I often come across constant resignation amongst non-mainstream rights holders that they can’t be competitive in the sponsorship game against the “big guys on TV”. I don’t usually think too much about it but I came across an article the other day that piqued my interest.
The article as a whole didn’t really capture me, however, one key comment by Elise Perry did.
“Women’s sport needs to exist as its own entity and bring in its own revenue and stand alone. We need to make it justifiable for broadcasters to cover our sports and for companies to sponsor our teams”.
Of course this article was based on women’s sport, however, the non-mainstream sports have the same issues and Elise’s comment really got me thinking – “How can you attract sponsors if you are a non-mainstream rights holder?”
As I thought about it, I realised it can be quite a complicated issue, however, as a starting point, there are five marketing and strategic approaches you should be conscious of so as to set yourself up for future success
1. Own And Build Your Audience
It is often said that sponsorship gives brands the chance to connect with highly engaged audiences who have a unique passion for the organisation they are sponsoring. This point doesn’t change just when considering women’s sport or non-mainstream organisations.
The wider perception is that sponsors should stop sponsoring, or reduce their spend in, those male dominated sports with TV viewership and massive audiences. This is wrong. What needs to be done, by those wanting their own piece of the pie, is to build and own their own audience with their own passionate fans with their own high level of engagement.
Do that and you will have an attractive audience which brands will want to engage with.
2. Know Your Value Proposition
Once you have an audience (and all organisations wanting sponsorship should) you need to understand how they can be engaged so as to provide value to potential sponsors. The article I read calls for people to stop calling these transactions “sponsorships” and to call it “community investment”. However, even then, there still needs to be value represented to an organisation who is contributing financially and, whether that be commercial ROI or community engagement and perception value, you still need to know what you can deliver a brand to help them achieve these goals.
3. Be Targeted In Your Approach
Targeting the right people is crucial to your success, as is targeting them in the right way. It’s often said that you get one chance to set the right impression and engage a prospect and I am a firm believer in that. Even if they don’t become engaged straight away, your impression and approach may set the platform for future success.
In being targeted in your approach, there are some key things to remember:
- Know who you are and what you offer and target companies of a similar size and appetite.
- Don’t just send meaningless proposals. Instead, get to know your prospect and their objectives and align your offering to them.
- Start within your network and move outwards from there.
4. Have Realistic Expectations
One thing that I find really amusing is how much money some people expect they can make from their sponsorship program. Your sponsorship income will be a direct correlation to the audience you own and can offer for engagement AND the value proposition you can position. If you have a good understanding of what your value is worth to a specific company then you are in a better position to ask for an appropriate sponsorship.
5. Be Patient
Any decent and long lasting sponsorship income stream takes time to build. It is un-realistic to think that you will walk in and raise record amounts straight off the bat. Instead, you need to work on providing value, prove you can do it, build stories to sell off the back of and grow your portfolio from there.
BACK TO THE ISSUE
Above all, I think the most insightful part of Elise’s comments is the statement “We need to make it justifiable for broadcasters to cover our sports and for companies to sponsor our teams”.
For me, this comes back to the most important part of any valuable sponsorship property – what is your audience and what value can you provide? This takes time to develop and even when it already exists it needs t be organised, accessible and engaged. Set the foundation and, no matter who you are, you will have something to build on.
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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