Karen C. Cortese, (‘Casey’) owner of The Sweet Spot Agency, LLC, guest blogs for us today on sponsorship loyalty. She talks about tactical things you can do to stand out from the pack and keep your sponsor relationships year after year. Casey is an entrepreneurial leader who focuses on businesses, race organizations and nonprofits in helping them create deeper and more effective customer engagement and activation strategies.
The best lesson I learned as a communication major was that you need to present information to your audience in a manner in which they can receive it. If you develop a speech, an ad, or marketing materials that only focus on what the sender wants to say, very few people will pay attention to it. The same is true for cultivating a quality sponsorship program for your race. If you develop your program based on what you, the race organization needs to achieve, without considering what the sponsor must achieve, your success will be limited.
Here are some insights from the way that sponsors view the world of sponsorship that will help you build a stronger program and ultimately keep your sponsors:
PROPERTY AS MARKETING AGENCY
When you sell a business a sponsorship, you are effectively selling a marketing partnership, and as such, the property’s role is that of a marketing agency. Your priority in fulfilling a sponsor contract should not solely focus on fulfilling the tactical benefits listed in the contract, but rather on the goal of BUILDING THE SPONSOR’S BUSINESS. We are here to achieve predefined goals; be sure you understand them, you share them with your full team, and deliver on them. Which leads to the next point:
UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS NEED
Take the time to understand the individual needs of the sponsor’s business and their objectives, both during the sales process and in the fulfillment process. When I worked for a mutual fund company, I received numerous pitches that offered me the chance for onsite sampling. If the seller had taken one moment to consider the needs of my business, they would have realized there is no way to sample a mutual fund at an event! Those proposals immediately went into the trash, never to see the light of day. Each sponsor has unique needs; if you can show you understand them at the highest level, and that you are willing and able to personalize your approach, you and your event will stand out among the crowd.
TAKE AN EXPERIENTIAL APPROACH
Sponsors are people, too, and the more you can help us have a positive personal experience with your event (alongside of a positive business experience), the more likely we are to return. Help us enjoy the event, help us learn about your industry, show your appreciation (to anyone representing the sponsor, not just the senior decision makers), and you have a much better chance at creating a loyal sponsor.
ACTIVATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
This is often the fundamental failing of a sponsor. We often invest money in the sponsorship fee, but don’t appropriately invest in the activation. At times this is due to the lack of having the right activation strategy. You know your assets better than anyone. The race organizer that takes the time to help a sponsor develop a quality activation program that is relevant to the audience and connected to the sponsor’s business goals will distinguish themselves in what has now become a very commoditized marketplace. Talk about activation from the start (yes, even as part of the sales process), and help your sponsors get the most for their money.
UNDER-PROMISE AND OVER-DELIVER
People repeatedly pay lip service to this concept, but the race organization that acts on this will definitely be rewarded with repeat business. I once worked with a race and had to bring my contract with me to every event to ensure even the basic benefits were filled (i.e. # of banners, # of PA mentions, etc.). Conversely, another race series at times found they had extra space in their magazine, and would offer extra advertorial space to their top sponsors at no additional fee. Form a trusting relationship with your sponsors by meeting and exceeding expectations – this is a sure way to win repeated sponsorships. Remember, we get hundreds of proposals each year; there are plenty of other places to take our business, and we will change our portfolio if we feel an event is coming up short.
OFFER A QUALITY POST-EVENT REPORT
Help us return! By providing data that shows how our sponsor benefits have been fulfilled, even at a very high level, you help your sponsors report back to their leadership and make it easier for them to justify returning. Especially in today’s day and age when multi-year contracts are harder to come by, providing an ongoing stream of proof points of a sponsor’s success will make your renewals that much easier.