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  • How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times
    How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times
    by Gail S. Bower
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How Your Organization Supports Sponsors' Goals

By Gail S. Bower

You face tremendous competition in the sponsorship arena. Sports properties alone command two-thirds of sponsorship spending, with the other third going to associations, arts organizations, festivals and fairs, entertainment tours and attractions, and causes.

So what motivates a corporation to work with your non-profit organization or festival/event, and how can you be sure that you’re able to compete with a valuable offering?

7 Steps to Building Successful Sponsorship Programs


First, you need to understand that supporting a sponsor’s business or marketing goals is the primary purpose of sponsorship. Corporate sponsorship is a marketing-driven tactic that businesses engage to fulfill marketing objectives. It has a unique role in the marketing mix, just as social media, advertising, public relations, and direct response marketing do.


Next, you need to uncover what your sponsor prospect’s goals are. These include business goals, marketing goals, and sponsorship goals. The only way you’ll learn this information is by developing a trusting relationship with the decision maker.


Every property offers something unique, from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Be clear what your cause or event offers. Then, be sure that what you offer, including access to a given audience, matches your prospects’ needs. For example, if your event or program reaches women, ages 25-54, don’t approach a company clearly targeting men, ages 18-35. Sounds obvious, but sometimes it’s not. 

A key advantage non-profit organizations offer sponsors is connection with an audience who resonate with a particular cause or interest. How can you make connections with this audience and your sponsor’s social responsibility goals?

Tactics to meet needs.

Know your sponsors’ and prospects’ industries and learn what would be important to them. Then deploy the appropriate sponsorship activation tactics to meet the need. For example, in the food industry, when a company launches a new product, the marketing team often is interested in getting it in the hands of as many people as possible. Can you offer that kind of volume?  In the automotive industry, it’s all about driving traffic to dealerships and stimulating test drives. Can your event accommodate such an operation? Investment bankers welcome opportunities to entertain good clients and meet new ones. How can you develop hospitality opportunities?


Brainstorm ideas and develop specific tactics that offer solutions to your client’s marketing challenge. Then ask how you and your sponsor will measure the success.


Be easy to work with. The promotion may be complex, with lots of arms and legs extending into your market, but simplify, connect dots for the sponsor, and guide the process.

Be a Leader.

Take an active interest in the outcomes, tweaking the program as necessary, being accountable if something goes wrong, offering new opportunities as they present themselves, celebrating the successes, and educating the sponsor along the way.

Most likely, you will never compete with the value sports properties offer; however, I have no doubt your cause, arts organizations, business or social organization, or festival offers unique value for the right corporate partners. The creativity you use to package that value and the leadership integrity you display when delivering what you promise will allow you to confidently compete with the top properties in your market. 


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