In the world of sponsorship, the importance of creating a relationship with a company or brand before you send them a proposal cannot be overstated. When you decide that you are ready to seek and engage corporate partners, there are key things that you will need to know about a company before you can decide whether the alignment is right. Simply needing funding is not enough of a reason to make a sponsorship approach.
Speaking with a company before you send them a proposal will elevate you into the minority of organisations and events competing with you to secure sponsorship. Taking the time to be curious about what a company is hoping to achieve through a partnership and asking what they want should be the norm, not the exception.
The fabulous thing about making time to research your potential sponsors is the undeniable gift of saving time for you! When you start digging into their website, social media channels and have an initial conversation, discovering whether or not they are interested in what you have to offer can be far from soul-destroying, but liberating as you can now move on and focus on the next company that is going to say ‘yes’ to a sponsorship relationship with you!
Examples of key things you should research about your potential sponsor include:
- What types of products and services they sell, and is there a ‘fit’ with what your community of followers purchase?
- What is trending on their social media platforms? Who are they targeting? Are they building up to a new product launch, do they run alot of competitions with giveaways – how might an alignment with you, fit in with their marketing messages?
- Have ever partnered with a For-Purpose organisation before? If not, they may not understand the power you represent as a gatekeeper to a target market they are not fully doing business with.
- What other organisations are they currently sponsoring? Do they sponsor your competitors and if so, what could you offer that is different and more compelling to ensure you are not wasting your time.
- What is the best time to send a proposal? Approx 50% of Australian companies organise their budgets between September and November each year – when do they negotiate their marketing budget?
- Who is the best person to speak with about sponsorship – is it the Marketing Manager or do they have someone dedicated in a sponsorship role?
It’s not a ‘levels’ playing field!
Let’s be clear, generic packages that apply to everyone like bronze, silver and gold, are more about your convenience than your sponsor’s. The sponsorship landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade and even more swiftly in the last 5 years – these packages were creative and interesting once upon a time, but they continue to be ‘done to death’ and sponsors hate them. In fact, some Marketing Managers I speak with go as far as to say that when they open a proposal that offers bronze, silver and gold packages, it goes straight in their bin!
Being flexible is paramount (this is about creating a relationship after all) – a win-win outcome will be best achieved by getting specific. Share the details – how many people are on your database, will be going to your event, what about all the channels you currently use to communicate with your community? What opportunities can you offer your sponsor to use those channels to connect their target market (your community)?
My tip? Be prepared to ask questions and then really listen to your sponsor’s desires, struggles, targets and ideas and then together brainstorm the best mix of options that suits everyone.
How to make a so-so proposal look amazing!
Using the right images can immediately engage your potential sponsor, and more importantly, it may mean that your proposal is the one that gets picked to be read, over the constant stream of proposals that companies receive. There are many websites that provide great images. You will sometimes have to pay to use them, but if they are relevant to your mission and audience, you should be using them again and again in your own marketing collateral – website, social media, brochures, newsletters and so on.
The more professional your organisation looks, the more investment you can command. It is an easy equation. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so do everything you can to look your best the first time.
Invitations that can’t be refused
When inviting a company to sponsor your organisation or event, there are several aspects that are non-negotiable if you want to progress to the next stage. Firstly, be sure to show your potential sponsor that you understand what they are looking for. How do you know what they want? Because you’ve done your research!
It goes beyond that though, and if you are a seasoned fundraiser you’ll understand how important it is in your initial conversations to let a company know that you are looking to help their brand grow, generate more leads and give them access to their target market through sponsorship. Why? The risk is, that as companies become more sophisticated at partnering with the For-Purpose sector, there are often several ways to access investment from them. For instance, they may have a trust or foundation that takes applications for small grants. Of course that is fine if that is what you are looking for, but if you are after sponsorship, then be clear about what you are targeting and show them you understand the commercial nature involved.
Secondly, position your organisation or event as the best way to help them get what they want. Show them why they should choose you. She them that you’ve done your research. Show them how they can help your organisation or event be the very best it can be.
Your invitation to prospective partners must strongly convey the message “we understand what you are looking for and we can help you become more successful through a partnership.” The more you incorporate your potential partner’s aims into your proposal and approach, the more they will be excited about the prospect of working with you.
Being a ‘good cause’ won’t get you sponsored
When a potential sponsor assesses your sponsorship proposal, the first questions that will come to mind are:
- What’s in this opportunity for our brand?
- How will this make our company/brand more successful?
- How can we sell more products and services as a result of this partnership?
- What is the likely return on investment that we can expect?
It’s important to know that as much as people may align with your cause and deeply believe in what you do for your community, sponsorship decisions will not be based on anything emotive or immeasurable. You will need to include brief details about all the ways you can leverage access to the people you serve – your members, audience, industry or community.
Sell yourself as the exclusive connection!
Your organisation is a valuable marketing partner to the right company. Let me say that again… your organisation is a VALUABLE MARKETING PARTNER to a the right company! Isn’t that an exciting prospect?
If you stop for a minute to consider the impact of that statement, it can actually have radically positive cultural shifts for your organisation, especially if internally the traditional view is that you are really just a charity in need of handouts.
The unique thing about partnering with the For-Purpose sector is that your community of followers are not mandated to be aligned with your organisation. They stick with you because they trust you and value the information, advocacy, voice, education, support and services that you provide them.
Many companies do not understand this concept right away, so it is your job to educate a potential sponsor about the powerful position you are in to help them access a market they are not currently doing business with. Your relationship with your community offers them much better cut through when they interact with your audience, whereas ‘going it alone’ and trying to reach them without you (by using traditional media and advertising) could never achieve the same level of impact and connection that you can offer. Aligning with your organisation provides a potential partner a warm invitation to ‘meet the family’. That’s a powerful proposition!
In any proposal, sponsors like to see who they will be dealing with. When asking a company to invest in you, do not assume they are familiar with who you are and what you do in your community. It is important to provide a page that highlights the key people a company can expect to deal with when you form a relationship together. Remember to include your CEO – other CEOs, managing directors and general managers will want to deal with someone of a similar title. If you have someone of repute on your Board, make sure you include their photo and bio – many sponsors will want access to your Board.
Sponsorship in the For-Purpose sector is the cheapest form of marketing for the right companies.
Just think about that for a minute.
Through a partnership with you, a highly aligned brand can reach its ideal target market, and this can be a compelling argument for certain businesses if price is right.
Rather than focusing on what a partnership will cost you to service, or how much you will spend getting your event up and running, consider instead: what would access to the ideal target market be worth to a sponsor? Think value not cost. That will get you closer to the amount you need and give you a better chance of creating a partnership based on shared values, rather than you giving away everything for too little in return.
When you are seeking a company or brand to invest time, money and services in partnering with you, make sure you do everything you can to put your best foot forward to create a successful relationship long into the future. Remember that by including these steps in your approach, you are immediately differentiating yourself from the thousands of other charities and associations out there also seeking funding through sponsorship and you will be creating a sponsorship approach that will be above reproach.