key question to ask sponsors

The key question I wished I asked sponsors … but never did.

July 26th, 2017 Posted by

Having worked as a right’s holder for more than five years, I had my fair share of different commercial partners with wide ranging communication styles and expectations. Now that I sit in a different space, but am lucky enough to still be involved in the sponsorship industry, I can see things from a different angle.

Hindsight is 20/20!

I look back at my time as a rights holder and I often think “What would or could I have done differently? What do I know now that would have helped me be a better commercial manager?”

One question that I wished I had asked each of our partners, but never did, is “How often would you like to hear from me?”

I am not 100% sure why I was reluctant to ask the question or even thought about it in the first place? I think, subconsciously, I was either worried about the answer i.e. were they going to be a hard partner to manage, or, conversely, I just assumed they would reach out when they needed things and our strategic and professional relationship would ensure that we interacted when appropriate.

Of most importance, however, is why the question is such an important one when it might seem such a basic and middle-of-the-road question.

1. You can Control the Conversation

Don’t be like ‘Right’s Holder Sam’ and assume that the sponsor will know the right questions to ask or even be willing to ask them in the first place. Instead, ask the question and:

  • Be the one identifying key milestones and the one setting the agenda.
  • Give yourself the ability to control the conversation and ensure you are on the same page from the outset.

2. You can be Proactive

Don’t be like Right’s Holder Sam and expect that other rights holders will be delivering the same level of service to the sponsor. Instead, ask the question and:

  • Ensure you can provide the brand/partner with the information before they ask for it. Such a simple task when you have asked the question.
  • Give yourself the ability to stand out from the other partnerships the brand may have by being on the front foot when communicating.

3. You can Position Yourself as more than just a contact

Don’t be like Right’s Holder Sam and let the relationship turn transactional. Instead, ask the question and:

  • Position your partnership as a key relationship for the brand, and an important element of their marketing plan, you become an indispensable commercial partner.
  • Establish strong ties both individually and at an organisational level.
  • Identify the key times to be in contact and enable yourself to manage the relationship professionally but also identify times in which contact that is a little more personal may assist in developing the relationship.

4. Professionally, you can do what you said you would do

Don’t be like Right’s Holder Sam and touch base when you thought it was appropriate or when you urgently needed something. Instead, ask the question and:

  • Set a list of deliverables and deliver them.
  • Outline key deadlines and requirements and meet them.

It’s a Basic Question

The question might seem like a really basic tool in partnership management but, as you can see from the above, the basics are the most important; they set the foundation. So, next time you are in an early stage meeting with a commercial partner, ask the question “How often would you like to hear from me?” and set that foundation.


Sam Irvine // Territory Manager – Australia & New Zealand

Sam is passionate about helping organisations maximise their sponsorship programs and has worked with brands and rights holders at all levels. Sam is always looking for ways to improve himself and loves working with people who give as much as they take.


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