- Starting too late. Sponsorship development takes time –– 9 to 12 months for an existing event, 12 to 18 months for a new event. It takes time to develop your strategy; find and make contact with the right person; co-create an opportunity; and execute it in ways that are meaningful for sponsors.
- Mass emailing. You're not looking for lots of sponsors; you're looking for a handful of great partners. Focus. Get personal. Have a strategy for each prospect.
- Shipping off a proposal too early. If you haven't had a conversation with your sponsor or prospective sponsor about what they'd like to accomplish, you do not have the foundation for a proposal. Slow down.
- Not having the information you need. Don't confuse introductory meeting success with having a firm understanding of what your potential sponsors need to see happen to be able to call a partnership with you a success. If you can't describe success measures, you're not ready to write a proposal.
- Not understanding the medium of sponsorship. Slapping a logo on a brochure or invitation is not sponsorship. It is an experiential medium. Period. If you haven't incorporated some experiential component, you have an underwriter, not a sponsor.
- Confusing corporate giving with sponsorship. Corporations have philanthropic objectives that may be wholly separate from marketing objectives. For example, a pharmaceutical company may support science education, but its marketing department is building awareness and usage of medications among doctors and/or individuals with the health issues that the medications address. Both efforts support the overall corporate strategy. Your event or initiative may support one or the other but may not support both.
- Giving away the shop. Your event or sponsorship opportunity likely has high value to the right partners. It's incumbent upon you to understand, cultivate, and protect that value. Don't give it away.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I'll bet you've identified and even overcome your own strategic or operational issues that thwarted your progress. I'd love to hear about them and what you did to overcome them. Feel free to comment and share them.