Communities in Focus – Having difficulty securing sponsors? How to influence sponsors and get them to say ‘yes’

As featured in The Country Web Number 59 Spring 2013 edition.

Natalie Bramble Management specialises in governance, facilitation, training and business development in NSW and across Australia.

Natalie Bramble Management specialises in governance, facilitation, training and business development in NSW and across Australia.

Influencing sponsors isn’t just about developing really good relationships – you must also deliver a commercial and social return.

That return can be many things to a sponsor, not just branding to gain more sales through your advertising campaigns. It could be an opportunity for their staff to participate in the event or to garner community awareness that they are giving back locally through their Corporate Social Responsibility program.

Procuring sponsorship brings with it many highs and lows – the excitement when they say yes (and you actually have it in writing!) to the weeks where you have made so many calls and visited potential sponsors only to feel rejected when they say no.

One truth we must all accept is that sponsors like to be aligned with positive and energetic organisations. I’m sure you have heard the adage ‘people are attracted to success’ – it’s so true!
 
I have seen this many a time where a committee will get tired and in some cases so tired the club decides not to run the event again, only to have another group take up the  challenge and with their motivation and enthusiasm, they manage to obtain sponsorship income that far exceeds that of the previous year’s event (yes, I’m talking cash – not just in-kind!).

There are many ways that we can be women of influence at the decision table – although much of our work needs to be done well in advance of the decision and whilst there are a lot of finer points such as the language you use, how you determine brand impression, how you present the package and the angle you sell it, ultimately it’s really down to how you market and present your organisation and the offer.

Keep these tips in mind when you are planning your next sponsorship drive:

■ Interestingly many undermine the true social value of their sponsorship. Be sure to research the sponsor and suggest ways that they can cross-market your activity as well to gain the most from the ‘brand love’ they receive being aligned with a community organisation. 
■ Need is really difficult for people to articulate. You must be very clear about why you need to have the event or run the project/program. Focus on selling the benefits, not the features!
■ Friends are there for a reason or a season! Don’t despair if a previous sponsor decides it’s time to move on. Find out why they are moving on. Many do because they need to be seen engaging with other community groups and sharing it around, or they may have a policy change. Be sure to ask them for a testimonial to use in your sponsorship pitch and a recommendation or introduction to another business.
■ Logo-itis is a disease! Ensure your sponsorship package isn’t just filled with logo placements. What else can the sponsor and/or their staff be involved in? If they are in marketing, then perhaps they can help to develop and/or review your marketing plan?
■ Understand what drives their investment. Some need you to talk cold hard facts about what target market you are covering and how many brand impressions they will receive in the social return. If you can better understand their drivers and motivations towards sponsorship, you’ll be in a better position to start influencing them.
■ Early bird catches the worm! You need to plan so that you are  a minimum of eight months before the first promotional activity.
■ No is not a stop sign! Don’t get disheartened, it’s an acronym for what’s the Next Offer you can make them or if it just doesn’t align, what’s your Next Option and Next Opportunity?
■ Calendars of opportunities are great things – be sure to give one to your sponsors. This is a calendar of all the marketing opportunities you have identified you will be undertaking. It’s not just the media launch they should be attending or photographed at. Stage a series of media opportunities in the lead up to, during and after the activity.
■ Enough of the fluffy airy fairy language please! Don’t use words such as ‘we expect’; ‘we believe’ or ‘we plan to’. Be direct; straight to the point and tell them exactly what you will do for them. Treat it seriously and give them a contract/letter of agreement outlining exactly what you will do and regularly report on your progress – don’t leave it until their final sponsorship report arrives!

If you would like to know more, be sure to log onto nataliebramble.com.au and download our free sponsorship checklist from our resources section.

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
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