Sponsorship strategy hacks

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There’s no substitute for doing sponsorship strategy properly – and our post Eight steps to great sponsorship strategy is about the best online guide there is. But as sponsorship consultants, we know there are a few hacks that take you very close, very quickly. We rarely shortcut our own process, but we do use these key points as diagnostic hacks because, well, if they’re not in place, the sponsorship isn’t going places. And all the process in the world won’t make a jot of difference.

So here they are – our five great sponsorship strategy hacks.

1. Is there a strong why?

The first thing we look for is a strong why. I know, I know, we’ve dealt with this before – and in more detail, here, here and here – but that’s because it’s soooo important. What does it look like? A clear rationale which sets out how the partnership is going to add value to key audiences and to the business. The reasons why you’re doing the sponsorship, what you hope to achieve from it and how you hope to win the hearts and minds of your audiences. Without a strong why, you have no strategy.

2. Do employees think it’s smart?

Do consumers, employees, business partners, and relevant stakeholders actually like what you’re doing and think it makes sense? This doesn’t mean show the sizzle reel and kick back for compliments. What it means is that they approve of – and like – your rationale, your Why?

Objective feedback for sponsorship design is essential but it’s also very hard to find. Senior stakeholders will often have a parti pris, a fixed perspective on the activity and the value of investment. Your colleagues in marketing may see other uses for the budget that’s being invested in sponsorship. And your team may be so emotionally invested in the sponsorship journey that objectivity can be hard. In our experience employee favourability and approval of a sponsorship – not just the headline of the association but the underlying rationale – is the single best litmus test. Without approval, your strategy is not going to cut it.

3. Is it storyful?

We’re not going to dwell on this one – we love storytelling says most of it. But sponsorship is all about telling stories: multiple stories, all wrapped up in a macro narrative across multiple channels. The questions to ask yourself : is this sponsorship just a showbiz wedding or will it be a multi-season blockbuster? Will it be recommissioned after season one? Are there strong sub-plots? Or will I be showing repeats and promotional highlights for the next three years? 

Storytelling potential is critical for two reasons. Firstly, because it makes things, sponsorship, easier to assimilate and remember. And secondly, because a large part of engagement is about storytelling. Audiences don’t relate to facts or statements, they relate to stories, especially when these stories offer them a role of their own making. The sponsorship strategy hack is simple : is it storyful? Without narratives and storytelling potential, your sponsorship strategy is going to wither on the vine.

4. Is it insight-led?

Bit of a cop out this one – because the right insight can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse creatively. It’s so easy to spot the difference between sponsorship campaigns with good insight and sponsorship campaigns without. Good insight really explores the inner motivations and feelings of the core audience (and here we’re often talking of fans).

It goes way deeper than headline level taglines of ‘bringing you closer’ or ‘making it all happen’ to deliver a proposition which really demonstrates your understanding of the audience and the relationship they hold with their passion point.

It needs to walk the fine line – granular enough for core fans to engage, broad enough to feel accessible. Without insight, who cares?

5. Is the CRM usable?

We haven’t talked much about data anywhere in this blog but obviously data is key. And by data here, we don’t mean any data, we’re talking rightsholder CRM. It’s a little operational, but a rightsholder with an extensive, clean and qualified database with relevant permissions makes a huge difference – and represents major efficiencies compared to a rightsholder without it.

These five sponsorship strategy hacks ignore everything to do with the all-critical metrics of sponsorship selection – audience demographics, media exposure and brand – and talk more to the effectiveness of activation. But ask yourself these questions when you’re looking at any potential or existing sponsorship – any you can’t answer well will point you to where work is needed.