.

When dealing with a sponsor, you’re most likely communicating with marketing professionals. They literally see hundreds of proposals every month. There’s no way they can read all of them so they put filters in place to weed out the good from the bad.

The filters include:

  1. Do they already know you? (remember, build rapport first)
  2. Does the sponsorship proposal grab their attention? Does it stand out from the crowd?
  3. Is it well written and designed? Does it communicate value?
  4. Is it customized to the sponsor’s needs?
  5. Does it fit with their marketing objectives?

To be taken seriously you need to pass through each of these filters sequentially. The better you perform the more likely the sponsor is to say yes to your sponsorship proposal.

Tip 6 – Get agreement

When people make a verbal or written commitment to others, they are more likely to follow through and remain consistent with their previous commitment.

For example, when a smoker decides to quit, they will be more successful if they make a commitment to a particular date and tell their family and friends.

This commitment to consistency can help us when dealing with sponsors. We want to nudge them towards committing to our sponsorship proposal by asking them to agree to a series of requests.

For example:

  1. Ask the sponsor to agree to a phone call
  2. During the phone call, ask the sponsor to agree to a meeting
  3. At the meeting, demonstrate the value of sponsorship and ask them to agree that sponsorship is good for business
  4. Once they agree that sponsorship is good for business, ask them to agree that sponsorship is good for their business based on the alignment of the target audience and marketing opportunities
  5. Next, ask them to agree that your sponsorship proposal is good for their business
  6. Once they agree that your sponsorship proposal is good for their business, ask them to say yes to your proposal

As you can see from the series of requests above, we’re asking the sponsor to make incremental commitments towards saying yes to our sponsorship proposal. We’re not asking them to say yes straight away, we’re gently guiding them through the process, educating and influencing them along the way.

On the flip side, this process also illustrates why you should never send an unsolicited sponsorship proposal to a potential sponsor. There’s no commitment, no need for consistency and it’s easy to say no.

Tip 7 – Take the pain out of the price

Let’s assume you’ve worked your way through tip 6 above and the sponsor agrees that your sponsorship proposal is good for their business.

Now they turn to the last page of your proposal and look at the price. The last reaction you want to see is shock. What you want to see is their head nodding in agreement at how reasonable the price is in relation to the benefits they will receive.

How well you do your homework, set expectations and demonstrate the potential value of sponsoring you will ultimately determine their reaction.

However, there are some methods you can use to influence the sponsor’s perception of the price.

Always provide 3 options, ranging in price. I’m not suggesting you provide generic sponsorship levels or gold, silver and bronze packages. Each of the options is tailored to the sponsor. Rather than a yes or no answer, now the sponsor has a series of yeses to choose from. Evidence has shown that when someone has 3 options to choose from, they tend to choose the middle option.

Put the highest priced option first. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but by putting the highest priced option first, subsequent options look less expensive than they actually are. This is the contrast principle in operation. If you want something to look big, surround it with small things. If you want something to look small, surround it with big things.

Display different payment time frames. You’re about to sign a sponsorship deal and the annual price is $25,000. If you change the time frames, the price looks like this (approx.):

  • Year = $25,000
  • Quarter = $6,250
  • Month = $2,083
  •  Week = $480
  • Day = $68

In you sponsorship proposal, you could then say “the cost is $68 per day, paid quarterly. Annual price is $25,000”.

In comparison with other marketing and advertising options. $68 per day looks like excellent value for money.

For more info on pricing, see How to put the right price on your next sponsorship proposal.

Make numbers look smaller. All of those zeros and commas make the numbers above look big. You can make the numbers look smaller in comparison by replacing the zeros with a “k”, the thousands symbol.

From the above example, the large numbers become $25k and $6.25k. These appear smaller than the original prices.

Further reading

I hope you’re able to put the 7 tips presented above to good use.

To learn more about behavioral economics and the science of persuasion, I can thoroughly recommend the following resources:

Happy sponsorship seeking, Kym.

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The Perfect Sponsorship Pitch

The Perfect Sponsorship Pitch is a step-by-step process, designed to bypass the gatekeepers and get your sponsor’s attention.