Aug 12, 2009 at 04:28 PM
written by Michael Munson

Be What You Are: Buying & Selling True Value

The most important factor in any sponsorship is how much the audience the property attracts likes it and supports its sponsors. If the property doesn’t resonate and harness the audience for the benefit of sponsors, who cares how it is packaged, or how cool it seems? Trying to create a new name or putting excessive resources into selling, as seems to be all the rage in marketing these days with all this re-branding going on, only addresses a symptom.

Applied to sponsorship, fancy packaging doesn’t provide the end customer, be it a property supporter or a would-be sponsor, “a more healthy” or valuable experience. It just gives an illusion that things are better when the reality is they are the same, and the packaging has changed. You can’t improve a toad by wrapping it with a bowtie. The way you improve is by addressing the core product and/or service offering. No woman will turn down a diamond without wrapping, will she?

If the product is the property and its value is the experience and service it provides, might properties be putting too much effort into trying to be accepted, and might brands be a little too judgmental and looking past great opportunities with audiences that are on a relative basis, more valuable per person than ones reached through bigger flashier properties? Are too many books being judged by their covers? Are too many people trying to create pretty covers when they should be writing better books?

I am working Farmer’s Markets on weekends. As many of you know, the Northeast has had a wet and very cloud-covered summer. This weather is not the best for tomatoes, which we began selling this week. Consequently, the fruit has some “rust” on it and looks a little beaten up. I watched market-goers pick through these tomatoes and get turned off by the fact they were all blemished to a degree. But they were red and picked ripe, the only way to get great tasting tomatoes. I hadn’t had any of these before I was selling them, so I couldn’t say how they tasted. Then yesterday I had one and OMG – was it amazing! Dozens of people passed up sensational tomatoes just because they didn’t look perfect. (If you go to the Hill Stead Museum market in Farmington, CT this coming Sunday, come to the Woodland Farm table and you’ll see for yourself how good they are!)

How many brands are doing the same thing? We get so caught up on superficial appearances that we often fail to discover where real value is. Those who are buying sponsorships, maybe you can sponsor the event at the hot new nightclub or the major pro sport league. Maybe your brand will be perceived as “cool.” Maybe you’ll get some desired results and won’t be forgotten or otherwise replaced in a consumer’s mind by a brand that wasn’t a sponsor because she can’t keep all the commercial messages straight. If you sell sponsorship, don’t worry about the fact your “tomato” of a sales effort isn’t perfect or isn’t as good as it could be. Cut 10% of your sales budget and put it back to work improving the experience of the audience your property attracts. Seriously. Create more loyal supporters, and voila, you’ll have created more value for sponsors. The smart ones will be able to recognize your value and you’ll have an easier time selling. I mean, what brand will say no, when they A) find you on their own because the property fits the parameters sought and B) they see quantifiable measures of how your audience translates into business and loyalty for sponsors?

As a brand marketer, you could be - and probably are - swayed by fancy sales decks and slick collateral pieces. You could be influenced by what you think is cool or hip. But you could - and most likely are – be overlooking some great opportunities to sponsor that could be mighty beneficial to your employer. Just as those folks missed some spectacular tasting tomatoes, you are missing some great properties.

The farm I work for doesn’t do theatrical displays. It grows and sells great produce that is of truly superior quality. It focuses on what it does well and does it well. One could buy the cheap, nicely presented tomatoes marketed in the weekly grocery store circular, and sold off a fancy display. And the farm I work for could spend more to have fancier tables at the market, prettier signs, and props like hay and horns of plenty. Hell, it could even re-brand itself with a modern logo, but why?

The product is what sells. Having sophisticated displays doesn’t make the produce better, just as higher production value PPT decks doesn’t make the property’s true value to sponsors any better. Earmarking resources to labor that makes sure the fruit is quality inspected is what creates the value for the farm, just as putting them toward better experiences for the audience and service to sponsors makes any property better.

The lesson here is simple. Focus on what makes the brand or product unique and of sound quality. Sell what your true value is and don’t try to be something you most decidedly are not. Try not to judge things on the outside and be willing to pay a bit more for quality. You’ll be amazed how your experience improves, whether you are a brand, a property, or just a consumer at the local market.

Mike can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter at @mjmunson. View all of Mike's previous posts.

photo credit via flickr: Jill Clardy