Aug 10, 2009 at 05:13 PM
written by Jim Loria

Make Community Programs A Winning Sponsor Proposal

Going back to the mid 1980's when I was first a ‘baby’ in the sports marketing world, we developed a unique niche by packaging the team’s community programs to our sponsors, a practice that most businesses had never before seen nor been asked. Back then, most sponsorship proposals were about as vanilla as you could get, including the usual mix: a program ad, game tickets, a shootout promotion and a giveaway item.

We took life’s everyday jobs and integrated them into our partnership packages. We created special monthly fundraising events that brought our players out from their helmets & uniforms and into the community with charity projects like "pumping gas", "delivering pizza", "waiting restaurant tables" and "bagging groceries" just to name a few.

I can remember once proposing to my local Supercuts franchise in Washington that we wanted our hockey players to “Shampoo Hair” as a benefit for the United Way. All we asked for was that the business would donate the entire $3 shampoo fee for every customer our players serviced. This piece of our package even brought a Supercuts corporate representative to town to meet because she had never heard of such a fun thing - athletes shampooing hair for charity? The event brought in tons of Moms & Dads with their kids to meet our players at a rather unique up-close experience! The event created such a buzz that our local ABC station led off its 6 PM newscast with the top female anchor getting her hair shampooed by one of my players!

Because we were aggressive with our community initiatives, this form of “Illusion 101 Marketing” sold the sponsors, many that might not have given our club consideration. While my mind was focused on the community slant, the realization was that “we were creating new retail programs” and separating those that bought into our club from their competition! Over time, the success of these events, lured more sponsorship dollars to the club because the involved partners could perceive unique value.

Every month, then and even today, the organization's I've been with have always created and managed charity fundraising projects alongside one of our corporate partners. Here is another example of how you can recruit new business partners through your team’s work in the community: Five years ago, we created an event called MALL GOLF and partnered this fundraising event with our local Home Builders Association and Shopping Mall. It was a first-of-its kind indoor community event designed around the popular game of miniature golf. This special promotion features "9" authentic course holes, each designed and custom built by my area's finest and most prominent home builders, and cost $5 per person to play. Just over $100,000 has been raised for local charities since the project’s inception and our club has gained significant sponsorship dollars and media attention as a result of this goodwill.

There are other reasons why we need to involve our team’s in the community: One, it teaches your players how to get involved, interact and communicate. Secondly, it enhances and shapes your team's "brand image” and most importantly, it allows your fans numerous opportunities to meet the players (whom I view as “marketing agents”). Your players, for example, can influence a customer quicker than any other form of advertising you may purchase!

I have seen that our work in hosting numerous charity events has engaged media coverage not seen before while helping our club step outside the sports pages and into the life and community sections of the local newspapers. NOT EVERYONE IS A SPORTS FAN so our community events have played a key role in our marketing efforts to get us on TV NEWS in the first 10 minutes so that we are seen by a wider audience that might not be aware of our product versus the 25-after-the-hour segment where the die-hard sports nuts might be the only viewers tuned in?

Jim Loria has over 30 years of sports management experience and for the past 10 years as served as President of the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede. Jim can be reached at [email protected]. Be sure to check out all of Jim's past posts, too.