Through my colourful career, one thing that’s fascinated me is how much untapped potential there is in the world of sponsorship. So much waste! Yet, it’s only now that I’m directly faced with finding ways to eek value out of them, that I realise what strange beasts they are.

I’m taking on the point-of-view of the receiving end of the sponsorship dollars and having to activate it. As a marketer, I’m charged with keeping the sponsor happy so that the money keeps on coming in.

There’s a lot of literature about what sponsors should do to get bang for their buck, but what about the party that’s being hit with the KPI’s?

No matter which side you stand on, everyone can benefit. The sum of two provides:

  • access to and being relevant to a larger database and audience
  • improved position of brand or product
  • more value to our target audience
  • more content

Yet, why is this reality harder to achieve than it looks?

Miserable Numbers

I’ve observed how:

  • posts that promote our sponsors tend to get very low engagement
  • the tone of voice of your brand and that of the partner can be chalk and cheese
  • trying to come up with creative posts, competitions and content can be a one-sided affair
  • once the initial agreement is signed, it falls on the marketing person to deliver on KPI’s that they may not have been involved in setting

It doesn’t look good when the sponsor asks for engagement metrics on posts, click rates on EDM’s, or leads and conversions on their products, to find a miserable “low” score across the board. It’s the fast track to sponsorship withdrawal.

The Creative Bind

Consumers sniff a sales pitch, which is why I work so hard to make sponsorship posts engaging.

I’m slowly losing count of the times that I’ve approached a sponsors, hoping to trigger a brainstorming of ideas – say on a competition, recipes, or useful content – only for them to say, “Hey, sounds great. What would you suggest?”

Google has been my holy grail for contest ideas and other brainwaves. However, the problem with this approach is that I’m starting from first base. Surely our sponsors, with their big marketing teams, have examples of what works and what doesn’t.

Having a story to tell

I cannot tell the sponsor’s story for them. What I have to do, is help them come to the party.

Our sponsors can bring value aside from dollars to the table. What I’ve learnt is that the sponsor is in the best position define the story that they want to tell. Once they can summarise this, then we can craft this story to fit with our brand. They may stake a claim on having the best tasting product in their market, the toughest, most colourful, friendliest or the most fun experience.

Having this story, helps to create a plan and also to create the right content and send a consistent message about why the partnership fits like a glove.

Who is the creator?

It’s almost inevitable that two companies will have two very unique brand voices.

There have been examples where I’ve given the sponsor a vision as to a series of videos that I’d like them to create for us. However the output jars with what our audience is used to, in terms of energy and stylistics.

It’s worth testing at the beginning, but if it doesn’t work, then all that’s needed is an honest conversation and for the other party to take over the reigns of production.

We’ve also tried to cross-pollinate, by using our ambassadors to create content using our sponsor’s gear. It does add a bit of complexity around who and how that ambassador is managed.

Other methods

Amongst the benefits listed above, one thing that our sponsors have bought, is greater access our audience. It’s illegal and a breach of privacy to give our database over to our sponsors, but thinking about ways to let our audience opt-in to direct communications from the sponsor, is a way to add value.

EDM’s, freebies, registrations pages and landing pages are places where this option can be provided.

If our sponsors can directly communicate with our audience and see improved leads and conversion metrics, that’s a plus to our relationship.

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