Through the years, hundreds of people have contacted me, inquiring whether my firm offers services* to represent their events or organizations and sell corporate sponsorship on their behalves.
Most everyone genuinely believes that an outsourced approach would be the most efficient route to the goal of increasing unrestricted or non-dues revenue through corporate sponsorship. Some of the people who’ve contacted me convey a sense of hopefulness, as if finding someone to sell sponsorship for their event or organization would make all their financial dreams come true, like a silver bullet.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
If you’re curious about whether to outsource your sales efforts or keep them in-house, here are six important factors — plus a most essential one — that senior executives and leaders of organizations with current or potential corporate sponsorship operations must consider.
Leadership decisions on outsourcing corporate sponsorship sales
- Staffing. Outsourcing the sales effort does not preclude your need for staff. To integrate your sponsors’ efforts into your event or sponsorship opportunities, your two organizations must work closely together. This means a lot of detail work plus many small and large decisions about policies, logistics, nuances, and branding that must be made. An outside resource can be a guide, but ultimately these are decisions you and your team have to make.
- Access. The external resource must also have access to information and timely responses. Depending on your organization’s structure, there may be turf issues, other sponsor relationships (and staff connected to these relationships) that rule the roost, or simply overloaded staff members who do not have time to deal with this external person. Lack of access and timely responses will completely undermine an effort.
- Performance and expectations. When you work with an outside broker, you’re one of many of their clients. Occasionally your event could take a back seat. Also, they cannot control which opportunity one of their corporate clients will prefer (if all things were equal), and when looking beyond the immediate circle of contacts, long sales cycles are the norm.
- Magic. Besides staffing, starting a sponsorship operation requires a strong strategy and a significant effort to become operationalized. Your team and the outside resource will have a great deal of start-up work to do. Abandon any magical thinking you may have that having a salesperson is all you need in place.
- Lucrative. Because of this substantial start-up effort, your sponsorship opportunity must be highly lucrative to be worth the effort for an outside sponsorship seller or broker to take on your event. Will your sponsorship opportunity command the fee structure that will generate an ROI for both your organization and the outside seller?
- Relationships. Yes, an outside resource may have great relationships with corporations outside of your sphere of influence. Are they the right corporate partners for your organization? How do you know?
The essential consideration
The most important part of corporate sponsorship is the relationship that you develop with your sponsor. Yes, you need great ideas, a great event, and strategic alignment, but if you don’t have an excellent relationship with the sponsor, the rest barely matters. Therefore why would you outsource the most important part of the sponsorship dynamic?
Your organization may face other variables that will factor into your decision making. These are the critical ones to consider first. Unless your organization’s opportunity is highly lucrative and the sponsorship broker can exponentially enlarge your sponsorship operation, selling in-house is most likely the way to go. You control your own relationships and operation, build your own capacity to generate corporate sponsorship revenue long into the future, and you gain a competitive advantage in your marketplace.
Sponsorship Broker Decision Making Tool
Still need assistance deciding whether to sell sponsorship for you nonprofit, association, or destination in-house or by outsourcing? Download this decision tree with my compliments!
*For the record, selling sponsorship on behalf of organizations is a service my firm does not offer.