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How is Your Sponsorship Program?

TextPerception is reality I am told and recently sports sponsorship has taken it on the chin. Do we need to rehabilitate our image and if so, how?  Some have suggested we should change the terms we use to describe our practice.  Is this managing perception or folding in the face of uninformed critics?   Jason Peck had a spirited discussion on the topic a while back on his blog.  With that in mind, I thought it would be a decent enough time to take a look at a few of the terms we use day in and day out while networking in the biz. 

  • Need – I hear a lot of people confuse charity with sponsorship in a way that screams desperation.  “We need sponsorship.” Not to sound cold or corporate, but “need” should be removed from the sponsorship lexicon. Sponsorship is a business decision, not a philanthropic one.
  • Levels – Sponsorship levels.  Don’t get me started. You’ve got certain assets, both tangible and intangible and the collection of them (and how the sponsor uses them) in a customized way is what makes them valuable to that particular sponsor. Want to commodotize your sponsorships?  Throw in some levels. Leveling should be left to bull dozers.
  • Sponsorship – Partnership is in vogue, but in my opinion something more specific is needed and running from a practice (and term) that has helped to build brands with unparalleled success is not the answer. As an industry, what is our brand?
  • Official – As opposed to the “unofficial” I suppose?
  • Category Exclusive – You mean.. category exclusive until the property creates new categories.
  • Ambush – You mean you didn’t do anything with your sponsorship and someone else came along and did – spending a lot less money doing it. Properties vigilantly protect rights + sponsors activate = ambush is irrelevant.
  • Hospitality – Wikipedia refers to this as “the relationship process between a guest and a host, and it also refers to the act or practice of being hospitable, that is, the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, with liberality and goodwill.”  We’ve also heard corporate entertainment, luxury suites, etc. In today’s environment, stealth marketing? What’s the term you use?
  • Signage – Everyone uses the term signage, but nobody likes to think of sponsorship as “signs.”  In comes, sponsor visibility, awareness opportunities and branding. Ultimately, this one really depends on what you’re looking for and how you use it. Signage is still a viable tactic for name awareness and call to action. Just don’t confuse it with the activation… which leads us to..
  • Activation – Some people call it leverage. I call it what the heck are you going to do with your sponsorship. Like buying media space and not running an ad. Sometimes when things work out right, properties provide the right benefits that grease the wheels of the sponsor’s activation plan.
  • Media/Social Media – Shouldn’t all media be social in this day and age?  Is social media really it’s own breed like many properties are treating it? Fine maybe it is, but should it be? TV, radio, print and the internet should be one virtuous circle that emphasizes the sponsor’s raison d’etre… there.
  • Recap – The annual recap. I get it.. measurement is important, but how about something a little more real time since we do have modern tools like smoke, the telephone and internet at our disposal. I also like “wrap-up report” and there’s always the sponsorship asset delivery recap or sponsorship fulfillment assessment.  I’m not making these up. Fun Fun.
  • Renewal – commonly referred to as renegotiation or blame session.  This is the part where the sponsor blames the property (for what they didn’t do with the sponsorship), in order to reduce the renewal price or get out of the deal altogether.  Or ideally – and if it’s a true “partnership” – both parties are looking for ways to build on the positive outcomes the sponsorship received.

I’m not a linguist, but I do know that there are a lot of properties that are using different words to say pretty much the same exact thing.  Semantics? Perhaps. But if everyone’s speaking a different language there is probably some logical reason why, no? After all, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” In which case, how do you say it? More importantly, how should we (collectively) say it?


Photo Credit via flickr: Text

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5 Responses to How is Your Sponsorship Program?

  1. Topspeed August 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    Good article and some excellent points are brought up.

    These days, the term sponsorship does mean partnership and to look at it any other way is foolish.

    Sponsors and properties have to work together as partners in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

    When you have a partner, you look out for their best interests and vice versa.

    A partnership mindset between sponsors and properties leads to success and growth.

  2. Anita Lobo August 26, 2009 at 5:47 am #

    Hi Kris,
    Love the clear-headed list, especially ‘people confuse charity with sponsorship’. This happens all the time!
    Collaboration is the need of the hour – no single constituent can assume they can dictate terms anymore!
    Anita Lobo

  3. Bob Rylko August 27, 2009 at 7:41 am #

    Interesting article, but at the same time, if something is working — don’t fix it.

    Using the term “partnership” may sound good, but in most cases, a sponsor isn’t looking for a partnership. They’re looking for exposure, a branding opportunity, or to increase revenues generated from their products and/or services. If they want a partnership, then they’ll purchase an equity position in your property.

    As for doing away with “levels”, that will only add confusion to your discussion with a potential sponsor, and potentially cause problems if any of your sponsors start to compare notes. Levels should act as a framework so that a potential sponsor can guage what’s available and what it will cost. Once they’ve established an interest, it’s at that point that you can start to “customize” a benefits package that may better suit their individual needs.

    Selling sponsorships, especially for sports-related opportunities, shouldn’t be any different due to market conditions. Companies will always be looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage in a cost-effective manner. Our job is to point out why a “benefits package” would make more sense then perhaps just taking out an ad in a magazine. Most quality companies, based on our experience, will take on a sponsorship role if they see the opportunity being presented to them, as opposed to making them feel as though they’re being “sold” something.

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