The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



Sponsorship :: Here's How....

....In One Person’s Opinion

By Guy Hedderwick
Commercial Director
Dunedin Venue Management Ltd

Sponsorship is often the difference between financial success or failure; the difference between a great customer experience and bad one. The great venues of the world seem to easily attract sponsorship but what about those like mine stuck in the Southern most City in the world in a country with only 4 million people; Dunedin, New Zealand, a place many people have never heard of?

Here are some of my experiences of how it can be done both here and from around the world where I have been privileged to work and I suggest this model can be applied to most venues.

Lesson 1- Who?

No one wants to sponsor your building or your corporate lounges or anything in your building.

Not a great start is it, until we realize this is not about the venue, but rather its about the sponsor connecting with their target market through the venue and the events that take place there. Once we understand this, we need to research what it is our potential customers are interested in. Understanding our audience and being able to then collect and store their data is the first secret to sponsorship.

The great thing about entertainment is the ability to connect emotionally with people and therefore connect them emotionally with the brands of your venue or teams are marketing to them.

Knowing your audience and being able to offer that connection to sponsors is the first step. The good news is companies will pay good marketing dollars to connect with fairly small audiences if they are exactly the market they are trying to target. Understanding the product you are selling is equally important, as it with whom your product resonates.

The lesson: Understanding our consumer is a critical component of the Sponsorship Strategy process

Lesson 2- Why ?

Gone are the days of Chairman’s choices or at least it should be. How often do we hear ‘I know the CEO of such and such, and he will sponsor us’? Sponsors are looking to connect, to grow their market share, drive brand loyalty and in the end sell more product.

The good news! Because we strip away the game face, and our products connect on an emotional level, we can offer just that opportunity to sponsors.

Corporates use sponsorships to drive consumer engagement through improved awareness & positive association. Awareness- Articulation- Engagement- Conversion.

It is so important to understand where your potential sponsor sits on this continuum. Telling a well-known household name you can offer them brand exposure won’t excite them; they might be more driven by offering them a rights deal with some engagement opportunities.

The problem here is there is quite good research to show little connection between brand awareness and actually buying of products. In fact brand awareness only comes in third on the sponsorship hierarchy after target market and internal staff buy-in.

Brand is only important to companies who show they have little or diminishing brand awareness in your area or have a new brand they want to launch in your area. Telling and showing them you can articulate their brand message in an engaging way, resulting in better brand loyalty and sales is key. Now who is going to turn that down? Showing a sponsor you can improve their business in a particular area is the real reason they will get involved.

The Lesson: Sponsors are becoming more sophisticated and are generally looking to address the following outcomes- Brand drivers, commercial drivers and community engagers.

Lesson 3- What ?

What we do now is introduce our customers to our sponsors through leverage. These ideas should come from the sponsor but seldom do, hence we offer some creative leverage ideas in our proposals. Here is a great story that illustrates this concept.

A well-known vehicle manufacture did a sponsorship deal with a venue. They did the usual leverage idea by displaying vehicles at the venue during events and thus extending their showroom space. One day a certain member of the venue marketing team came up with an idea. Fans that owned this brand a vehicle were allowed to park at full market rates in a reserved part of the venue car park and 50 of 500 spaces were put aside for this venture. There was no loss to the venue in car parking revenue and the vehicle could tell clients the first 50 fans driving their cars could park at some prime parking spots. Unfortunately this was a university town and it wasn’t long before a bunch of students turned up in a different brand of vehicle with hand painted with the sponsor’s logos all over it. The clever sponsor allowed the students to park their painted vehicle. The story soon made national news and the manufacture noticed an 8% rise in sales and a jump in preference for their brand in the city.

The Lesson: Show them that by leveraging their sponsorship, what is good about their product can be amplified, enhanced or made more accessible through an association with the venue.

Lesson 4- How?

This is definitely where most fall short. We send out proposals to every potential sponsor we can think of, or we create a request for a proposal and wait for the market to come to us. How would you feel as a sponsor if you had to bid for the sponsorship? Would you feel wanted?

Make sure your business is sponsorship friendly and that the whole organization understands the sponsorship strategy and delivery. I remember asking the CEO of a building to attend a sponsorship meeting with a coffee brand only for him to walk into the meeting holding a coffee cup with the opposition brand emblazoned on the side. We never got the sponsorship deal.

Once you have a sponsor, treasure them, help them with internal buy-in and leverage and you will keep them for a very long time – or at the very least longer than those who take the sponsor’s money and run.

The Lesson:

3 Do’s:

Do your research on me (the sponsor), my company, what we sponsor & why
Set up a ‘coffee chat’ to listen to my objectives around brand, sales & community
Follow up with a ‘bespoke’ proposal that shows you’ve really thought about me

3 Don’ts

Don’t create tiered packages. Who really wants to be a bronze sponsor?
Don’t just offer me branding – there’s so much more to life than logos
Don’t send me a really long proposal that is all about you and not about your audience. Your audience is whom they really care about

Get the approach wrong and you’re unlikely to get sponsored. Get it right and you’re likely to be successful.



Guy Hedderwick is Commercial Director of Commercial Director Dunedin Venue Management Ltd and can be reached here




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