what sponsors really want

Four Things Brands Want To See From Sponsorship Seekers

November 23rd, 2016 Posted by No Comment yet

Last week I had the privilege of moderating a sponsorship panel, at World Rugby Confex 2016 in London, which discussed “The Sponsorship Pathway – Are You Sponsorship Ready?” The sponsorship expert panellists were Fiona Taag from DHL, Murray Barnett from World Rugby, Tom Kingsley from EY and Sophie Morris from Millharbour Marketing. Many interesting things were discussed such as measurement, shared objectives and proposals … even love affairs!

By having an agency, a rights holder with some very successful long-term partners as well as two major brands on the panel, the conversation was very informative. It also very quickly moved from “How to be sponsorship ready” to “How to engage with AND grab the interest of sponsors”. The ensuing conversation uncovered some interesting viewpoints around what brands want to see from sponsorship seekers.

Whilst the panel discussion went on for over half an hour, the panellists kept circling back to four things brands want to see from sponsorships seekers.

1. Authenticity

The number one thing that all the experts discussed was that authenticity is the priority. A rights holder who genuinely can see and show alignment in objectives and goals, mutual benefit in becoming partners and a genuine interest in working together are all authentic elements which brands want to see.

Real sponsorship is not philanthropy. It is a business arrangement where authenticity around working together for mutual gain will ALWAYS beat out a rights holder looking for a quick win. In such a mature sponsorship marketplace, brands have become very good at seeing through those non-authentic approaches which may be dressed up as once in a lifetime opportunity.

2. Research and not pre-empting what they want

The brand representatives on the panel discussed the high volume of sponsorship proposals which come across their desk. We are talking 100s per week! One thing that get’s your proposal thrown into the ‘NO’ pile very quickly is a generic, pre-empted proposal offering benefits that the rights holder clearly has no idea whether or not they align with what the brand wants.

One point the panellists made was that a bit of research into brand objectives and other marketing functions, conflicting properties which may obstruct effectiveness of a partnership AND research into any common connections who can make friendly introductions – rather than cold approaches – are all key factors into rising to the top of these piles (and piles) of sponsorship proposals.

3. Be Able To Help Measure

Brands need to measure partnerships but rights holder don’t necessarily want to (mostly through fear). However, measurement isn’t as scary as you may think because:

  • Measurement isn’t always about measuring dollars. Measurement can come in many forms and should actually be linked to benefits used and the objectives and goals of the brand. This could be things such as engagement in activation activities by numbers of people, open rates of EDM’s or social media reach and engagement.
  • Measurement rarely dictates the ongoing renewal of a partnership. Sponsorship managers at brands understand that the sponsorships they undertake are much deeper and more involved than just analytics. However, by helping them with measurement you are actually helping the brand internally sell the partnership outcomes to those inside their organisation who don’t necessarily understand the complexity of sponsorship.
  • By being accessible and helpful in measuring partnerships, against well-communicated goals and objectives, you will actually build an advocate at the brand by showing you understand why and how they need these figures.

4. Flexibility

Good partnerships and successful sponsorship campaigns take time, mutual effort and ongoing communication. Those are the key factors that a brand loves to see and feel from a rights holder in making partnerships work.

Nowadays, the ability to consistently work together to ensure benefits are working as intended, and wants and needs from both parties are met, is the new standard in sponsor servicing. The ability to alter contracted rights which may not be working as intended, rather than just ‘sticking to the deal’ will go a long way in keeping a brand happy. It also lets them open up about what they really want from the partnership with the new found realisation that the rights holder is genuinely able to help, and wants to help, them achieve that.

Making Sense of it All

It’s obviously not as simple as just being authentic, well prepared, able to measuring and flexible. However, the fact that most brands probably suffer from sponsorship proposal fatigue means that, at a minimum, at least being prepared to give sponsors want they want will give you a heightened chance.

Sometimes though, timing is just not right. As such, your ability to shine, through your initial approach, will start the relationship off on the right foot, increase your network and may one day lead to opportunities either with this brand or another.

Deeper Insights

Some deeper insights from all panellists can be found via the special Inside Sponsorship podcast episodes. There are two episodes live – one with Fiona Taag (DHL EXPRESS) and myself and one with Craig Maxwell (Welsh Rugby) and Sophie Morris (Millharbour Marketing). We will be releasing a third episode featuring Murry Barnett (World Rugby) and Tom Kinglsey (EY) next week.

You can listen to the podcast here or simply search ‘Inside Sponsorship’ in iTunes or Stitcher.


Mark Thompson - SponServe

Mark Thompson // Managing Director

Mark specialises in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.

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