These companies are looking for more market share, and by you offering exclusive access to your supporters (who will ideally be their target market) you can help them gain it over a period of time.
They want to actively engage with your supporters and key stakeholders through all the ways that you communicate with them so that they can leverage the trusted and respected relationship you have developed with your community over the years. Long-term partnerships like this can very often be highly successful for the corporate sponsor, your organisation and your followers.
When making an approach to the market leader, however, the opportunity to build brand awareness is often not as appealing. Let’s face it; (depending on the company) if they have the lion’s share of the market, then awareness and recognition of their brand is not something that they will necessarily be seeking. Brand protection and a deeper sense of connection to their ideal customer might be higher on their agenda.
This is where your sponsorship approach can start to come unstuck if you aren’t prepared, or are new to sponsorship. Suddenly all the things you are offering aren’t of interest to your potential partner!
First of all, you need to make sure that you go into every conversation with a potential partner curious and open. Ask them about their goals, what do they want to achieve, how do they like to engage in sponsorship, and what new things are they trying to explore that you might be able to help them with?
That way you won’t make the mistake of assuming they are wanting something that they do not.
There may also be some things that you CAN offer that a company would be willing to pay for if you find your conversations starting to stall around the ‘normal’ sponsorship benefits on offer.
Have you considered offering a potential sponsor the opportunity to:
- Use your logo on their packaging. (Of course, the wording will need to be discussed internally and agreed upon, but there are a number of options such as ‘Endorsed by ’ or ‘Proud Supporters of ’. You will definitely want to create an application process for something like this.)
- Undertake some exclusive research of your members. (This can be a simple process with an online survey tool with a number of key questions that your sponsors want the answers to. Ideally, this could part of your annual supporter survey to gain valuable demographic data about your community as well.) Remember – all research undertaken on behalf of sponsors should be delivered and collated by you so that you remain in control of the content at all times. Do not, under any circumstances hand over your database to a sponsor.
- Take part in joint research projects. (Do you have access to academics or researchers that the sponsor would be interested in collaborating with in order to gain more relevant and credible data that relates to their product and target market? What about offering the ability for your sponsor to undertake focus groups with your event attendees or your Board?)
- Offer a keynote or stream session speaking opportunity at your next conference or education series. (You would obviously only offer this option if you agreed that the sponsor had something to present that would be interesting, educational and of value to your audience, but my advice is, if they don’t have something to say that your supporters want to hear, then they are really a great fit as a sponsor in the first place!)
The take-home message here is to try and remain flexible.
Having a communications strategy or an annual marketing schedule on offer for sponsors (that is, giving them access to all the ways you connect with your community) is a good place to start, but remember that one size does not fit all.
The more flexible you are with how a sponsor can communicate their messages with integrity, the happier and more engaged for the long term they will be and the more money you will have to reinvest back into your organisation.