A big mistake that organizations make with their sponsorship programs is to offer generic levels, such as Gold, Silver, and Bronze packages.
If you ever rode a bike with training wheels, think about generic levels as akin to those training wheels. Yes, you’re moving in the direction of generating revenue from corporations. But you’re not getting—or offering—the full experience.
Training wheels don’t teach children about balance or steering, and they provide a false sense of security about riding a bike (e.g. that you won’t fall off).
Same with Gold, Silver, and Bronze (or whatever you name yours). If you’re using this generic approach, you have a false sense about what it takes to sell sponsorship, what corporations are looking for, and thus very little, if any, confidence about whether your program has value.
Worse, you’re not in the big leagues. That is, the big dollar leagues.
You don’t see Tour de France riders on bicycles with training wheels, do you?
Time to Break Free of Your Training Wheels
If you want to ensure that what you’re selling has value and expand your sponsorship revenue—even during these difficult times—you need to think about sponsorship as a marketing-driven activity and not a donation. Corporations and businesses—even nonprofits and associations—invest in sponsorship to drive business outcomes.
(If you want to stick with Gold, Silver Bronze as a way of asking for donations for modest recognition, that’s fine, too. Just don’t expect significant revenue and most importantly don’t give away value that you’re not charging for.)
So what should you do, given the pandemic and financial fallout? Follow these 5 steps:
- Commit. Decide whether your organization will commit to a different business model, putting sponsor’s goals at the focal point. This requires staff capacity plus an investment in marketing and business development activities. Learn how corporate sponsorship works.
- Value. Inventory the value you have to offer the right prospects so your partners will realize a return on their investments.
- Current sponsors. Based on this updated value, review your current sponsor relationships. Their marketing and business goals have likely changed since the pandemic. Can you meet their goals?
- New prospects. Define all the industries and companies that can benefit from what you have to offer. You’re likely going to the same companies over and over again; now you have an opportunity to expand beyond.
- Relationships. Focus on building long-lasting partnerships in which you have your partner’s best interests at heart. That doesn’t mean you become the marketing agent for a corporation. It means leveraging what you have that is valuable to your organization, your audiences, and your sponsors.
This year, your events or other initiatives for which you sought sponsorship may have been cancelled, postponed, or taken a new digital form. That’s OK.
Businesses have new strategies, products/services, and new goals to attract customers and enhance their reputations. Your organization may just be the perfect way to do that.
And you deserve to receive a fee commensurate with that value.
That dynamic will not be the case if you’re trying to get a bunch of Bronze sponsors by emailing them an order form.
So take the time now to upgrade your sponsorship program and break free from the training wheels.