Dec 29, 2008 at 10:30 PM
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Sponsorship Sales Secrets to Surviving the Recession

Today I guest posted on the on sponsorship sales secrets for 2009.

I've reposted it below.


Every day we hear about layoffs, another sponsor passing on renewal or worst of all, a league's entire operating model in jeopardy. Making your most effective pitch is more critical than ever and unless you're titled by Madoff Securities, the new year will offer not only challenges, but also opportunity. With some luck, an open mind and the perfect pitch, you can position yourself to shine in '09.

10 Sponsorship Sales Secrets to Surviving the Recession

1. Creative with deal terms. Sponsorship pros generally devote a lot of creative energy to developing activation concepts for sponsors. Now is the time to get creative with not only activation strategies, but also deal terms. Be more open to VIK (Value-in-Kind), extend payment terms if possible, and develop other out of the box terms that will help you're partner weather the downturn without sacrificing the sponsorship.

2. Communicate. Don't be a pest, but check in with your partners regularly. Give updates, talk activation strategies or simply send a holiday greeting. Keep the communication channels open, even in the off-season, so that if a sponsor is getting cold feet about a renewal it's an open discussion, not a closed one.

3. Network 2.0. You probably consider yourself a people person, but are you really using all the tools available to you? LinkedIn, Facebook, SponsorPitch, whatever. Cold calling is tough, but if you can discover you have a mutual connection or find someone within a company that can be your proponent you'll at least make it out of the pile. Online tools can help you spread your message, make new connections and cultivate long-term relationships. A quality lead will more than pay for the time and/or money you invest to build a quality presence online for yourself and your sponsorship opportunity.

4. Speak their language. The six figure flop that may be chalked up to calculated risk in yesteryear, today costs jobs. Be prepared to tweak your pitch in light of a lowered risk tolerance. For example, rather than giving a prospective partner the opportunity to "get in on the ground floor" of a hot new opportunity, demonstrate in concrete terms how your property will help them "spend smarter" and stretch an the same marketing spend even farther. Even if the opportunity itself doesn't change drastically, your wording can make all the difference in the world.

5. Hold the line on your fees. Rather than lowering sponsorship fees, try to add additional benefits (see #1 about creativity) that enhance the sponsorship value relative to the price, while maintaining your own revenue level (and future pricing power).

6. Headline watch. This is really a sub bullet to #5. Business goals are changing. Employees are being laid off, divisions are being divested and product strategies are shifting. Be respectful of your partner's business climate and make sure that the benefits you initially offered are still aligned with their business goals in light of recent company news.

7. Sponsorship or a partnership? Sponsorships are a lot easier in good times, than bad. If you can show you're flexible, open-minded and understanding of their business needs today, you'll have more success tomorrow (with this particular client and with future business partners).

8. Manage expectations. Be realistic with your expectations and make sure that others within your organization are prepared accordingly. Since sponsorship touches virtually every other aspect of an organization, you can't be shy with sharing good (or bad) news.

9. Diversify. Treat your sponsor portfolio like your 401k. Autos and financials may be in decline, but if you're diversified with sectors like energy and healthcare then you may be able to soften the blow. Just like stocks, diversify your revenue streams and make sure your sponsorship revenue is not too heavily weighted to one single sector.

10. Be persistent, but gracious. If a sponsor doesn't renew or can't swing the investment this year, thank them for their time and tell them you look forward to having another discussion next year. It's a small industry. Karma and reputation matter.

Honorable Mention: Try to quantify the value of an investment in the sponsor's terms (incremental revenue, employee retention, customer acquisition, etc), not just arbitrary media value. Why is this an honorable mention? Because you should already be doing this!