Sponsorship is a tough business. Brands have never had so many rights holders competing for their sponsorship marketing dollars. Not only does this mean that rights holders have to work harder, but sponsorship professionals need to work smarter in delivering the revenues they need to help organisations survive.
However, I am continually surprised that many of the rights holders that I speak to do not use all the resources that are available to them to bring sponsorships and revenues in. This is highlighted when I ask a sponsorship manager, who is trying to maximise their assets, “What is your Board doing?”
Often the answer is a “Ummmm, I don’t know. They help where they can”. It is a strange answer considering that drawing on the networks of your Board is one of the most useful things you can do in developing and growing a sponsorship program.
Board members of organisations that require sponsorship to survive all should have two main purposes. The first is related to their particular area of expertise (Finance, HR, PR etc) and the second should be helping source sponsor partners. It is essential to leverage relationships for sponsorships!
Show me the money
My favourite story is of a new, high profile President coming into a struggling AFL club. At his first Board meeting he said that there were two reasons to be on the Board. The first was to help the football team win premierships (which was the area of expertise of the ex-AFL Footballers on the Board). The second was to bring money in to the Club.
He then asked each Board member, one by one, what sponsorships they had secured for the club. Each Board member floundered at the question. At the next month’s Board meeting, the President asked the same question and, low and behold, the Board members had used their considerable networks to tee up some significant meetings for the sponsorship team.
In just one month the President was able to leverage the networks of the Board to produce an uplift in sponsorship revenue.
It’s an easy avenue to activate and it can produce significant results because often Board members are connected to other decision makers within the potential sponsor organisation.
It is one thing to send the Board on their way to start looking for opportunities. That will probably yield some good meetings. However, if you equip them with the necessary tools to do the job properly then they will feel better prepared and this will most likely translate into even more good meetings.
In a perfect world, you would get to spend time with the Board members and really educate them properly about your assets and your unique selling proposition. However, if you have a high powered and time poor Board then this will be a struggle.
So, while I hate to say it, yes, this means developing a generic proposal that will at least provide some basic sales information that can be used as a leave behind by the Board member. That’s OK, they are just using it to get you an introduction. You can then attack the opportunity in a sponsorship best practice manner afterwards.
Make sure you are top of mind
Again, this is a tough one if you have a Board that is juggling a huge number of priorities at once but don’t underestimate the value of a follow-up.
Keep in touch with the Board and gently ask them if they need anything further. Keep the conversation going as long as you can because they will eventually come around and when they have success they will be willing to help you again and again.
What if your Board doesn’t have any networks? Then get a new Board!
OK, clearly that is going to be difficult but you could push to start a sponsorship advisory group and stack it with people who do have the networks you require.
It’s all about leverage
Quite simply, if you are not leveraging your Board’s contacts then you are missing a MASSIVE opportunity. Enable them, support them and send them on their way. If done correctly, you will be rewarded with significant growth in your sponsorship program.
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