You know how some marathon t-shirts or nonprofit event emails or hard copy invitations have a big jumble of logos, most of which are so small you can’t even read them? Have you ever wondered whether this glob of logos is valuable?
In her post When Sponsor Promotion Consumes Your Communications Channels, Kivi Leroux Miller likens this display to a Times Square billboard. (Hat tip to Wendy Epstein for forwarding the post.)
She also enumerates a collection of other challenges for the marketing team posed by sponsorship. Let’s look at each to explore why these issues are bigger problems than organizations realize.
Leroux Miller talks first about the list of benefits that comes along with the sales of sponsorship and how cause-centered content that is critical to an organization’s own marketing efforts soon morphs into Times Square. Rest assured, she is not offering a compliment.
Symptom of bigger problems
And she’s right. But cluttered marketing material is only a symptom.
That Times Square effect actually is diminishing the value of an organization’s sponsorship program and leaving a lot of money on the table.
There are three problems here.
- First, the sponsorship team should be selling value not a list of generic benefits.
- Second, the sponsorship seller’s goal should be building stronger, deeper partnerships with fewer mission-aligned partners who contribute value (and thus higher fees) to your event or initiative. They should not be chasing money, selling something to any company that submits a check.
- Third, I’ll bet that these organizations have wimpy fee structures for their sponsorship programs.
Outcomes with better structure
When you focus on developing rich, powerful, distinct, and integrated partnerships, you achieve four outcomes:
- You generate more revenue per sponsor.
- You increase profitability because you reduce labor intensity by working with fewer sponsors.
- You increase the value of your sponsorship because fewer sponsors stand out — which is among their goals — rather than becoming lost in a sea of logos.
- You raise the value of your event or initiative because higher quality sponsors are making it better for your attendees or constituents.
Can you see how this creates a renewable resource?
Many other positives effects happen, too.
- Social media posts and other content provided by or about your sponsors actually have context and are relevant.
- You have a way of offering commensurate value based on the investment, so you don’t include every logo in every marketing missive. Sponsors are not all equal, plus what’s valuable to some will not be valuable to others.
- Sponsors become responsible partners so your marketing team does not have to stalk them for their logos or fulfilling their other obligations. (Either way, remember that you are not running a babysitting service. If the sponsor is unresponsive, move on. Don’t enable this behavior.)
- Your marketing efforts drive your business objectives which is the goal and provide a stronger platform for your sponsors.
To be successful the sponsorship seller must collaborate with the marketing and event team. There should be no such thing as “donor-centered,” as Leroux Miller calls it, because you wind up tipping the balance and diminishing value. It’s the equivalent of writing a grant for a program that the foundation wants that doesn’t necessarily fulfill your mission goals.
Also, if you’re mentioning your main sponsors in every reference to your event or initiative, as Leroux Miller notes, you are probably low-balling the fee. The only sponsors that should be mentioned with every event name reference are the title or presenting sponsors. The name should be natural and integrated, not a clunker. Also use caution not to undermine your own organization or event’s brand equity.
How to right the imbalance
So how do you right the imbalance? Start by truly understanding and articulating your sponsorship value — including how to monetize that value. Your events, programs, or initiatives are attractive to sponsors if they are successful, compelling, and meaningful to your audiences. They are beneficial to your organization if they get results — financial, marketing, programmatic and/or mission-oriented.
Think of your sponsors as your corporate audience. They leverage the marketing assets, your brand equity, and the value of your event, program or initiative, among other things. Not the other way around.
The development director or sponsorship seller must represent the value you have and influence ways to enhance that value, not push forward the sponsors’ goals at your expense. Instead of fulfilling the sponsor’s requests, the marketing team needs to be a powerful ally at the table.
If you begin to see Times Square emerge in your marketing materials or doubt the effectiveness of your content because it’s about your sponsor and irrelevant to your audiences, trust your instincts that you have a problem that can be overcome through rebalancing.