Sponsorships 101

With the variety of options to consider within your marketing mix, the topic of sponsorships is often discussed and whether relevant value exists.  More importantly, the question of how to properly secure the right sponsorship that will pay dividends for your company.  Before you begin the process there are a handful of questions to answer to ensure that you are pursuing the right opportunities that make the most sense.  Here are five questions to consider:

1) How do I know if this is the right Sponsorship?

The first and most important question to ask yourself is whether a particular sponsorship aligns with the company’s goals and objectives?  The key reason to sponsor a team, league, event, or otherwise, is to effectively reach your target demo and drive your business as a result.  Sports fans are extremely loyal and studies have shown that the loyalty will translate to partners of that team, league, or organization.  Before deciding on a particular sponsorship, ask yourself if you can more effectively achieve the goals set forth by the company by entering into this relationship.  If the answer is yes, read on.  If the answer is no, you’ll need to continue exploring other opportunities.

2) Do I have the necessary budget to activate?

Often times, companies spend a considerable amount of time deliberating sponsorship opportunities and negotiating the vast amount of assets that are available to them, yet don’t spend enough time contemplating overall budget implications.  They look at their budgets and plan based on what the sponsorship will cost.  The problem is, not enough dollars are allocated for activation.  It has been widely accepted that a minimum of $3 should be spent on activation for every dollar spent for the sponsorship.  In other words, for a $500K sponsorship, a company should plan to spend at least $1.5M to activate for a total of $2M.  This is where many companies miss the mark.   

3) Is this relationship viewed as a sponsorship or partnership?

Like with any relationship, it’s very important to get an understanding of who you will be doing business with.  Will you be treated like a “sponsor” or a “partner?”  There is a big difference.  If the feeling or feedback you’ve heard from others is that of a sponsor, you might want to keep looking.  Those that treat you as a partner truly understand your goals and objectives, and do everything possible to make sure they’re met.  Sponsorship is a two-way street so you have to approach it the same way and be realistic with your requests.  Most good partners will go the extra mile to make you happy, but you can’t always play the “We’re spending $XXX so they need to do whatever we ask” card.  The old adage comes into play: “The more you give the more you’ll get.”

4) What type of activation will allow us to maximize our investments?

Depending on who the sponsorship is with, there are a plethora of assets available to include in the deal.  Identifying what your goals and objectives are, will likely dictate the ideal mix for you.  For instance, hospitality assets (tickets, suites, VIP opportunities, etc.) may be important to you for your business partners or customers.  You may find that media assets (tv, radio, online, etc.) may allow you to reach your target audience.  Further, if you’re trying to drive awareness, signage opportunities may net you your desired results.  You may also want a fully integrated package that has a little bit of everything.

5) How do I know if the sponsorship is successful?

There have been debates for years on how to effectively measure the return on investment.  Some activities may be easier to translate into sales (ie lead generation, etc) but others may be less tangible (ie signage).  With the sophistication in technology and growth of social media, it is becoming easier to track results and attribute success to a particular sponsorship.  The key is to identify what your metrics of success are in advance.  Whether it’s increasing awareness or consideration or specific sales numbers, it’s important to identify what results you are looking for and what will give you the desired return on your investment.  If at the end of the day, the relationship is netting these results, then it can be deemed a success.

Randy Posner is currently Sports Marketing Manager at DIRECTV, responsible for key out of market sports packages such as NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, and NHL Center Ice.  Prior to that, he spent 10+ years on the agency side with an emphasis on sports sponsorships, brand management, event marketing and promotions.  He can be reached at