Sponsorship provides powerful marketing and competitive opportunities for sponsors and can be a significant source of resources for associations. But it’s a tough old world out there and your sponsors have many other ways to spend their business development budget. What does your association offer that is unique? Do you have a powerful SVP (sponsor value proposition)?
Sponsors are interested in partnering with membership organizations for two reasons:
- Because aligning their brand with yours increases their visibility or perceived value
- Because your members make or influence the buying decisions for their product or services
So you must provide a compelling case for both.
When done well, sponsorship is a business AND personal relationship and both partners benefit. Follow these seven steps to successful sponsorships:
- DISTINGUISH YOURSELF: Know your organization, understand your brand, identify how you differ from others and articulate your value.
- KNOW YOUR SPONSORS: Understand their business goals and objectives. Tailor the sponsor package to meet their objectives.
- FOLLOW THEIR BUDGET CYCLE: Reach out to them when they’re planning their budget.
- IDENTIFY DECISION MAKERS: Understand the sponsors’ decision-making process and hierarchy, e.g., who are the buyers versus the influencers? What information do they require – particularly if your contact does not make the final decision? What are their business deliverables and how can your association make them look good and help them be successful?
- ARTICULATE THE ROI: Create a business case for an investment in your organization. Clearly define the return on their investment (ROI). The higher the value, the greater the ROI. Share relevant data including member demographic and purchasing information to demonstrate the “fit”. Define whether the sponsorship is event specific, year-round with multiple touch points or multi-year. Explain how they can maximize the opportunity. Define the sponsor benefits and value, ensuring the values differ incrementally based on the price and provide consistent and fair recognition. SPONSOR BENEFIT TREND: Get the sponsor in front of your members. Provide them with a speaking engagement where they can showcase their expertise in a way that’s useful to your members.
- PROVIDE A RANGE OF OPTIONS: Provide a balanced variety of entry-level to higher-priced premium offerings that provide a good balance of visibility and direct contact with members. Consider the time required to secure the sponsors. Too many lower priced options take time away from securing higher value opportunities and may undervalue the whole program.
- DEDICATE RESOURCES: Successful sponsorship management requires dedicated individuals who are skilled at sourcing, building and nurturing on-going relationships. This is not trivial. It takes time and effort to research qualified prospects; to develop an effective “pitch” with professional and comprehensive support materials; execute the value proposition; and provide necessary ongoing, personalized appreciation efforts and engagement that is mutually beneficial and facilitates long-term support.
Bottom line: Take this seriously. The more effort and professionalism you put into your sponsor program the more successful it will be.