Oct 07, 2009 at 09:46 AM
written by Ron Seaver

It's No Longer "Just About You"

For those of you that have been reading my sponsorship blog for any length of time (…and I hope that’s a TON of you out there!), you know that I’m decidedly "bullish" when it comes to advising you about building a family of sponsors for your meetings, teleseminars and newsletters – which goes as well for people in the speaking business.

However, as positive as sponsorships are for your business and your bottom-line, there are some "downsides" that you should also be aware of.

And one of those is being astutely aware that when you sign on with a sponsor – you are, in essence, signing on with a business partner. No – not one that's going to get wrapped up in your "dollars & cents" – but one that has a vested interested in your success nonetheless. These companies – your sponsors, have hitched their wagon to your star – and they've paid you very well for that right. You would be wise, in return, to keep this always in mind.

Your actions, your words are truly no longer your own. As you go … so goes your sponsor. This -- as we've recently seen, can be a very negative thing…

I write this thinking about last month's well-publicized semi-final US Open match between Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams. At a highly critical point in the match Serena Williams obscenely threatened a linesperson – in front of a packed house and a national TV audience. (Talk about doing the "wrong thing…at the wrong time…!")

A certain amount of her emotion can be chalked up to the "heat of the moment" – but what she clearly did was wrong. But she didn't help herself any when … shortly after the match, (when a cooler head was called for), she didn't apologize. Instead she told reporters, "I'm moving on".

Wow – maybe that cavalier attitude works for her … but what's that do for her sponsors? What about Nike's best interests? Or Wilson Athletic's … or Gatorades? Was she mindful of what kind of an impact her outburst would have on their businesses? (And we're not talking "chump change" here – Nike, for instance, signed Serena to a five year contract back in December, 2003 – with an option for an additional three years (eight years total) that could top out at $55-million for Ms. Williams.)

You've got to think that the public perception of Ms. Williams (and that of her sponsors) didn't improve after Serena's outburst. (Which is probably why … by the next day Serena was whistling a different tune about her actions the night before. Suddenly she was quite contrite and apologetic. Got to think her sponsors didn't waste a whole lot of time weighing in on her actions….)

And how about Olympic sensation, Michael Phelps? His ill-advised interlude with a bong became an overnight sensation on the Internet and in the process tarnished the impeccable image of one of America's "Wonder Boys". And taking the "hit" alongside of Phelps were his sponsors – companies like Visa, AT&T and Powerbar. One of his high profile sponsors, Kellogg's, opted to not renew Phelps' sponsorship saying: "Michael's most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg". Well … that about sums it up, eh?

Phelps will no doubt recover, but what about you? Is YOUR behavior consistent with the image that your sponsors wish to display? (You probably never thought much about it … but you need to.)

You need to keep in mind that once you take on a sponsor, along with it -- you also take on their hopes, needs and expectations for everything involving you and your event/ business. You have a responsibility to represent yourself in THEIR best interests … not just yours.

It’s not just about you anymore.

Ron Seaver, president of Seaver Marketing Group and The National Sports Forum, and author of "Brought to you By... - The Ultimate Sponsorship Sales System" has over twenty-five years of experience in the field of marketing and sponsorship. View all of Ron's posts here