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12 Steps to Sponsorship Success

by Sylvia Allen

Editor's note: This is the third article in a 10-part article series on SPONSORSHIP DEVELOPMENT, contributed by Sylvia Allen, President of Allen Consulting, Inc., Holmdel, NJ.

Selling sponsorships is not a matter of buying a mailing list of potential buyers, writing a direct mail letter, putting together a "package", mailing everything out and waiting for the telephone to ring with people offering you money. It's a nice dream but the reality is much more complicated (and time consuming) than that. Before getting started you should have a definition of sponsorship. The following definition is by no means perfect; however, there are some choice words that help you purse your sponsorship sales with a good foundation. Sponsorship is an investment, in cash or in kind, in return for access to exploitable business potential associated with an event or highly publicized entity.

The key words in this definition are "investment", "access to", and "exploitable". First, investment. By constantly looking at sponsorship as an investment opportunity, where there is a viable payback, no longer are you talking to someone about a payment of cash or money. Rather, use the word investment which automatically implies that value will be returned to the investor. Second, access to which means they ability to be associated with a particular offering (event, sport, festival, fair ... you name it). Lastly, exploitable, a positive word which means "to take the greatest advantage of" the relationship. In other words, allowing the sponsor to make the greatest use of their investment and capitalize on their relationship.

With this definition in mind you can now go forward and take the 12 steps to sponsorship success. If you take these basic 12 steps you will be assured of greater success in your sponsorship endeavors. These basic steps, and the components that comprise each of them, are covered in depth in this book. References are made throughout this chapter to the specific chapters that go into the specific references in detail.

Step 1 ... Take inventory

What are you selling? You have a number of elements in your event that have value to the sponsor. The include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Radio, TV and print partners
  • Retail outlet
  • Collateral material ... posters, flyers, brochures
  • Banners
  • Tickets: quantity for giving to sponsor plus ticket backs for redemption
  • VIP seating
  • VIP parking
  • Hospitality ... for the trade, for customers, for employees
  • On-site banner exposure
  • Booth
  • Audio announcements
  • Payroll stuffers
  • Billboards
  • Product sales/product displays
  • Celebrity appearances/interviews
  • Internet exposure

And, you can think of more. Look at your event as a store and take inventory of the many things that will have value to your sponsors, whether it be for the marketing value or hospitality value. Take your time in making up this list ... time spent at the beginning will be rewarded by more effective sponsorships when you get into the selling process.

Step 2 ... Develop your media and retail partners

Next, approach your media and retail partners. They should be treated the same way as all other sponsors, with the same rights and benefits. In fact, after taking your inventory steps 2 and 3 are done almost simultaneously as you must have something to give to your potential media and retail partners that describes the sponsorship. Briefly, here's what is important to these two key partners.


Your event offers the media an opportunity to increase their non traditional revenue (NTR). You have an audience, sampling opportunities, sales opportunities and multiple media exposure that the media people can offer to their own advertisers. Many times an advertiser asks for additional merchandising opportunities from the media. Your event offers them that opportunity. You can let them sell a sponsorship for you in return for the air time or print coverage. Just make sure it is always coordinated through you so they are not approaching your sponsors and you are not approaching their advertisers. From radio and TV you want air time that can then be included in your sponsorship offerings. From print you want ad space and/or an advertorial (a special section). In both instances you are getting valuable media to include in your sponsorship offerings to your potential sponsors.

Treat your media just like your other sponsors. Give them the attendant benefits that go with the value of their sponsorship. When the event is over, they should provide you with proof of performance (radio and TV an affidavit of performance; print should give you tear sheets) and, conversely, you should provide them with a post event report.


A retail partner ... supermarket, drugstore, fast food outlet ... offer you some additional benefits that can be passed on to your sponsors. And, with a retail outlet, you can approach manufacturers and offer them some of these benefits. For example, once you have a retail partners the following opportunities exist:

  • End cap or aisle displays
  • Register tape promotions
  • In-store displays
  • Store audio announcements
  • Inclusion in weekly flyers
  • Weekly advertising
  • Cross-promotion opportunities
  • Bag stuffers
  • Placemats (fast food outlets)
  • Shopping bags

Again, as with the media, even though this might be straight barter, treat the retail outlet as you would a paying sponsor. They are providing you with terrific benefits that can be passed on to your other sponsors, a tremendous value in attracting retail products. And, as with the media, have them provide you with documentation of their support ... samples of bags, flyers, inserts, etc. In return, you will provide them with a post-event report, documenting the benefits they received and the value of those benefits.

Step 3 ... Develop your sponsorship offerings

Now you can put together the various components of your sponsorship offerings so you are prepared to offer valuable sponsorships. Try to avoid too many levels and too "cutesy" headings. Don't use gold, silver and bronze. Don't use industry-specific terms your buyer might not understand. (If the buyer doesn't understand the words they probably won't take a look at the offering!). Simply, you can have title, presenting, associate, product specific and event specific categories. They are easy to understand and easy to sell. Of course, title is the most expensive and most effective. Think of the Volvo Tennis Classic or the Virginia Slims Tennis Classic. The minute the name of your event is "married" to the sponsor's name the media have to give the whole title. Great exposure for your title sponsor.

The first step in preparing for your initial sponsor contact is to prepare a one page fact sheet that clearly and succinctly outlines the basics of your event (the who, what, where, when of your property) and highlights the various benefits of being associated with that event (radio, TV, print, on-site, etc.).

Step 4 ... Research your sponsors

Learn about your potential sponsors. Get on the Internet, read the annual reports, do a data search on the company, use the Team Marketing Report sourcebook ... find out what the companies are currently sponsoring, what their branding strategies are, what their business objectives are. Become an expert on your prospects ... the more you know abut them the better prepared you will be for their questions and the easier it will be for you to craft a sponsorship offering that meets their specific needs.

Step 5 ... Do initial sponsor contact

Then, pick up the telephone. Try to reach the proper person (SEE CHAPTER 4, Where to Find Sponsorship Dollars). When you reach the correct person, don't launch right into a sales pitch. Rather, ask them several questions about their business that will indicate to you whether or not they are a viable sponsor for you project. (If you've done your homework, the answer will be "yes" and you can continue.)

Step 6 ... Go for the appointment

Once you have had a brief discussion, try to get the appointment. If they say, "Send me a 'package'" respond with "I'll do even better than that. I've prepared a succinct one page Fact Sheet that highlights the various marketing and promotion components of my event. May I fax it to you?". Then, ask for the fax number, send it to them right away and then call back shortly to make sure they received it. If they have received it go for the appointment. Explain that the fact sheet is merely a one dimensional outline that cannot begin to describe the total event and you would like to meet with them, at their convenience, to show them pictures, previous press coverage, a video ... whatever you have. Follow the basic sales techniques of choices .. Monday or Friday, morning of afternoon. Don't give them a chance to say they can't see you.

Step 7 ... Be creative

Once in front of the sponsor, be prepared. Demonstrate your knowledge of their business by offering a sponsorship that meets their specific needs. Help them come up with a new and unique way to enhance their sponsorship beyond the event. For example, if it's a pet store, come up with a contest that involves the customers and their pets. Or, devise a contest where people have to fill out an entry form to win something. Think about hospitality opportunities ... rewards for leading salespeople, special customer rewards, incentives for the trade. Be prepared to offer these ideas, and more, to help the sponsor understand how this sponsorship offers him/her great benefit.

Step 8 ... Make the sale

The moment of truth ... you have to ask for the sale. You can't wait for the sponsor to offer; rather you have to ask "Will we be working together on this project?" or something like that. You will have to develop your own closing questions. Hopefully, as you went through the sales process, you determined their needs and developed a program to meet those needs. And, you certainly should have done enough questioning to determine what their level of participation would be. Keep in mind that different personality styles buy differently which means you must select from a variety of closing techniques to ensure the right "fit" with the different personalities.

As with any sale, once you have concluded the sale follow up with a detailed contract that outlines each parties obligations. A handshake is nice but if the various elements aren't spelled out there can be a bad case of "but you said" when people sometimes hear what they want to hear, not necessarily what was spoken. Make sure you include a payment schedule that ensures you receive all your money before the event. If not, you could suffer from the "call girl principle".

Step 9 ... Keep the sponsor in the loop

Once you have gone through the sales process you want to keep your sponsor involved up to, and through, your event. See if their public relations department will put out a press release on their involvement. Show them collateral as it is being developed to make sure they are happy with their logo placement. (With fax and e-mail this is now a very simple process.) Make sure they are keep up-to-date on new sponsors, new activities ... whatever is happening. The more you involve them in the process the more involved (and committed) they become.

Step 10 ... Involve the sponsor in the event

Make sure your sponsor is involved in the event. Don't let a sponsor hand you a check and say "Let me know what happens". You are doomed to failure. Get them to participate by being on site ... walk around with them ... discuss their various banner locations, the quality of the audience, the lines at their booth, whatever is appropriate to their participation.

Step 11 ... Provide sponsors with a post-event report

There's a very old saying regarding presentations: "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them." The post-event report is the last segment of this saying. Provide your sponsors with complete documentation of their participation. This should include copies of all collateral material, affidavit of performance from your radio and TV partners, tear sheets, retail brochures, tickets, banners, press stories... whatever has their company name and/or logo prominently mentioned or displayed. This should all be included in a kit, with a written post-event report that lists the valuation of the various components, and presented to the sponsor with a certificate of appreciation for their participation.

Step 12 ... Renew for next year

Now, if you've followed these 12 steps carefully renewal is easy. In fact, you can get your sponsor to give you a verbal renewal during your event (if it is going well) and certainly after you have provide that sponsor with a post-event report that documents the value of all the marketing components he received. You should try for a three to one return on their investment. In many instances it will be even more than that if you have delivered as promised.


Selling isn't easy; however, if you follow these 12 steps it will be easier because you will have done your homework and will be prepared to discuss the sponsorship intelligently. These 12 steps make selling fun!

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About the Author:

Sylvia Allen offers a wealth of public relations, event marketing, and sponsorship experience to her clients.

She has published several books and is the author of HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT SPONSORSHIP SALES, publishes The Sponsorship Newsletter, has just finished a 60 minute video on sponsorship, and lectures all over the country on sponsorship (IFEA, National Main Street, etc.) as well as teaching at New York University.

She has sold everything from $25 to $4,000,000 sponsorships; she can be reached at 732-946-2711 or at

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