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Social Media as Sponsorship Street Cred

Laughing SquidFact: blue chip brands receive thousands of sponsorship proposals every year. Estimate: there are some 300,000 properties seeking sponsorship (depending on the way you define it).

How do you break through the relentless clutter to get the ear and sincere consideration of a sponsorship decision maker? A well researched and tailored proposal may increase your chances, but these days there are a lot of other properties spending a lot of time doing the exact same thing on the sponsor you’re targeting.

Fact is, when you’re submitting a proposal to a blue chip brand that gets flooded by proposals (especially when you’re submitting through a proposal management system), it’s a stretch to think that every proposal will get an in depth review on the merit of its own ideas. Actually some systems rate your proposal against a scorecard for the sponsor so that they don’t even have to read the proposal or see your “vision,” only the nuts and bolts. This may be deflating considering many properties spend 1-2+ hours on each tailored proposal. Keep reading to find out how you may be able to make it out of the pile.

The reality is that, as sponsors receive more and more proposals and buy-side managers have a smaller safety net for sponsorship decisions. Sponsors have put a premium on the trust factor. If you’re pitching a company cold for the first time this certainly puts you at a disadvantage, right? How can a seller (or in the case of sponsorship, a property) assure a buyer (sponsor) that they’ll deliver on the promise being made? There are two well-chronicled ways to develop trust in other industries.

a) create strong relationship with or direct referral to the buyer

b) receive third party validation

Like venture capitalists, sponsors see hundreds of bright business ideas, but generally only invest in those they trust. Just like sponsorship, VC’s can create legal contracts to ensure obligations are met and clawbacks are available if things don’t go according to plan, but no amount of make-goods will compensate for buyer’s remorse and a painful working relationship.

Job candidates undergo similar levels of screening. There are many killer cover letters coming through Monster.com, but personal referrals and third party validation (awards/press/proficiency levels) are what really get a recruiter’s attention.

Sure, it may not be the fairest way to delineate, but you’ve got to filter thousands of anything, somehow right?

This situation reminds me of an advertisement from TheLadders.com:

As sponsorship sellers, the first trust barometer is rather easy to accomplish. You can always sign up for more conferences, join more LinkedIn groups, set up more lunches to build new connections. Validation isn’t so readily accessible. We should always be seeking new means for rewarding the best in our business, and not just because it seems fair. Validation leads to deal velocity. Look at the case of Yelp. Transparency shifts customers to the best businesses for their needs in hundreds of varying industries, thereby creating more deals and more satisfied customers.

Is access an illusion?  Not always, but we can most certainly find better ways to provide more meaningful, targeted access.  With that said, in today’s environment what may really separate properties is buyer trust and peer validation. As distinction becomes more difficult in an increasingly convoluted world of opportunities, look for sponsors to work with the properties they trust.

Are we overlooking the role that a sponsorship seller’s proficiency and reputation plays in the buyer’s decision making process? How will social media affect the way properties access sponsors and sponsors find trust-worthy properties, moving forward?

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Image by Laughing Squid

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