Mar 19, 2012 at 08:14 PM
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Confessions (and Learnings) of a First-Time Sponsorship Seeker

This is the sixth installment of a weekly Monday series called Confessions (and Learnings) of a First Time Sponsorship Seeker. Before reading other articles in the series, we'd suggest going back and reading Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V in the series.

Competitive advantage #1 - create your brand online

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I'm a strong believer in building rapport with a potential sponsor before you attempt to talk about a sponsorship proposal or investment options etc.

I learnt this the hard (and time consuming) way.

One of the ways you build rapport with a potential sponsor is to have a recognizable brand and an audience of your own.

Apart from creating a potential market ready to go for your sponsor, having a recognisable brand gives you instant and independent credibility. You’re not telling a potential sponsor how good (professional, articulate, affable) you are, you're showing them by the way you interact with your audience.

But, as an independent sponsorship seeker how can you cost effectively:

  • - create your brand
  • - build an audience and;
  • - compete for sponsors with organisations much larger than yourself?

    By creating your brand online using the tools that best serve you and your target audience.

    You want to know the best thing about creating your brand online? A lot of sponsorship seekers aren't; give yourself a competitive advantage.

    Before we investigate how you create this competitive advantage, let's agree on 3 things:

    1. sponsorship is a commercial relationship between you and a corporate partner

    2. your sponsor expects a return on their investment

    3. your role is to provide unique marketing initiatives to engage with your sponsor's target audience

    If you agree, then sponsorship is fundamentally a business relationship and you are in-fact an independent marketing consultant specializing in your passion. For me, that's drag racing and the fans who come to see us race.

    Ok, let's look at creating your brand online...

    Build your back story

    How can you build rapport with your target audience and potential sponsors if you've never met? Easy, you build a back story for yourself online.

    Like a character from a good book, a back story creates a feeling of familiarity. It's as if we know the character well. The same goes for your online brand.

    Start thinking about stories that will engage your target audience and provide potential sponsors with an insight into how you can help them reach their marketing objectives.

    Like the old adage says: facts tell, stories sell. Here are some examples:

    - Have you got any humorous stories about when things didn't go to plan?

    - What about a unique insider’s view of your event, team or operation?

    - What are 5 interesting things most people don't know about you?

    Concentrate on your strengths

    Next, I want you to do a quick exercise. Have a think about your personal strengths and the words you would use to describe those strengths. Write them down. For ideas see

    Now go the website of a potential sponsor and have a look at the words they use to describe themselves. Do you see a connection?

    This should give you some clues on where to focus your brand - your core strengths that overlap with your potential sponsors. Remember, like attracts like and you can't be all things to all people.

    Don't dilute your brand by trying to be too many things. Focus on your unique selling proposition and stay true to yourself.

    With a list of words to describe your strengths you can create content for your brand with focus and purpose.

    Tools to create your brand online

    Lets recap; you've got you back story sorted and concentrated of your key strengths that overlap with your potential sponsors.

    Now it's time for the "fun" part - creating your brand online.

    I'm not going into the nitty-gritty of how to create an Internet marketing strategy for your brand (we'll cover this another time). However, here are 4 key steps to get you started on the right path.

    Step 1 - Get your own website up and running

    The first step to get your brand online is to create your own website. There are lots of ways you can to this but one of the most cost effective is to use a service like

    I’m not saying WordPress is dead easy to learn, it isn't, but the learning curve is less steep than other systems I've used.

    One of the great things about this service is you can also have your own domain name which looks much more professional. For example, you can have rather than It costs $17 (at the time of writing) but it's well worth the additional investment.

    And when you have your own domain name you can also have your own email address (e.g. [email protected]). Once again, much more professional and will help you when it comes time to interact with potential sponsors.

    Step 2 - Create a LinkedIn profile and start building connections

    As we discussed earlier, sponsorship is a commercial relationship between you and a corporate partner. And where do most corporate types hang out online? LinkedIn of course.

    While you're getting your website up and running, create a profile on LinkedIn and start connecting with your peers and potential sponsors.

    - Create your profile

    - Connect with other members, develop referrals and warm leads (SUPER IMPORTANT)

    - Announce events and build followers

    - Join specialty groups and contribute to the conversation

    - Research potential sponsors and their employees - great for finding out who is the marketing / business development manager For more info on how to use LinkedIn to build your brand visit the learning center.

    Step 3 - Start tweeting

    If you groan at the thought of using Twitter to help build your brand, stop it, and get with the program.

    Twitter is one of the very best ways to interact with your audience, get them to follow you and then share your brand with others.

    Here are 5 reasons why you should be using Twitter right now:

    - Interact with your fans in real time to build your brand

    - Monitor what's being said about potential sponsors - the more you know the better

    - Search for opportunities to network with your peers and ‘influencers’

    - Use hash tags to spread your brand far and wide

    - Think of all the opportunities you're missing out on by not being involved

    Follow these instructions on how to create your new Twitter account.

    Step 4 - Create a Facebook fan page and get 'liked'

    When creating your brand online, the idea is to turn members of your target audience into fans. Whether you're an amateur athlete, not-for-profit organisation or 1st time sponsorship seeker, a Facebook fan page is essential.

    Create you Facebook fan page.

    Here are 5 reasons why you should have a Facebook fan page:

    - Promote and manage your online reputation

    - Convert your target audience into fans

    - Demonstrate your social proof (great for potential sponsors)

    - Get found - people expect that you will be on Facebook

    - Create great linking opportunities back to your website

    Step 5 - Build your email marketing list

    Ever heard the phrase "the moneys in the list"? In email marketing terms this means using your email list to create connections with your audience for a future pay off.

    In sponsorship terms, this means using your email list to build and maintain a relationship with your fans plus your potential and current sponsors.

    With your website up and running and your social media strategy in place, it's time to look at collecting email addresses and using them to stay in touch with people who are interested in what you have to say. I can't emphasise enough how important this list is. These are people who have willingly given you their email address so you have permission to contact them directly.

    The email marketing service I use and recommend is MailChimp. However, each email marketing service is pretty much the same and provides features including:

    - Email list management

    - Auto-responders to schedule regular emails

    - In depth analysis and reporting

    - Social media integration

    - Custom newsletter templates

    - Personalised emails

    Because email marketing is a push technology (you send info to your contacts) rather than a pull technology (your contacts actively go looking for info), it's a great way to keep in contact with potential sponsors who have previously knocked you back.

    Simply ask them if you can stay in touch and if you can add them to your email list. They hardly ever refuse. Then make sure you keep them up-to-date with how well you’re doing.

    You never know, they may come back to you or provide you with a referral to another potential sponsor.

    So there you have it, a brief guide on how you can create your brand online.

    And as a side effect, you've developed skills you can promote to help a sponsor leverage their marketing initiatives. Nice.

    Happy sponsorship seeking... Cheers, Kym.

    Kym Oberauer is the author and head sponsorship seeker at Practical Sponsorship Ideas; dedicated to sharing experiences, tools and resources to help you find, attract and keep your sponsors happy.