One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Adding Value to Sponsorship Packages
By Andrea Iranpour, Vice President, Client Services

Several years ago, we all felt the effects of a significant decrease in sponsorship spending when the economy took a dive. We have just recently seen a small rebound in that sponsorship spending; however, it will take some time to reach the levels they were in 2007. Today, companies are under heavy scrutiny to provide justification of how dollars are being spent. On the property side, that means fierce competition to provide lucrative packages and validation as to why they should be spending their money with you. Packages with cookie cutter assets won’t cut it anymore. Long gone are the days of offering up your standard proposal of signage, program ads, PA announcements, 30-sec spots, etc. Sponsors now want integrated, quantifiable programs where they can read results and measure success against it.

So how does a property successfully increase their value to potential clients? In two words – offer “MORE”. Easier said than done. But a property must show that increased value in order to gain the interest of new prospects or keep current clients from looking to other avenues to spend their money.

Here’s what successful properties are doing to add “MORE”:

Become the expert in your client’s business. You must act like your client’s business is your business. That means becoming a partner to them versus solely providing assets on paper to them. Understand their goals and objective and in turn, how you can develop programs and platforms in order to successfully achieve those goals. By understanding their business you become the expert and part of their strategy group who is then seen as a partner – a partner who is able to provide solutions and implement programs that will ultimately help move that marketing needle.

A good example of this was done by Scotts Miracle Gro and their recent activation as part of their sponsorship with the Tournament of Roses Post Parade Showcase of Floats. Their partnership reflected not only the Tournament of Roses understanding what Miracle Gro wanted to achieve but also the execution hitting multiple touch points for the consumer.

Provide turnkey activation solutions. In my experience, sponsors decide not to renew their sponsorships because “it was not successful” or because they “paid a lot of money and got little out of it.” We’ll address the first one further down. As for not getting a lot out of their partnership, more often than not it’s because the sponsor didn’t utilize a majority of the assets in their package. The primary reasons for that is because they either don’t have the in-house capabilities or resources to execute or they don’t have budget to pay someone to activate on their behalf. Time and time again, sponsors will use their entire budget to pay for that great sponsorship but then they have nothing left over to actually activate what they paid for. Although this was once considered the sponsor’s “problem”, it is now ultimately up to the property to help offset the cost of activation if they want to retain their sponsors.

The key to help offsetting costs is to build the activation into their package up front and, in turn, execute on their behalf. This takes the burden off of the client, ensures all assets are utilized and maximized, and allows you to control the success of the program. A great turnkey solution which clients love to see. This is such a vital component that many properties are now expanding their staff in order to offer such services. While many companies don’t have the ability to increase staffing, another solution is to partner with an outside activation company that can provide those execution services and yet still allows the sponsor to be that seamless, turkey solution for their client.

For example, Six Flags Entertainment Corp positions its sponsorship department as a promotions agency by offering creative and other activation services.

“One of the greatest challenges for sponsors is the cost of activation. If a sponsor doesn’t have in-house creative services, we’ll do it for them,” said David McKillips, Six Flag’s senior vice president of corporate alliances. *

Likewise, the Cleveland Cavaliers last year changed the name of its sponsor servicing team to “sponsor activation” to support its growing focus on helping partners brainstorm.

Measure Success. There are several reasons sponsorships are being perceived as “unsuccessful”. In most cases if a sponsorship program isn’t seen first-hand, in action by key decision makers, it flies under the radar. Then when it’s time to renew, in their eyes it may be seen as “not doing much for the amount that was paid for the sponsorship.” Especially if there aren’t metrics to back up those successes with. These days, where every penny must be justified in order to be spent, hard numbers are needed to make the case for investment or renewal.

Accounting for consumer impressions and interactions is imperative in showing the success of a program, versus just telling a client that it was successful and consumers “liked it”. Many properties are focusing on providing those analytics or hiring outside research companies to do so.

“The more data we can provide our partners to help validate their purchasing decision with us, the more likely we are to renew them,” said Wes Engram, the Royals’ senior director of corporate partnerships and broadcast sales. *

Create original content and opportunities. Look for unique areas to sponsor outside of the primary “event” itself. Not only does this offer more inventory to a package, it also allows a client to “own” an area outside of their regular assets where they are one of several other sponsors. This also provides an extension to help promote their existing program.

For example, creating unique content through a digital extension, like a video series, contest or sweepstakes on Facebook. Another strategy is having a client sponsor an ancillary event such as VIP events, charity events, community events or a pre-event leading up to the primary event. Better yet, if those don’t already exist, create an ancillary event with your sponsor.

The Bottom Line. Whatever additions you decide to include in your proposal, one thing is for certain, you must offer beyond the traditional sponsorship inventory package. Budgets are tight, competition is fierce and you must give them a compelling reason why they should be spending their money with you. If your offerings are limited by your own internal resources, search for partners and outside resources that can provide those services on your behalf as part of your turnkey solution.

* Sponsor property examples and quotes excerpted from 1-14-13 IEG Sponsorship Report, “Value Creation: Five Ways to Add Value to Sponsorship Offers”

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