If you are an individual looking to raise capital and self-promotion for a youth sport’s team looking to finance better uniforms and equipment, one of the best ways to fund your endeavors is through corporate sponsorship.
Corporate sponsorship is great because it not only benefits both parties, it also helps to build strong business relationships. These relationships can result in regular, recurring funds or additional sponsorships from other interested parties, saving you some of the legwork of fundraising.
Whether you’re a sponsor-acquiring vet or chasing your first one, below are proven tips that will help you land a solid corporate investment.
1) Shop around for Prospects
Unless you are also selling encyclopedias, you don’t need to start by going door-to-door begging for money. What you should do first is take some time to research and develop a list of prospects. Potential prospects may include:
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- Known previous sponsors – Ask around to see who has a track record of sponsoring. They may be the first ones you put on your list.
- People you know – Going after people you know who working for a company that could potentially sponsor. Having an “in” is always helpful and can streamline the process by letting you talk to the right people first.
- Pre-established sponsorship programs – Many large corporations have their own sponsorship programs for helping developing athletes and teams. One such program is Home Depot’s Sponsorium program. Browse corporate sites for similar options.
- The local guys – Some of the big names, like Nike or Adidas, get tens if not hundreds of sponsorship requests on a daily basis. Instead of competing in that mess, consider the local guys. You may already have a relationship with a local establishment, and as members of your community, they may enjoy helping out their fellow neighbors.
Once you have a solid list of potential sponsors, you now have to reach out to them. But before you do, you need a solid strategy in place. Which means you need to…
2) Develop a Sponsorship Plan
Individuals seeking sponsorship are often the best advocates for their cause because they are the most impacted by it. It can make them great salespeople. While a quick sales pitch may be enough for raising some money from the little guys, the big guys are going to need a more formal procedure. They are going to want to see a sponsorship plan.
In the same way a business plan provides all the numbers and strategies that appeal to investors, so must a sponsorship plan. A comprehensive sponsorship plan should include:
- A formal letter of request – This is where you formally appeal to the sponsor for a request for cash. You shouldn’t get into the exact figures just yet. Instead, give a little background, pull at the heart-strings, and give a good reason why their dollars will help both you and them. Don’t forget to thank them for their consideration.
- Benefits of sponsorship – Dive deeper into the benefits of sponsorship, from the intangible to the tangible. Answer some of these types of questions:
Why would your partnership be a good fit?
What values do you share?
What can the company hope to gain?
Will the company be getting large-logo placement on equipment or jerseys?
Will they get free booth tickets or VIP seating?
Having a tiered approach—such as Gold, Silver, and Bronze—of varying benefit value is a good strategy and gives sponsors some financial options when considering your proposal. People like options.
- Audience – Get as much information as you can on how many eyes will see the sponsor. If your sporting event is on TV, how many people watch? How many people fit in your stadium or subscribe to your newsletter? Remember, this is an investment for the company. Though they may like you and/or your sport, they are ultimately trying to sell more widgets or services. Sponsors like to know how many people they’ll reach and the per capita expenses.
- Summary page – Many decision makers are busing running their company or doing their jobs, and won’t have time (or the attention span) to look at every page in your plan. Include in your arsenal a one-pager of your major points that someone can look over in a hurry to make a decision. Just like a resume, it should stand out.
Even if you are going after smaller sponsorships that don’t necessarily require this kind of depth, they will still appreciate the effort and may find more value in your request, which could lead to more money.
Convince your sponsors of your value with your sponsorship plan, and they may request a meeting with you.
3) Meet the Sponsor
So you’ve persuaded a prospect enough that they want to actually meet you in person. It’s make it or break it time. Here are a few tips for the in-person pitch:
- Recap your sponsorship plan – In job interviews you go over your experience. The same rule applies here. Except instead of experience, talk briefly about your history and go into benefits to the company. And be excited while you do it.
- Explore objections – Not all companies are looking for traditional sponsorships, such as logo placement. Take a look, for example, at Ricky Bobby’s Power Ade sponsorship stipulations in Talladega Nights. In fact, watch the whole movie with cable TV for some good sponsorship dos and don’ts.
If there any objections to sponsorship opportunities, try looking at creative ways to approach the company’s marketing objectives. Prove that your growth will help them grow to incentivize the deal.
- Cover your bases – If things are going well in the conversation, the giddiness could set in and make you forget some other important topics. Remember to discuss things like dispute resolution, renewals, contract terminations, and 3rd party interests. Use a template to establish a contract and have a lawyer review it. It’s better to get these things addressed earlier rather than later.
- Shake hands – Just like in your letter, you should always be courteous and thank them for their time. If things ended well, that’s great! If not, leave them with a good impression and they may be available down the road or able to point you in another direction.
Acquiring sponsors is not an easy task. Follow these tips and you’ll be bringing in the funds needed to take your game to the next level in no time. Get good enough at it and make a name for yourself, and you won’t have to worry about chasing sponsors down—they will be chasing you down.