When I describe what it is like working in sponsorship to friends I usually say that it is like the old circus act when the performer spins plates at the end of long sticks.
The performer gets all the plates spinning nicely, but keeps adding more plates whilst still trying to keep the original plates spinning nicely. What ends up happening is the more plates the performer adds, the harder it is to keep the original plates spinning nicely. So the poor performer ends up ducking back and forth along the plates like a madman, trying not to have any of them crash.
Unfortunately, for many working in sponsorship servicing, the similarities are all too familiar. With many rights holder’s budgets pushed to the extreme, sponsorship servicing gets dropped down the pecking order and it is often left to a junior executive to ensure that all benefits are delivered effectively.
This issue consumed the early part of my sponsorship career.
With a large sponsorship portfolio in my responsibility, and a sales team adding more and more every week, the question I asked myself was, “How can I most effectively spread myself across sponsors and keep those plates spinning nicely?”
It is fair to say that I really cut my teeth in those early years and a great deal of hard lessons were learnt. Here are best three.
1 – Prioritise (but don’t tell anyone)
Clearly you need to prioritise. There is no point dividing your time equally when one sponsor is putting in $1M and another $60K. However, there is a trick here because you can never make the smaller sponsor feel like they are a low priority. One, they will quit their sponsorship if you do, and two, smaller sponsors can end up being big sponsors and so they are a huge business development opportunity.
So spread your time roughly commensurate with the sponsorship investment but make everyone feel like they are your priority.
2 – Fix things immediately
When you are under resourced things will go wrong. Even the best in the business have stories about things coming unstuck, benefits that were missed or activations that didn’t go as planned. I certainly do (but you’ll have to ask me in person!)
In those instances, there can be a temptation not to tackle the situation head on. Don’t fall for that. If something goes bad then you need to be on the front foot and open up the dialogue. The sponsor will always appreciate the honesty way more than you dodging the issue. Bottom line is, you can’t turn back time, and you probably can’t see this at the time it happens, but this is actually a situation where you can be seen as someone who takes responsibility and sets about fixing things. The result is often a stronger relationship with the sponsor.
3 – Relationship, relationship, relationship
At the end of the day, this is a relationship business. Sponsorship is also known as partnerships – and that is for a very good reason – we do this together. In any partnership the relationship has to be strong. So invest time in your relationships. Get to know your sponsors as people. Connect with them and you will get their understanding when things go wrong and get their trust when things go right.
Do you have any lessons you’ve learnt the hard way? I’d love to hear them.
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