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How to sell more sponsorships in 7 steps


What 20 years of experience can teach you. An Interview with Claude Savard, VP corporate partnerships at Tennis Canada

Sponsorship might seem like a gold rush, easy money for an organization. However, finding sponsors is an art and requires tedious work. Even more so today, as sponsors are more sophisticated than ever in setting their objectives upfront and systematically measuring results. Claude Savard has extensive expertise in terms of selling sponsorship, and has learned the how-to’s in the field with many trials and errors. Today, he is delighted to share some of his hard-earned experience.

Q: To anyone who experienced it first hand, selling sponsorship is a difficult endeavour, what is the best approach?

Selling sponsorship is a process. These days, you have to be relevant to the brand and tailor the proposal to the sponsor’s needs. To do so, you must know the company as much as you possibly can. In a nutshell, you can divide the selling process into 7 steps: selecting the right sponsor, doing a thorough research, setting a first meeting, drafting the proposal, holding an in-person presentation, following up and then proceed to negotiate or close the deal. Let’s examine the 7 ingredients of this sponsorship-selling recipe.

1) Sponsorship selection

Before going to prospective sponsors in a given category, you must first understand what your own objectives and communication challenges are: “You too can gain from an association with the right sponsor, in terms of reaching your own communication objectives”. Things to lookout for are the popularity of a brand and its (positive) image, which can reflect on your organization. For example, an association with a premium brand could provide a sense of prestige to your event and, therefore, engage other players.

Another key element is the right property-sponsor fit, be it with the company or the audience itself. Finally, Claude insists on the fact that a partnership can bring more to the table than money alone: “Look for specific assets that sponsors can bring, it can leapfrog your sponsor acquisition or tackle some challenges your own organization is facing.”

2) Research

A thorough research is essential to a great sponsorship proposal. You need to understand the challenges that the prospective sponsor is currently facing and how a partnership with you can be the key to solving them. Must-reads are the corporate website, social network pages, annual report and published articles.

3) First meeting

It might sound cliché, but the first impression will most probably be what your audience will end-up recalling. Here are 5 tips to impress:

  • Know the company, their product and services (so you can answer questions or better improvise, if need be).
  • Figure how their products and services could be relevant as part of your organization or event.
  • Go beyond visibility, get crafty and creative in your proposal. • Ask the right questions.
  • Listen. 80% of the time.

4) Drafting the proposal

After a regroup and a thorough debrief, carefully draft the proposal. A winning sponsorship proposal, one that will sell, must include this information:

  • Audience information: prove with data that you are targeting the right crowd.
  • Content customized for the sponsor: the readers must believe it was written specifically for them.
  • Solutions catering to the sponsor’s every communication and marketing objective.
  • A consumer experience created around the sponsoring brand.
  • Value added for the target market of the company you are approaching: build a win-win-win proposal (audience, sponsor, sponsee).

5) Second meeting

You need to pitch the idea of how the sponsor’s brand and consumers would be interacting at your event. Make them dream. A monetary value and price range should also be left behind along with the proposal.

6) Follow up

Be in control of the upcoming contacts. Say when and how you will follow up. If the answer is no, focus on addressing any issue raised by your interlocutor.

7) Decision

In the end, everything must be crystal clear. Here are specific elements that need to be covered in a sponsorship agreement, for example:

  • The list of all the rights granted to the sponsor
  • A draft of the media plan and its value
  • Point of sales, if applicable
  • An example of a custom activation
  • The value of the offer and price as well as the value to cost ratio

Q: What are the pitfalls of a sponsorship pitch and how should they be avoided?

I have seen my fair share of hurdles and here are a few that come to mind. Try avoiding:

  • Sending the same proposal to different companies all at once, you can see how that can become a problem.
  • Sending a proposal to a prospective sponsor without the opportunity to do a live presentation.
  • Bringing a proposal to the first meeting: you are there to gather information and tailor something to the sponsor’s specific needs.
  • Targeting someone with no decision power.

Q: There are so many properties selling sponsorship nowadays, how do you set yourself apart, especially if you are a small property?

Well, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself and be creative. With all the resources and possibilities available online, it’s easy to create interactive promotion and add to the client experience. Also, try to think of ways you can simplify the sponsor’s life. For example, some of them don’t have the human resources to manage and activate a sponsorship: offer a turnkey activation included in the rights fees.

Q: Any last word of advice to prospective sponsorship sellers?

You unquestionably need to focus on proposals that are win-win-win: for the consumer, the sponsor and for your organization… and make sure to attend sales seminars. You need to be able to sell… before selling sponsorships.


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