Tackling sponsorship with a professional approach

Published on February 12th, 2014

Like most things in this world, we accomplish more by fostering relationships. So when that major event comes to your club or sailing association, and when the sponsorship needs get realized, how does it get handled?

Do you get lucky, and somebody knows somebody who will fund sailing, or does your venue already have a committed person who has been tasked with making connections within the business community, and is ready with their list of prospects?

Here’s a report by Torrey Dorsey, which was published International Council of Yacht Clubs, which demonstrates a professional approach to the sponsorship question…

As the Sponsorship and Commercial Partnerships Manager at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, I am tasked with the overall responsibility for the identification, negotiation and activation of sponsorship and commercial partnership agreements to achieve an annual sponsorship revenue target.

This involves the use of an existing and ever-increasing network of current, and potential sponsors, and partners and rests on my ability to influence the strategic thinking of these brands and organizations; with an emphasis on the value of an association with our historical and prestigious Club and sailing – the sport, lifestyle and demographic group.

Sailing does a very good job of communicating ‘with itself’, but only just reached the ‘niche’ realm of popular sport during the recent America’s Cup (AC34) competition, which took the ‘display’ of the sport and its television coverage to an entirely new level!

At the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club we have the good fortune to work with some of the partners that were involved with the AC34s, and it is this event that has ‘opened the eyes’ of many non-traditional sailing sponsors to the potential for branding, advertising and, more importantly, audience and customer engagement.

We make every effort to align brands and organizations with our many races and regattas and are offering increasingly more customer engagement opportunities as such entitlements are more important. Basic branding and advertising no longer warrant a significant sponsorship investment. Brands and organizations have clear business objectives and are using our events, and the engagement opportunities available during such events, to achieve these objectives.

One must first identify the business objectives of the potential sponsor before presenting a proposal as only with this understanding can you present an opportunity that fulfills these objectives. Take the opportunity to meet with the relevant person to discuss their brand or organization and their business objectives – both current and future. This should be done face-to-face if possible, so that you establish a relationship with this individual and their brand or organization.

The ‘one size fits all’ proposals of the past are no longer effective. Some organizations even view the term ‘sponsorship’ or ‘client entertainment’ as things of the past, and instead prefer ‘partnership’ or ‘customer engagement’. Major brands and organizations also have separate budgets for ‘Corporate and Social Responsibility’ (CSR) or charity-related events. With that in mind, some events do qualify for this budget if the event has a charitable element, particularly if the charity is already supported by the sponsor. For example, a charity dinner prior to the start of a race or a percentage of each entry fee to be donated to a charity can be effective.

Sponsors will typically align themselves with a club or an event for one of two reasons:

– Build Brand awareness and image.
– Develop contacts and opportunities to sell product (watches, auto mobiles, services, etc.).

A club that understands the sponsor’s needs will likely take deliberate steps to develop results:

– Understand the ‘brand’ and ‘sales’ assets inherent in your club and activities.
– Develop a ‘roster’ of potential sponsors, based on their perceived brand and sales needs and activities.
– Research each potential sponsor’s marketing objectives.
– Coordinate a meeting with the relevant person. The more senior the individual at the organization, the better!
– Ask questions and actively listen to their response. Typically, a potential sponsor will tell you what benefits or entitlements are wanted or needed in a proposal.
– Draft and forward a proposal for consideration, but remain open to change.
– Maintain regular communication with past, present and potential sponsors. ‘Frequency of interaction’ is key.
– Seek to identify long-term partners and multi-year agreements for continuity and long-term benefit.

Given the niche nature of the sport, we must strive to be creative and targeted in our pursuit of those elusive sponsorship dollars, listening to the potential sponsors, creating a way to give them what they want, while also protecting the interest and integrity of the sport and private member club that we represent.

Some clubs may choose to do that with professional staff or outside consultants, but better results can also be achieved by merely focusing on a disciplined process as suggested above.

Source: http://www.icoyc.org/files/ICOYC%20Newsletter%20January%202014.pdf

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