The Sponsorship Seeker's Mindset
Are you struggling to understand how you should approach and talk to sponsors? Is seeking sponsorship a task you dread or maybe have even given up on?
We’ve got an awesome episode for you today that is going to boost your confidence and reset your entire thinking around sponsorship. It’s going to help you understand what sponsorship truly is about, what sponsors really look to get out of it, and how, through some simple, disciplined steps and a change of mindset, you can transform your chances of securing sponsors for your event.
My guest in today’s episode is an industry leader I’ve personally followed for years. To call Kim Skildum-Reid a sponsorship expert would be something of an understatement. Through her Power Sponsorship consultancy Kim has helped countless blue-chip rightsholders and sponsors plan and execute effective sponsorship strategies, and through her best-selling books and online courses she’s probably done more than anyone to educate sponsorship practitioners on the fundamentals of sponsorship.
So it is super-exciting to have Kim on the podcast today sharing her insights into the fundamentals of sponsorship, and the mindset you, as a sponsorship seeker, need to adopt to succeed in this challenging arena.
In this episode:
- Leveraging your audience year-round
- Framing your audience reach to sponsors
- Helping sponsors "get" your vision through your sponsorship proposal
- The importance of understanding the sponsor's point of view
- Putting a value on in-kind sponsorship
- Writing a winning sponsorship proposal that "sells" your deal internally in the sponsor organization
- Inventory audits: putting together a list of all the benefits you could offer to sponsors
- Dealing with sponsors as peers
- Overdelivering for sponsors (and getting recognized for it)
- Sharing sponsorship reports with sponsors
- Firing your sponsors when they're underperforming
- Why you should stop using gold, silver bronze sponsorship packages
- Kim's list of must-read follow-up materials: https://bit.ly/3AFMTx2
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Kim, welcome to the podcast!
Thank you very much for having me, Panos.
Thank you very, very much for coming on. As I told you repeatedly, it is an absolute thrill to have you on the podcast. I'm a huge fan of your work. I've been following you ever since I went into doing events, which is like a different life now. Every time anyone comes to me and says, "I want to go into sponsorship or something. How do I get started? What is it all about?", I always point people to your powersponsorship.com website. I think you have amazing staff there. I think you know your stuff inside out, and it's a pleasure and an honor for me and our listeners to have you on. So, thank you very much for coming on.
Oh, thank you so much. Thank you. I mean, I tried to make the site as useful as I possibly can, so I appreciate that you find it to be a useful resource. I hope that the listeners go get over there and poke around a while because there are lots of blogs, white papers, downloadable templates, and - so, there are heaps there - even video tutorials.
Yeah, absolutely. There's tons of stuff - all very high quality - and you do actually keep up putting new stuff out, which I think is amazing. Why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your very long and distinguished career in sponsorship, and we'll pick it up from there?
So Power Sponsorship has been around here in Australia since not long after I got here. I mean, I've been here for, like, 30 years and I think Power Sponsorship has been around for about 28 and a half. So, basically, I'm a consultant. I mean, I'm a corporate sponsorship strategist. I work primarily in the consulting capacity for major corporate sponsors, for government, and usually larger rightsholders - people on your side of the business in terms of consulting and doing strategic work for them. I do work and do training and in-house strategy sessions and all that kind of stuff for a whole range of sponsors, government, all sorts of rights holders of all sizes, agencies, et cetera. So, lots and lots of that kind of thing. I also do some on-demand coaching. So, if somebody needs, sort of, an expert and expert advice on-demand, like, on critical moments, they can book in for a coaching session with me. I've also got books, white papers, and online training available - so, heaps. There's every chance you'll run into me as a speaker or keynoter somewhere around the world.
Absolutely, yeah. Your book is, I think, like, the best-selling book in sponsorship on Amazon. I think we, sort of, cheated a little bit - we piggybacked on that title. I think the title of the book is "The Sponsorship Seeker's Toolkit" and we named this podcast "The Sponsorship Seekers."
Yeah. It's in its fourth edition and is the best-selling sponsorship book in the world. I've actually written the three best-selling sponsorship books in the world, but that one is the one for your side of the business for race directors - it's "The Sponsorship Seeker's Toolkit". It's full of, like, downloadable templates, proposal templates, all the how-to, all the checklists, and all that kind of stuff.
Absolutely. The other thing that comes across by reading your constant stream of very high-quality content and following you on LinkedIn - which I do - is that you're very passionate about what you do. Like, you're still having fun, aren't you?
Oh, god. Yes, I love this. I so love doing sponsorship. I mean, it is just a privilege. Part of the reason that I love it so much is that it's a real "left brain, right brain" thing. There are lots and lots of analysis that needs to go into doing sponsorship well no matter what role in the industry you have. But then, you actually have to apply lots of creativity, and I love being able to access, sort of, both sides. It's an interesting challenge because, if somebody is heavily one side or the other, they're going to need to, sort of, find a brain's trust that balances them off.
Yeah. I think the challenge with doing sponsorship right is that there is no recipe and it obviously requires a degree of quantitative ability to be able to understand stuff and to be a little bit structured and disciplined about how you approach it. But the more you practice it, you see aspects to it that go way beyond that, and I guess experiences play a very big role in this.
Well, experience and talent do count but there is a methodology that will get even beginners to the right place. If you, sort of, take my online training, or do some training with me, or buy the book, or whatever, it basically steps you through, "Here's what you do first. And here's how you think about this. And here's how you analyze what you have to offer. And this is how you put it together for a sponsor. And here's how you figure out who the potential sponsors are." It's just, sort of, one step after another and, pretty soon, you realize you're doing it. Even if you don't have experience and even if you might not have a lot of intrinsic talent for this, it's not like it's impossible. If you just follow the steps, you can do it.
Right. Yeah, I think it's like one of those things where they say some tasks are simple but hard in the sense that what you need to do is pretty straightforward, like in dieting - I mean, you need to just not eat - but it's very hard for people to follow those very simple steps, I guess, right? And with sponsorship, they get lost all the time, they get their emotions, their prejudices, and stuff all piling up, and they just lose track.
And it's really easy to fall into bad habits and think, "Okay, what I need to do is I need to send a one-page sponsorship request letter to 200 companies that I can, sort of, find an email for or whatever." Look, that takes a lot of work, a lot of follow-ups and all that, and you're gonna get exactly $0 for that. It's like you're gonna get none. So, your option is to spin your wheels and get nothing, or do it properly and start to bring in good sponsors for good money. And yeah, it may take you a little while before you're hitting - as we say in Australia, the "big bickie" - more money, but you will actually start to get traction if you do it properly.
Absolutely. I think part of the obstacles that race directors particularly face when they start looking into sponsorship - at least, in my estimation, and that's why we put together today's podcasts - come down to mindset. It comes down to how they approach things. I think, often they lack confidence, which obviously comes when you don't understand things right through sometimes. You're not confident enough to go out, make demands, be bold, hold your ground, or whatever - right? And also, quite often - we're going to get into several examples of this - they don't understand sponsors. I think that's, like, another key element. I'm guessing you may have seen it even with very high-profile rightsholders.
Yeah. In fact, there are some very high-profile rightsholders that - because they're very high profile - have sponsors knocking on their door. So, they've never really had to up their skills because they've had it really pretty easy. Suddenly, COVID, particularly, really amplified and accelerated the sophistication curve for sponsors, and most rightsholders didn't follow that curve. They're like, "We're so glad that we're back to live events and all that". So, they go back to sponsorship as usual when sponsors have completely changed their approach. What they're looking for are peers - people that are on the rightsholders - that are not looking for a handout, that are not less sophisticated. They want sophisticated marketing partners - that's what they want - and they want that more now than they did before COVID. So, if you think you're going to, sort of, go back to the pre-COVID's "good old days", they're not good. It's not going to work.
Yeah, absolutely. We did a podcast with Ben Pickel, who is the person responsible for Life Time Events. They operate a series of very high-profile races and he sells sponsorships for that portfolio. He was telling me that another challenge that race directors have with COVID is that, because of what happened, sponsors have moved on. They've done other stuff. They've deployed budgets elsewhere. Now, there also needs to be a kind of reeducation and rekindling with sponsors for even the value of sponsorship, basically, just to make a case of why this is still relevant.
Well, look, part of the COVID impact on sponsors is that, suddenly, they were sponsoring a whole bunch of stuff that wasn't happening, so they had to pivot really quickly to "How do we continue to nurture our relationships with these fans - the people that care about this - whether it's people that run in your races, people that care about particular races, or even just people that care about running, like, the larger themes around that." Those people didn't stop caring about that stuff - they just didn't have events to go to - so sponsors had to pivot and learn how to add value to their relationships with these people who are remote fans. So, they're fans that aren't right there on-site. Now, here's the kicker. They should have been doing that before COVID because that exponentially expands the value of what rightsholders are offering because it's not just "Well, we got 5,000 people running in our race or what have you", it's like, "This is how many people care. And this is how many people we can reach that love running", and all of that kind of stuff. So, sponsors have gotten really good at that whole remote fans thing. Now that live events are back-- look, sponsors really love that live events are back, but they want you to come to the table with a proposal that says, "Here's what you can do on-site. And here's what you can do with it for the people that are the remote fans. And here's the content and cool stuff that you can do to your own target markets. And here's the stuff you can do in your own channels. And you can do this stuff for months and months and months - it's not just about that one day and it's not just about the one geographic location. It's like really throwing the net wide." Anybody listening to this-- I've got a blog that's about the most important post-COVID sponsorship strategies for rightsholders, and it really talks about, like, this increased sophistication and the expectations that sponsors have that are so different than they were three years ago. So, I'll be providing you with that link so that the listeners can, sort of, dig a little bit deeper into all of this.
For everyone listening in, we're gonna be adding Kim's blog posts and other resources in the show notes. What you mentioned there I think is really important and it's actually a thing that keeps coming up - this lack or inability or disinterest from race directors to engage stakeholders, more generally, throughout the year outside of race day. We're even talking participants, right? I mean, even their participants were like, "Race day. Here are your results. Done. See you next year." So, this kind of inability to leverage all the sponsors and the participants in your whole, sort of, ecosystem beyond race day is a huge failure, I think, for the industry.
Well, it is. I mean, it's a failure of race directors' own marketing efforts to continue to nurture those relationships - it's really akin to just shooting yourself in your foot with sponsors. If you're really only talking about marketing to a sponsor, something that happens with one day with a few hundred, or a few thousand, or a couple tens of thousands of people in one geographic area, it's like, "Man, there are so much better opportunities out there than that. It's only just because you've framed it too small that you're not nurturing those relationships, that you're not delivering that conduit to those relationships to the sponsors all year round or, at least, sort of, during the running season or whatever." You can tell I'm not a runner. I do a lot of miles but, yeah, I'm not a racer at all.
Well, it's never too late to pick up good habits. So, we've started picking up already on lots of stuff that I want to go into a little bit more detail. But I want us first to, like, fast track a little bit through a few basic concepts. I wanted mostly to get your take on two or three really foundational concepts around sponsorship before we move into other stuff. So, starting with the most basic of all, I guess - these questions, because they are so basic, sometimes, are quite tough - what is sponsorship from your point of view? How would you describe it to someone who has no idea what sponsorship is about?
Okay. From the sponsors' point of view - which is probably the best way to understand it, because you've got to get those sponsors to say "Yes" - it would be a leverageable marketing platform. So, what you're selling them is not what's going to deliver the results for them. It's what they do with the leverage that is going to create the results - all those signs on things. It's like, "Fine, get sponsorship from ASICS, Brooks or whoever and stick their signs up but, really, honestly, how many people that run have never heard Brooks? That does nothing." But what could Brooks do with it? That's where they're going to get their result. So, sponsorship is a leverageable marketing platform and that means that, when you're selling sponsorship, you need to frame it that way. It's like, "This is the platform we can give you. Here are the benefits we can give you. And this is what you could do with it, with your own markets, your staff, the people that follow you, plus the people that follow us, plus the people that participate, plus the people in the audience, and all the people that are going to be watching the live stream or whatever." That's the critical thing - it's a leverageable marketing platform. If all you're offering is some signs or banners on your website, or something like that, or something stuck in a show bag that the people get when they finish or when they pick up their race numbers, that's not sponsorship in and of itself. That may have some kind of value, but it's not leverageable in and of itself. That's just product placement or advertising. What you and sponsors want is a comprehensive leverageable marketing platform, and all of your races have it - all of them. There are some methodologies for figuring out what you've got and where your value lies, but the first thing is to understand that your job is to provide a leverageable marketing platform.
So you need to expose, basically, all those touchpoints and all of those opportunities and present a vision of what the sponsor, on the other end, can make out of that.
Correct. I mean, your offer, your proposal isn't about the benefits, the price, and all the reasons why your event is so wonderful. Your proposal is about creating that vision for what they can do with it - that's what it's about. That's the entire premise of a sponsorship proposal. There are lots of ways to do that and all of the listeners out there can all do that and, suddenly, the value of what they offer would just skyrocket.
Yeah. How hard do you think, in that vision, should the race director or the rightsholder, sort of, fill in the gaps for the sponsor or help them actually see the bigger picture? Do they actually give direction, or tell sponsors how exactly they might be activating this, or just offer up the assets and the platform and the opportunity and just the rawness of it, and then sponsor just project onto it what they want?
That's a two-part answer right there. The first thing is that it is absolutely the sponsor's job to figure out how to leverage a sponsorship. It's their job to figure it out, to make the plan, to carry out the leverage, and to pay for the leverage. That's their job, but most sponsors are getting hit up with hundreds, if not thousands, of sponsorship offers every single month. If your job is to create the vision, your absolute number one thing that you should have in a proposal is that thing that says, "Here's what you can do with it" and have some really interesting ideas that they could do on site or they could do in their own channels. Could they do a limited edition? What could they do exactly? A training diary? What could they do? You can tell that I'm not really a race person. I did 12.5K this morning, but I don't race. So, creating that vision, on one hand, is not a rightsholders' job - I mean, it's not - sponsors are supposed to do that. But on the other hand, if a sponsor gets 500 proposals a month, let's just say - and that's low - then who are they going to actually consider? The ones that have just said, "Okay, well, here's the benefits. Here's the price. Here's how great we are. You figure it out" or the ones that say, "We understand your brand. We understand your markets. This is why we're targeting you. We think this is a good match and here's why. Here is what you can do with it to achieve your objectives. Here are a whole bunch of ideas that we come up with specifically for you." Then, you wrap it up with the, sort of, benefits and the price, but the sale is in creating that vision.
You keep bringing up this point in your writing - I have noticed it in many, many places - about how much better and more attractive you come across as a rights holder when, in your proposal, you make an effort to actually understand the market that your sponsor is in, the issues they might be facing - almost be on their side and frame everything from the point of view of what they're after. I mean, it makes total sense to just say it like that, but very few people probably do that.
Very, very, very few do it, and it's not actually that hard. Like, once you've done it a few times and thought, "Okay, this is a really, really well-matched sponsor", I'm going to go and check their social, I'm going to look at their websites, and if it's something that you see in the supermarket, a liquor store, or whatever, I'm going to go and look at it and see how it's marketed there. I'm going to look in and search for the advertising that they're doing. If they're doing any main media or something, you'll find it on YouTube. From that, you'll be able to infer a lot about who it is they're targeting - not like 18 to 34 year old males but, like, what kind of people? Are these beginner runners that are trying to get their first completion metal? Or is it those hardcore 100 kilometers through the mountains kind of people? Or is it just people that need to get fitter? You can infer a lot about the types of people that they're targeting. You can also infer a lot about the angles on their products and their brands that they're highlighting - like, what's the epicentre and what are the real unique selling points or the kind of offers that they're making right now because that will give you a lot of that information. Then, when you reach out to a sponsor, you have a lot of this information already and you can say things like, "I noticed that you have a big push toward new runners and you have a lot of content for new runners. If we can help you out with new runners, would that be useful for you? We've got a lot of content and can create some stuff jointly with you." Just being able to say, "Look, I did the research and I know this about you." and then, as soon as you've demonstrated that, the sponsor is just gonna spill everything else. They're gonna go, "Oh, crap, these people have done their homework so, all right, let me talk to you about our objectives. The new runners are, kind of, an emerging thing for us, but we still want to be doing this with the existing running, or nutrition, or whatever marketplace, or whoever it might be." So, as soon as you can demonstrate that, they'll fill in all the gaps that you've missed. Once you've got that, it's like, "Okay, well, if I understand this brand is trying to achieve this, this and this with these people here, some of which we reach and some of which they reach, how can we help them to add value to that experience? How can we help them to align with these people?"
Yeah. It doesn't actually take much to see why this should be really valuable just by taking an interest and understanding whom it is you're talking to and what it is you can offer to them. Now, turning the tables a little bit and looking at the race director, the race directors I speak to, not surprisingly, would all go for cash. When they're thinking of sponsorship, "We're gonna bring in some cash", often, sponsors go in with more complex arrangements and more complex agreements and, I think, sometimes, race directors fail to see the bigger picture, beyond cash, of what a sponsorship can bring to an event. So, what is it beyond just money that a rightsholder could look towards in a sponsorship?
Well, money's great. We love money. I'm not gonna say, "Look, just forget the money. Look at the other stuff." A lot of sponsors can provide you with contra - otherwise, known as "in-kind". Now, the key is to only consider contra that saves you money. Look at your budget, if they're giving you contra that saves you actual money, then it's worth what it saved you. It's not worth more than that. It's not worth less than that. I don't know if you guys do a lot of fly-in, but let's just say you had to fly in 15 elite runners and their teams, and you had an airline that said, "Yep, we can do that." and you had a budget of $40,000 to do that, let's say, oftentimes, rightsholders will say, "Well, that's not worth anything because those seats would have been empty if my people weren't in those seats." Then, the airline says, "Well, we're gonna value this at full fare economy or full fare" which nobody pays for. So, if you are gonna fly 15 people, their coaches, and all that kind of stuff, and it is gonna cost you $40,000, that would be some kind of group discount deal that you would have done. So, rightsholders are wrong. It's not worth nothing because those seats would be empty without those people in them and airlines are wrong in valuing them at a price that nobody is actually going to pay - like, you can go on the internet and get them cheaper than that. So, it's worth what saves you no more, no less. If you call a sponsor on that, by the way, they will buckle because they know that valuing it higher than it would have cost you to buy is wrong.
Well, you're absolutely right. Anything that eliminates a budget item is as good as cash. I mean, cash is fungible.
It's often easier for sponsors to say "Yes" to those things. So you can say things like, "Okay, what we need is $30,000 in cash and we need this many air tickets" because it's actually easier for them to say that - and for you - than that $70,000, let's just say, of money that you don't have to spend on the air tickets, and plus some cash. So, it makes it easier for them to say "Yes". Now, just a word on some of the other things that sponsors bring to the table. They can bring expertise to the table because, sometimes, they have staff that have expertise in areas that rightsholders can use. They - some of them - have huge marketing apparatus. So, if you're giving them ideas on how they can leverage this in their channels, they're leveraging your events in their channels, and that's valuable to you. You're introducing that event, that organization to a whole bunch of new people who may become fans. They may or may not actually run in it, but they will become fans, and that is leverageable for a sponsor, whether the race director cares about those remote fans or not - that's leverageable and valuable for a sponsor. So, they can bring a lot to the table that's beyond cash. Just one thing on cash is that sponsorship has always unallocated income. So, you don't have to spend that money on what they're sponsoring. Like, if you got a marquee event, you can raise tons of money around, but then you also have like a development league for runners - newer runners, kind of, development league sort of thing - that really doesn't have a lot of marketing value at the moment, you can reallocate some of that money to that. That's fine. What you do with the money is your business as long as you're delivering exactly what you've promised to sponsor.
Sure. Actually, a couple of examples that, again, came up-- when I was talking to Ben about what they do in some of their really huge trail Ultra races that they do, they had, for instance, one of their headline sponsors - I think it was La Sportiva or someone - come in and they did something like - imagine, in the middle of the mountain, you've run 50 kilometres already - sponsor a hot chocolate station, a massage chair, or something like that. Just doing that outside of what you might get out of it, on top of it, is good for the event experience, right? I mean, it just enhances your event. People leave your event feeling happier.
Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Hopefully with today’s lessons from Kim influencing your mindset on sponsorship, you’re going to be getting out there soon and pursuing the right types of sponsors for your event with the right kind of attitude.
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Ok, let’s get back to the episode…
Let's move on a little bit into some of the misconceptions and confusions around sponsorship of which I think there's a fair amount in our industry. One of them that I see almost every other day is people confusing sponsorship with donations, or grants and stuff like that. They go out and they think, "Oh, I'm going to go get a sponsorship for X because we're doing all this great stuff, we're a good organization, and they would like to support us kind of thing. So, I know you're very allergic to this. Why don't you lay out for people, the absolute heart difference between donations and sponsorship and how you might approach each and how very different they are?
A donation is only pertinent if you're a registered charitable organization - that's the first thing. So if you're not a registered charity, just throw that one out there. You can't even go down that track. That's just stupid. Even if you are a registered charitable organization-- let's say it's a fun run that benefits breast cancer research, for instance, a donation is money that is provided with no expectation of commercial return - none. If they get any commercial return, they have to call it a marketing expense. Going out there and asking for donations or saying something like, "If you provide us with this, it's tax-deductible because we're a charitable organization." It's like, "Man, it would be tax-deductible even if they were the bloody Super Bowl, because it's a marketing expense, and that is 100% tax-deductible just like philanthropy." So philanthropy is money that's provided with no expectation of commercial return. Because there is no expectation of commercial return, they tend to be smaller amounts of money - often, what we call in the industry "Go away money". Like, if you look for $50,000 of sponsorship and if you don't frame it up right, they'll say, "Well, we can provide you with $1,500 little donation on the side or something like that." So, that's philanthropy. You don't want philanthropy. I mean, look, if you're a charitable organization, don't knock it back, but if you're genuinely in the sponsorship market, don't act like you're looking for a handout. Then, a grant is when you request money from a company or an organization to underwrite specific costs. Oftentimes, your races would probably look for grants from, like, local councils or states or what have you that want to host your events. Basically at the end of the day, they're not leveraging it and they're not, like, trying to get a marketing return. They might be trying to get some kind of economic development type of thing about that, but you have to acquit every single dollar where it went and you don't want that out of sponsorship because, again, it's unallocated funds. So, sponsorship is going to get you a lot more money because you're creating some vision about what they can achieve. It gives you the opportunity to mix in-kind and cash sponsorship. And they're going to be leveraging across their marketing channels, which is good for your event. So, even if you are a charitable organization, frame it up as a marketing opportunity and, suddenly, you would access budgets that are so much bigger in a much more shrewd way.
Yeah, that's an interesting point. You're saying that there are also two different buckets - internally for organizations -that go to donations and marketing, and you're saying that marketing has, by far, the biggest budget. So, that's the pie you want to go after.
In most companies, if they do donations at all, they have some kind of a foundation set up, and those foundations - in most countries, not all countries - tend to be really underfunded. It's sort of where they flick charitable organizations for that "Go away money" because it's like, "No, we don't want to say 'No' to the children's hospitals so can you just flick a couple of thousands of dollars?" instead of treating it like a real opportunity
I think, in one of your posts, I remember reading that there are also definitely some taboo words you don't want to be using in sponsorship like a gift, assistance, support or stuff like that.
Support or help-- yeah, that kind of stuff. You absolutely don't want to use those things because it's not assisting you, it's not supporting you, it's not helping you. It's an investment, and it's a marketing investment - they got to get a return off this thing.
Exactly. Speaking of marketing, I think - that's also something you've addressed in your blog - another misconception that probably affects both sides of the table is this, sort of, like, equation of sponsorship and marketing like they're the same thing. People would go off from that to think of clicks, impressions, CPMs, and all kinds of stuff, right? But they're not exactly the same thing, are they?
No. When you talk about clicks, impressions, and all that kind of stuff, you're talking about comparing sponsorship more to an advertising kind of model. So, marketing is the whole thing. That's the whole thing, right? That's social, micro-targeting, above-the-line advertising, PR, internal marketing to your staff, and sponsorship - it's like all of that and all of those various channels - stuff you do in-store, and new product development launches. All of that is marketing, right? So, it is true to say that sponsorship is a marketing channel, it is a marketing tool, but is it the same thing? No. It is a specific subset of that. So, you don't want to talk about it like advertising and say, "This is how many impressions your logo is gonna get. Here's how many clicks we think you should be getting onto your landing page" or whatever. I mean, that stuff is just not all that useful in something that is driven by meaning and passion and adding value and all of that kind of stuff. So, you really need to take that and run with it because sponsorship is the only marketing media that is all about meaning and passion - it's about what people care about. I mean, advertising isn't about what people care about. Sure, we might watch Stranger Things, but we'd rather watch it straight through. We'd rather that there weren't ads on the things that we watch and read and listen to. So, we're not in love with that medium, but people are in love with events, charities, and sports - they love that stuff. So, the starting point, for rightsholders, for a race director, is that we can connect with people that care about this in a way that is authentic, relevant, and meaningful - here are all the cool meaningful things that are going to interest people and push their hot buttons and make them love you like they love running. So, stop making it about, like, advertising. Advertising is not as multifaceted and powerful, and it certainly is not leverageable like sponsorship is. So, you've got this sort of amazing melange of leverage ability, flexibility, meaning, and passion, and nothing else that they do in marketing does that. So, if you are selling marketing around that meaning, flexibility, and leveragability, that is music to a sponsor's ears. Even if you're going to a sponsor that maybe isn't as sophisticated as some sponsors, if you talk about that stuff, they're not going to say, "Nah, I just want to see where all my logo is gonna go", they're gonna say, "Wow, this makes a lot of sense. This is really, really smart, I can see how this is going to work for us."
Right. The quality of engagement you get from sponsorship is something really unique that you can offer and the quantity of engagement, to be honest-- I mean, you can go up against advertising. If you start pricing your sponsorship as if it's like an advertising platform, you're gonna come out with peanuts, right? I mean, you can't compete with Facebook or whatever if it's just about showing logos to people.
Just imagine you own a company and you'll look at a sponsorship, and you go, "Oh, look at all these places they're going to put my logo, and 500,000, people are going to see that logo. Let's find a street, where 500,000 people are going to drive past it in the space for two or three weeks. And let's just put up a billboard with just your logo on it. But would a brand ever do that? Like, would they ever, ever do that? No, they wouldn't. They wouldn't say, "Oh, well, if we're going to put up a billboard, we want to have it tell a story, or drive engagement, or have an offer, or something like that - not just a logo on something. So, don't equate logos with results because a sponsor isn't going to just put a billboard up with a logo anywhere for the equivalent number of eyeballs on it. It's just not going to happen. It's not an equivalency at all.
So, you're saying logos - which I tend to agree with - and even banner advertising and stuff like that-- it's pretty dumb, even for advertising, right? I mean, it's really the least common denominator in advertising. I mean, you really get very, very little out of it. Even advertising has moved beyond logos, banners, slogans, and stuff like that.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, just think about it. Think about all the various different logos that are at a big running event. I mean, how many of those are people even going to remember 10 minutes after they've walked away? Much less have changed perceptions and change behaviors and align with that brand or anything like that. Well, it takes actually sponsors leveraging and adding value to that experience for those things to happen.
We're still saying that, I guess, all of that stuff is a nice cherry on the cake, but it's not the cake, it's just the cherry on the cake. I mean, you throw it in there because it's something you do.
There's an expectation and that's fine. I'm not saying "Don't offer it", but don't overvalue it either. I'm gonna actually send a link to a blog that I've got that has the list of the most and least valuable benefits. That's one of those things that is the least valuable thing that you can offer. There's so much better stuff that you can offer, man.
Indeed, indeed. Let's move into a very interesting area of sponsorship, which is the sponsorship proposal. Of the many things we could discuss, I chose that because - I'm sure you do - I sense there are a lot of things going wrong there as well - people making mistakes in their sponsorship approach and process. Proposals, I think, is one place where many of them happen. I guess it all starts with rightsholders not fully understanding what a sponsorship proposal is supposed to achieve - basically, why they're putting it together and what they want to come away with when they submit a proposal. So what is that about?
Your sponsorship proposal should be reasonably concise. When I say reasonably concise, that's not to say that it's short, but it has to be really easy to digest and make real sense as it moves from one piece to another and builds a business case. So, a sponsorship proposal needs to establish who you are and why you're credible. As soon as you've established who you are, why you're credible, who your target markets are, and all of that kind of stuff, then you need to stop talking about yourself and start putting everything into the context of why this works for the sponsor. Why does it work for the sponsor? The whole thing with a proposal is that it should follow a story arc. If you follow any kind of Hollywood stuff, you know that they talk about movies having a story arc. Sponsorship proposals follow a story arc that's very, very similar to a blockbuster movie. You sort of build it up and introduce the characters, create some context, create more care about it, and then there's the big gigantic climax that everybody talks about, and that climax, in your proposal, are the leverage ideas - the ones that are creating the vision and, then, it kind of gets to the wrap-up - and the benefits and the price where everybody goes walking into the sunset holding hands kind of thing. So, the thing is that you want to put together something that gives them exactly the right information that they need to make a decision. The key is that the primary audience for your sponsorship proposal is not your contact - it's for that contact to sell it internally. That's the primary job. So, you can think, "Well, why do I need to do a properly written proposal? Why can't I just do a deck, like, stand in front of it, answer any questions, and all that kind of stuff?" It's like, "What is that person that you're pitching to going to do when they're trying to sell it internally?" because, to do sponsorship well, it requires various different people in the organization to take it on board, buy-in, and leverage it. So, sales is doing something in stores, for instance. The social team is doing some other stuff. Then, the microtargeting team is doing some completely other stuff. Then, there might be something for staff - and that's HR. So, they need to get a whole bunch of different areas to sign on in order to make sure that it's thoroughly and really cost-effectively leveraged. So, you need to create a proposal that does that job. So, if you think, for a second, that your best proposal is something that's really, really pretty, and it's in a PowerPoint format, don't do it. Go ahead and do a PowerPoint if you're gonna do a stand-up presentation, but what you need to leave with them is going to be something that's probably a little less pretty, with a lot more information in a very, very specific format, so they can sell it internally. By the way, I've got a YouTube video called "Sponsorship proposal basics" that's about 15 minutes, and I'll give you a link to that. So, it actually just shows how one is constructed and why the pieces are where they are. And, if you need a template, you can find one in my book, "The Sponsorship Seekers Toolkit, Fourth Edition."
Awesome. That is an awesome video. I've seen it. That's a great starting point, actually, for people. We spoke earlier a little bit about doing some research to figure out how you're going to be speaking the sponsors' language in there. You mentioned, looking up their social media, going on their website, even looking at their ads, and just basically understanding what they're trying to achieve. In terms of figuring out what it is of the many assets that events have that you should actually offer up or include in your proposal, how do you actually identify those valuable assets that match the sponsor's objectives? What should you put in there? Do you just throw the kitchen sink?
No, you don't. You should have a list that includes the kitchen sink. I actually have a template - again, I'll send a link - called the "Generic Inventory". It's the only one of all the tools in "The Sponsorship Seeker's Toolkit, Fourth Edition" that I actually make available for free. You don't even have to sign up for anything. It's about eight pages long, and it's generic, so it's not for race directors. It is a huge categorized list of all the things that you could potentially sell around a sponsorship, and it's in Word format. So basically, you can go through that and think, "Okay, maybe I can't do this thing that has to do with television because we're not televised, but we could do this other thing through our stream." So, you're kicking stuff out, you're fixing stuff up, and you're fine-tuning things to make it about your event. So, this is your inventory. The information that you have about your target market, sponsors' target market, their needs, those things create those leverage ideas like "This is what you could do with it. That's what you could do with it." Then, what you do with the benefits is, you'd go okay, "For those leverage ideas, what benefits would they need to make those leverage ideas happen?" So you start with the ideas and then you decide what are the right benefits. And you can add those, kind of, generic high benefits like, "You're gonna get your logos on some stuff, and you're gonna get some guaranteed mentions, and 10 of your staff can get free entry" or whatever - all that sort of basic stuff. You can put that in there, but if you start from the ideas, they're probably going to require some really interesting, more creative benefits that will come off of this Generic Inventory. So, that's really important.
For events we've put on in the past, I have been through the Generic Inventory list. As you say, it's generic, so not everything will apply, but I think it's such a constructive starting point because there are things there - which as you say, perhaps, if you sort of tried to draw some parallels, even, there are even things that are straight directly there - that are 100% applicable, that people wouldn't think about. I never thought about some stuff. So, the fact that, in your race, you may give the sponsor some corporate free entries or whatever - that never crossed my mind. We're talking really table stakes here. I mean, just going through that inventory list, my advice to people would be, "It's a fantastic starting point and it's going to, basically, stimulate all kinds of ideas around what you could be doing with that stuff."
Because you can add a whole bunch of stuff. It's like an idea jumping off point in addition to being just a list. Like, you can look at that and go, "Well, we can't do any of that stuff, but boy, how can we do this other stuff that this is making me think of?" There's another trick to it as well, which I call the "Million Dollar Rule." So as you're going through it, my advice is you go through it twice in a half an hour. That just stops you from overthinking it because this is just an inventory. You're not committing to offering any of this stuff. For the right price point and the right sponsor, consider it. So when you're going through it, hit stuff, and think, "I don't know. Would we do this? It would mean we'd have to pay somebody to do that. I don't know if my, sort of, fans would love it if I sell naming rights or whatever like that." So, rather than overthinking it at the moment when you're creating your list - which, again, are just options, you may never sell some of that stuff - do the Million Dollar Rule. If the perfect sponsor rocked up with a million dollars a year, would I at least consider providing them with that benefit? If the answer is yes, leave it on the list. That is not to say that you would sell that cheap, or to the wrong sponsor, or offer it to everybody. If the perfect sponsor rocked up with the right amount of money, you would see if it's feasible, you might consider doing it - you may consider selling naming rights - if somebody waves the million-dollar check in your face.
Lots of people would. Trust me.
And this is what I'm saying. The Million Dollar rule helps you to stop overthinking it and just to continue to look at that inventory as options. They're just options.
And it's wrong as a process. I agree. I mean, basically, you want to start off at the base level with a completely unfiltered, passive cold inventory list - basically, the kitchen sink - and then, from there, you choose what to pick, how to sell it, or whatever. But you want to at least know what you've got across everything - right?
That's it. But what I have seen, I have to say, is some people go through the inventory and they go, "Holy crap, I've got lots I can sell" and they focus on selling this broader amount of benefits when what they really need to do is focus on selling the vision and the benefits out of the back of that. Vision tells you what benefits you need to offer as opposed to saying, "Look at all these sparkly, beautiful lights - things that I can offer now - and just having a longer list of benefits at the end of your proposal." That's not going to actually help you.
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode…
Another area where we already touched on a little bit on what a missed opportunity represents is leverageable audience - total audience, right? For races, I often see this thing that people don't even get going when thinking of looking for sponsorship because they think, "Oh, I'm a local race. I have, like, 300 participants or something. No one would bother for 300 people" and completely missing the point you were saying earlier around the fact that it's not just the 300 people.
Yeah. A lot of sponsorship is bought and sold based on the overlap. So, if you think about a Venn diagram where a race's audience is on one side and the sponsor's audience is on the other side, usually - not always - the sponsor has a much bigger audience. So, there's, like, a little overlap there. The race director would turn around to a sponsor and go, "Look, 30% of my audience is part of your audience. Whoa, isn't that great?" That is actually underselling yourself to an extreme degree. It's not just about who rocks up. It's about "Who cares about the event? Who cares about stuff happening in their community? Who cares about running?" I mean, I don't know if you got race directors that do triathlons and stuff like that as well - "Who was interested in those larger themes of dedication, doing the miles, putting in the work, running?" and all of that, because that ends up being a lot of people running and racing and fitness and all that. Those are some very, very powerful themes that sponsors can leverage outside of a particular event. So, let's just say that you've got a race that is famous for being the steepest running race in Europe. Let's say it's 5K and it's all uphill or something like that. Now, you might only have 500 elite runners and stupid people that sign up for this. So, there are elite runners that can do it and the stupid people that just want to see if they can do it. Yeah, I think I would give that one a wide berth, but that's a really interesting story that a lot of people that wouldn't run it wouldn't consider running it, might be interested in hearing from a sponsor, like, "How would you train for something like this? At kilometer one, what is it like on the human body to do this? And what happens around kilometer two? And how bad are they hurting by kilometer?" So, there are angles and hooks that sponsors can leverage to a huge audience that are not necessarily just the people you've got on-site, or the people that are subscribed to your newsletter or whatever.
Yeah, just a closer example to your stupid 5K vertical climb example is--
Straight up 5K.
There is a race in the US called the Barkley marathons run by a guy called Lazarus Lake - not his real name. He would never take sponsorship, but that's a perfect example of what you're saying about the disconnect between the audience on race day who run it - which, by the way, is six people, I think - and no one finishes, and the huge amount of people who follow that. There have been documentaries about Barkley marathons because of all the crazy folks out there and I say this in the most endearing way.
Oh, yeah. I wasn't putting people down.
I know, of course. But there are tons of people in the Ultra running scene who look up to this event with awe. Again, Lazarus would probably never accept sponsors in his events. But if he did, that would be a great demonstration of going to sponsors not for the people that run it, but for a much broader audience. To your other point about communities, which is also very important, there's a reason why banks or lawyers sponsor races. It's not just to get the legal business from, like, a handful of people who run them. It's for the way they will be perceived in the community and all the stuff they can do around that.
It also could potentially be stuff for their staff. I'm from Minnesota originally and the Twin Cities Marathon-- I'm actually closer to the Grandma's marathon up on the north shore of Lake Superior, which is a beautiful marathon. It's so beautiful. I come from a very beautiful place. The Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, St. Paul, is quite famous because, as part of the sponsor packages, each sponsor gets a water station and their staff spends months and months building this whole set. They've got hundreds of staff that are building castles. You've got knights in shining armor and damsels handing the water out. Then, the next one down is like Sesame Street. This ends up being this huge staff bonding and company culture kind of thing that happens. So, there's a whole bunch of things and angles that could be taken on board.
I wanted to wrap up with another area. These are handpicked for problems. So, these are my handpicked problem areas where I wanted your expertise. The last one is the relationship with sponsors which, again, I feel people sometimes mishandle. So, the first question I had for you was, you hear this thing about customers like "The customer is always right. Customer is always right." In your dealing with sponsors, is it fair to say that a sponsor is always right as well?
Look. You want to be responsive to sponsors. You want to have a budget - which I'll talk about in a second - when being responsive to sponsors, but if you're just a pushover and the sponsors are saying, "I want you to change your event this way that suits me. It doesn't suit the runners, but it suits me" and then you do it, that's just ridiculous -sponsors need to wind their heads in, but some of them try it on - they do. Again, what we want to do is we want to position these race directors or whoever it is that's doing their commercial stuff as peers. If they are peers, then they work together with a sponsor. So one of the tools that I suggest is that every time you get some money in from a sponsor-- I'm just going to grab a number out of a hat. Let's say you get $20,000 out of a sponsor. You want to hive off 10% of that, so it's $2,000. That is for delivering the sponsorship and it's not for your race. That $2,000 is for adding value to the relationship. So, it's giving them bonus benefits and all of that kind of stuff. Now, you work that into your pricing. So, it's not just money off the bottom, it's actually worked into the pricing. I'm going to give a link to a blog called "Sponsorship Pricing Basics" which sort of talks about this. Now, if you're telling sponsors, "We have an organizational approach where we budget and spend a minimum of 10% of the full total value of your sponsorship to add value to the sponsorship", sponsors will be very impressed with that. Then, if they are asking for something extra like, "Oh, can we get a double-sized marquee?" or "Could we do more entries to the race for our staff" or whatever, you can be responsive and say, "Sure, we have some budget to give you additional benefits and we're very happy to do that. This fits within that budget." If they start to push the budget, you might say, "At this point, we're right at the edge of the budget that we've already discussed. We've already spent $1,900 and we have a budget of $2,000. So, at this point, do we need to discuss whether you actually need a bigger sponsorship to accommodate your needs? Or are we okay where we're at and just not do this extra thing because we've already done so much for you already?" I mean, that makes you look realistic, professional, and responsive, but not a pushover. And most sponsors aren't dickheads, but some are and sometimes you just need to, sort of, say, "Yeah, we're at the end of that." and that's helpful. Now, when you do add that value, it could be extra bonus benefits that the sponsor doesn't ask for. You can just say, "How about if we do this for you?" And the sponsor is like, "Yeah, baby" and they love that. Or you can provide benefits that the sponsor asked for - additional favors, extensions of things. You could do sponsor education - I presented lots and lots and lots of, like, sponsor workshops on how to leverage and measure your own sponsorship and that kind of stuff, which you can spend some of that money on because that's very high value for sponsors - or sponsor networking events that are, like, not right next to the race, but in the middle of the year kind of thing. So, there are lots of things that you can do with that money, that nurture your relationship. Starting from the position of "The sponsors are always right. We just have to do whatever they ask because they're giving us the money" is really making a rod for your own back.
Right. And you're saying their event you would actually prepare to over-deliver. You would want to go into a sponsorship and, basically, surprise a sponsor on the upside with more stuff.
Yeah. I mean, when you've got this gigantic inventory, you've got lots of options of things that will be valuable to them, that will help them with their objectives, that you can just give little bonus here and there. Would you bonus them something that costs you a ton of money? Probably not. But there are heaps of valuable benefits that don't. So, when you're doing a proposal, when you're in that final negotiation, just keep a couple of benefits in your pocket that you're going to give them during the course of the sponsorship.
The great thing about that is that putting it in there at the beginning-- just the psychology of, like, getting surprised with stuff you didn't expect is just a lot more impactful than just putting it out there up front.
When you have sponsors pushing you, you can be sure you've solved one problem, which is that you have an engaged sponsor. They want to work with you. If anything, maybe they're pushing you too hard, but they want to work you. What if you have the other problem which is, sometimes, sponsors sign off on something - they even pay you the money - but then they very poorly activate their own sponsorships and they're just not involved. Is that an issue you think you should be fixing, sort of, for the long-term benefit of the relationship? Or are you just going to say, "Whatever. I made something available to you. You're under-exploiting it. Whatever. It's your issue."
Well, okay. There are a couple of things with this. You can try to get them to engage, and there are a few kinds of strategies for doing that. One of them, which I already alluded to, is to do some sponsor education. That gets all your sponsors and their marketing teams in one room. Then, you have somebody - that is not you - deliver, like, "Hey, this is how sponsorship works. Here's how you can leverage it. Let's go through a brainstorm. All of you, teams, do your brainstorms around how your own brands can leverage this and how to measure it", and then, I walk them through that when I do it. So, in those rooms, there are these really really mixed groups of very engaged, really sophisticated sponsors, and less sophisticated sponsors. If you have somebody - again, that's not you - kind of, kicking their ass to be creative, then-- if it's me, like, I can kick their ass, I can get the creativity going, and then I get to walk out the door, and you don't end up looking like the bad guy that said "They are bad sponsors" because I can, sort of, nicely say that without you having to say that. So, there's that. Or you can distribute, like, links to blogs and links to white papers. I'm gonna give you some links to two white papers that I've written. One is Last Generation Sponsorship Redux, which is a must-read for your race directors because it basically says, "This is what a sponsor is trying to do. The absolute basis of best practice sponsorship is that it needs to be 'win-win-win', with the third win going to the sponsor's target markets - your fans, their customers, their staff, et cetera - and how that all works." I'm going to also send a link to a newer one that's much edgier and aimed at sponsors called "Disruptive Sponsorship". You can actually say, "As a race director, we're trying to up our game and sponsorship, and we found some really good, interesting sort of resources for sponsors. No pressure, but if you feel like reading this, here's a link or what have you." So, you can link to case studies that you might find through social media - you can link to those kinds of things and share them out. So, it's a bit of soft education to get their juices going. Another good thing to do is-- let's just say that you do a sponsored networking event - some cocktails or breakfast or something like that - sometime in the middle of the year, and you get your best sponsors, your most creative and most engaged sponsors to do 10-minute case studies. Everybody else in the room is going to be going, "Ooh. If they can do that, we can do something similar to that." because, sometimes, they'll take the advice from an outsider like me. Sometimes, they'll take it from another sponsor who they consider a peer more than they're going to take it from you, unfortunately. So, those are just some tricks to getting them, sort of, up and going. The thing is, if a sponsor is really intractably not engaged and they might also be underpaying you - because they don't see the value in doing something with it, so they're underpaying you at the same time - it might actually be worthwhile to fire them because they're taking up the space from another better sponsor. Like, if there's a bank that's giving you $5,000 of go-away money when you know that the right bank would be doing a ton of stuff with this and would give you 25 or 50 or 70 grand instead, just fire them. "Hey, I'm not renewing you because you're not engaged enough." You can try that whole, "We really need you to be more engaged and get more out of this. This year, we're gonna give you a bigger, better proposal." You can try all that, but if they just don't want it, and you see more opportunity there - sort of, like, the one on the hand and two in the bush - sometimes the one in the hand is just not worth hanging on to.
Yeah. I think that's a great example of the peer relationship there. They can fire you. Obviously, most race directors and event directors live with that threat and that risk, and they tried to over-satisfy sponsors, but I think you should feel comfortable and confident at some point in firing your sponsors if they're underperforming and they're not making the most of the great asset you're offering.
One of the magic words that rightsholders can use in this kind of situation is the phrase "Commercial Reality". In commercial reality, you can say, "In your category, we should be making more money and we should be working with a sponsor that is doing more for the fans and doing more with the sponsorship. So, we're going to not renew because we need to actually make this category perform." Now, when you use the word "Commercial Reality", that's basically code for "If you're in my position, you'd do the same damn thing." So yeah, that's a really good phrase to have in your pocket.
Yeah. To be honest, having been on the end offering sponsorship to unresponsive parties sometimes or to people who are frustratingly disengaged just gets tiresome, I think, after a while - right? I mean, you just want to work with someone who appreciates what it is that they're being offered and make the most of it. You don't want to be just, like, chasing people or following up with tons of emails simply - they can actually make something of the thing that you offered up to them.
In good faith, try to educate them, try to inspire them with some case studies, try to send them ideas via blogs and white papers, and try to sit down and say, "Look, commercial reality is we need you to step up. If you don't step up, we can't renew you, but we'll work really closely with you to try to create something that works for everybody." Like, in good faith, do all of that. But if they're still not responsive, just be prepared to walk away.
The last thing on this relationship front, in terms of the frequency in which you would communicate with sponsors - I guess it's a pretty open-ended question - is there over-communicating, or perhaps under-communicating in a sponsorship relationship?
You sort of have to meet with them, have a chat with them, zoom with them, or whatever, fairly regularly. The key thing for me is reporting. You want to be giving them reports that are really, really timely, instead of one of those stupid fat reports that just have a bunch of photos, logos, and happy people running through the tape at the end and those kinds of stuff. That's not telling them anything about what they've accomplished. Instead, on a monthly or bimonthly basis, send them a very short email that says, "Here's where we're at in our planning. Here's what's going on. We've hit 70% of full-on registration, which is ahead of last year" or whatever. Then, you say, "Okay, this month or these last two months, these are the benefits that we've provided to you. These are the added value benefits that we've provided to you." So, make sure you're going, "Look, we did some free, cool extra stuff for you. Here are some dates and deadlines coming up. Here are some issues, challenges, and whatever that we need to discuss. Can we make a meeting to do that? Here are some payments that are coming due. Literally, this is a third of a page - it's really short - but it sort of gives them the right information at the right time all the way through, as opposed to only giving them one report at the end that, sort of, pretends to be some kind of measurement evaluation thing but it really isn't because, honestly, only a sponsor can measure their results. I mean, they own the objectives, they own the benchmarks, and they have the experts in measuring them. Like, how are you going to measure an uptick in sales across their dealership network? That's not something you can do. So instead, talk about reporting. In those reports, flag stuff you need to talk about. Honestly, if you need to talk about something urgently, just pick up the phone. You may not have meetings with them for three or four or five months because there's nothing major happening, but continue to sort of report. You may do that, like, every three months for six months, and then every month for six months because it'd be just because that might be the flow of work and things happening around your race.
Yeah. I definitely agree with the idea that, as part of communicating with them, you need to be stressing all the things you do for them. It's basically like what you get with all of these companies that tell you how you use their product and stuff. You need to remind them that you're doing stuff for them. It's really important.
So, I want to end up with one question - I wanted to ask you that in the sponsorship proposal section, but I think it's something I wanted to leave for last - I guess, that may evoke some strong emotions, which is sponsorship packages.
Wow. I wonder I wonder what is going to be? Am I gonna be pissed off? Am I gonna be happy?
No. I think it's sort of, like, a question that divides, and that's sponsorship packages - gold, silver bronze. I'm asking this because lots of race directors use this. They've expanded into precious jewels, emeralds, sapphires and stuff as well. What's your take on this? I guess, on the one hand, I can see the utility of bunching stuff up but, on the other hand, it feels a little bit tired.
Stupid? Okay, maybe you want to elaborate on that.
It happens to a lot of people. So, if this is something that you do as a race director, don't feel bad about it. Let's fix it, shall we? The whole gold, silver, bronze thing-- you, as a race director, may think that this is a good idea because all you have to do is just make these packages, whether it's the gold, silver, bronze, or platinum, or whatever. I mean, I've seen them. There are, like, 14 levels of various precious metals, gems, and all that kind of stuff. You may think that bundling these things up is going to be easy for the sponsors to just decide or self-pick what level is appropriate for them, right? But basically, what you're doing is that all of these various levels are just more and less of the same exact thing, right? They're not customized. They have nothing to do with what the sponsor actually needs - those same exact things or all those hygiene benefits. They're not the creative, cool benefits at all. Here is the thing, sponsors hate levels. They make you look inflexible. They make you look unsophisticated. They make you look lazy. Now, you may not be any of those things, but that's the way sponsors see that. I've got another blog that I'm going to provide as well about how sponsors evaluate sponsorship proposals. You think that, right at the beginning, when they're looking at a sponsorship proposal, they look at the back for the price. They're not looking at the back for the price. They're looking at the back for levels because if they know that there are levels there, you're not sophisticated, that you haven't done one bit of work to figure out what they need and to create something bespoke for them. They know you're going to be hard to work with. They know that you don't even understand your own value. So, levels - just freaking stop it, will ya? It's really, really counterproductive. So, think about creating fewer proposals that are worth way more, are much more comprehensive, and are much more customized for the sponsors. So, you'll create fewer proposals, but your strike rate in terms of getting "yes" is going to be way higher. You're actually damaging your credibility by doing levels.
So it's more of, like, taking a kind of sniper approach rather than throwing bullets around.
That's it. Yep.
Right. Okay. Would you not even put any structure around the benefits - basically, group them together in some way, create some kind of levels or something, just leave it all, kind of, open?
My recommendation-- this is something that I get into in great detail in the online training and such. My recommendation is that you shift from levels to bands. Now, that may sound like, "What's the difference? That sounds exactly the same!" Levels is basically a set package. Gold is this, silver is that, and bronze is that. Bands are usually around financial commitments. You can have principal, major, and supporting. Depending on the size of your event, supporting could be somebody that's spending $5,000 a year or less, and major could be from $5,000 to $30,000, and principal could be over $30,000. You might also say, "Well, if they're going to be a principal sponsor, we're only going to have three of them, and they have to sign up for at least three years because we don't want our biggest sponsors to be changing every year. And those numbers could be much higher or much lower - that's just kind of an indicative spread." So it's basically saying that if you want to call yourself a major sponsor that has value in and of itself, you can't call yourself a major sponsor unless you're spending at least this much. At that point, we're going to create a bespoke thing for you. So, all the major sponsors are not going to be paying the same amount, they're not going to be getting the same exact package, they're buying the designation along with the other benefits.
Right. I think you would see that in, like, the Football World Cup and stuff like that - that's the way they bunch people up.
Yeah. So, all of the principal ones and all of the major ones are not all getting the same thing as they're not all spending the same amount of money.
Well, Kim, I think I've run out of questions. It's been highly entertaining and highly educational. I want to thank you again very much for taking the time. I know you're very busy with stuff. Please tell our audience where they can find more about you, some of the services you offer, and how they can get some of that power sponsorship magic.
I'm going to do a PDF that people can download. Does that work for you if I send you a PDF, links and things? My website is powersponsorship.com. My company, kind of, got named by accident - it wasn't my first choice. Powersponsorship.com - that's where you'll find all the blogs, white papers, videos, and all that stuff. They're all there. By all means, head over there. I'm going to send a PDF with a bunch of live links to particular blogs and things that support the kind of stuff that I was talking about. In addition, I'm really happy to offer a 30% discount to anybody that listens to this. So I'll give the discount code and that 30% discount is for my comprehensive online course for rights holders. So, it's not specific to races but, like the rest of the advice that I've been giving here, it's absolutely 100% applicable. Once this podcast drops, you'll have about two or two and a half weeks, in order to use that discount. So, that'll save you a fair amount of money. There's a bunch of inclusions and stuff on that as well. So, I'll provide all the links and all that kind of stuff.
Awesome. Kim, we really appreciate that. I would say that people should seriously consider going through that course because, obviously, the stuff that we can see on the public side - which is the blog posts and stuff - has tons of value in that. I can't imagine how many more tips there might be in the actual course. I think it's a great starter for people if they want to just go ahead and take a look at that.
The plus with the course is that it's step-by-step. At each step, there are things that you - as a race director or commercial director, or whatever - can do. It's like, "Here is how you figure out what your brand architecture is. Here is how you define your target market segments because sponsors need to know that stuff. Then, here's how you create a hit list. Now, you do it. Here's how you do this. Now you do it." So, it actually shows how these things happen - sort of, like, a fake brainstorm - and then gives you homework to do it for yourself all the way through. So you can read every single one of my blogs and get a lot of information, but it isn't a cohesive step-by-step process.
Right. I think if you find yourself listening to this and you picked up on this podcast because you're a little bit frustrated with sponsorship and stuff and you want to like a fresh start, I think that will be a great fresh start for you to just reset a few things, rethink a few things. Hopefully, this podcast helped you rethink a few things. Kim, I want to thank you very, very much for coming on.
Cheers. Thanks, Panos. It's been a pleasure. It's been heaps fun.
And I want to thank everyone for listening in and we'll see you all on our next podcast!
I hope you enjoyed today’s sponsorship episode with Power Sponsorship’s Kim Skildum-Reid.
If you’d like to take today’s learning further, you can sign up for Kim’s best-selling “Getting to Yes” online sponsorship course and save a cool 30% by using the discount code in the show notes. And do note that that code expires on August 10.
Many thanks again to our awesome podcast sponsors RunSignup and Racecheck for sponsoring today’s episode. And if you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite player, and check out our podcast back-catalog for more great content like this.
Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.