Creating partnership and finding sponsors

Guide to Targeting Sponsors

There is a fine line between advertising and sponsorship. The definition of advertising in the dictionary is as follows:

“the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service,need, etc., especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.”

On the other hand the definition of sponsor (and hence the basis of the defition of sponsorship) is as follows:

“a person or organization that pays for or contributes to the costs involved in staging a sporting or artistic or similar event in return for advertising”.

So as one can see, even though sponsorship still has an element of advertising, the concepts differ in a sense that sponsorship promotes a closer tie between both parties involved (ie the sponsor and the receiver) in order to achieve a specific objective. The advertising element therefore is more indirect and the funds transferred are generally used for the fulfillment of the objective.

Therefore, when targeting sponsors, it is important to focus on the following:

(a)    Conceptualising your objective – so that you may convey it to potential sponsors.

(b)    Research how sponsorship may benefit your organisation AND the sponsor. With regards to the latter, the questions should be “what does the Sponsor want?” or “how can the Sponsor benefit?”.

(c)    Showcase your proposal in a manner that is attractive and to the point.

Conceptualising your Objective

A sponsor is brought in to support an Objective. The objective may be an event, a tv or radio programme, a scheme that benefits society, a sport club – the list is endless. The point being that your Objective needs to be attractive enough to gather sponsorship. So when deciding on your objective its good to ask yourself the following questions:

(a)    The objective is important for which target audience? For example: (i) the radio programme is attractive to which audience? (ii) the sport club will attract how many members? (iii) the scheme is benefit how many people? This will allow you to establish the possible outreach of your objective. Of course the larger the outreach the better though it does not mean that objectives with smaller outreach are less important (see next point).

(b)    What is the intrinsic value of your objective? By value we are not referring to monetary value but rather how vital is your objective? For example: saying that the radio programme is important because it will entertain people might be considered less vital than saying that the radio programme will specifically deal with an issue of concern which is not otherwise being dealt with. So even if entertainment might bring with it a larger audience, addressing a specific concern (such as health awareness; ethnic related issues etc) might actually be considered more vital and may attract sponsors on the basis of it being for a “good cause”.

(c)    Some other interesting questions to ask yourself – in order to further conceptualise your objective – are the following: (i) is your objective innovative in any way and if yes how? (ii) will you be advertising your objective and if yes how? (iii) what is the timeline to fulfill your objective and how will you sustain that timeline?

What do Sponsors want?

The receiver of the sponsorship gains because he gathers support for his cause. This support is both of a financial and PR nature. The latter is mainly due to the fact that showing the support gathered also helps showcase the importance of the cause. On the other hand the the sponsor may gain in different ways and thus it is important to do the proper research so that when one meets with a potential sponsor, that “gain” will be feature in your pitch. As already said it is focusing on the creation of a connection between sponsor and receiver that is critical when attracting sponsors.

As discussed above the main aim for someone advertising will obviously be an increase in business. The success of the advert will therefore be based on “return”. With regards to a sponsors the purpose for sponsoring is different and can vary depending on the particular sponsor. Here are some reason why sponsors are willing to support causes.

(a) Corporate Social Responsability (CSR).  CSR is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. So in other words, a sponsor might support your endeavours because it will allow them to showcase their CSR policy. This is akin to advertising but in this circumstance the “return” is not revenue but a good Public image.

(b) A just cause. A company or a person may see your objective as representative of a “just cause”. What a “just cause” is will vary from person to person but let us say that your objective has managed to convince the person that investing their time and resources in supporting your cause is beneficial to him/her or to society as a whole.

(c) Other Causes:

(i) Political/Legal Gain (for causes that aim to change a political or legal decision).

(ii) Supporting Local Initiatives (for causes that instill a self of pride in one’s locality)


Preparing to Target Sponsors

When making contact with a potential sponsor the target should be to get a meeting with the person in charge. It is easier and more effective to pitch an idea in person than in an email or on the phone. So your initial effort should be to get your “foot in the door”. Remember, sponsorship is about creating a connection – otherwise, if it were advertising, sending the rates and outreach statistics would be enough.

Once you have managed to get an appointment it is important to prepare for the meeting so that you can showcase your objective in the best possible manner.

Firstly, it is important to learn as much as possible about the sponsor in question. A sponsor who is approached will appreciate the fact that you know what he/she/the company does. Apart from that, researching a potential sponsor will allow you build you pitch. As explained, a Sponsor will sponsor for a variety of reasons – tapping into that reason will be key in acquiring support.

Secondly, when preparing for the meeting, its critical to prepare good visuals which will be used to put forward your pitch. Information should be simple and to the point – this will help you send out a clear message – which is imperative because at such meetings, timing is of the essence. Its important to leave some material behind you – so that the person in question may show to others (especially if authorisation is needed from superiors). The material should be attractive, with visuals and the least text possible (people are put off by lots of text).

Last but not least, being prepared and having good visuals (as explained about) will reflect your level of professionality and this plays an important part because a sponsor knows that he/she is not only giving money to support a cause but is also giving that same money to people who will administer it. Therefore the people administering the funds need to be organised and professional.

It is good practice to sign an agreement with a sponsor explaining the amount being given and for what purposes the sum is going to be used. Any advertising promised should also be listed so that all expectations are clear from the start.

Taking care of Sponsors

To conclude this brief guide on Sponsorship, its important to remember that acquiring a sponsor is no easy task, so ideally sponsors are taken care of so that they may be encouraged to sponsor again. This will aid the sustainability of your objective. Taking care of your Sponsors will also help attract new ones and a happy sponsor will have no problem referring your objective to others.