SBJ/May 28 - June 3, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Keeping sponsors means pitching like you did the very first time

As companies examine their 2002 sports commitments, many sports properties that lost long-term title-sponsorship support are out knocking on doors against the backdrop of a flat economy, the dot.com bust and a corporate layoff wave that is scaring the socks off sponsorship decision-makers.

Selling sponsorships is tough under the best circumstances. But sports properties that cannot prove they have contributed in a meaningful sense to their sponsors' bottom lines have an especially difficult task.

Properties with long- and short-term sponsors should treat sponsors like they're hungry for the business: pitching the business every year as if they were closing the deal for the first time.

A property's best protection against losing a sponsor is to instill a culture of joint accountability and communication with the sponsors. A property must aggressively take credit for its contributions to the sponsors' bottom lines and do so regularly and tastefully using language and criteria the sponsor understands. Plus, as the executive merry-go-round spins and sponsor decision- makers come and go, it is in the property's best interests for a file of its success and accountability to be waiting for the next executive to move into the decision-maker's office.

At a minimum, a property should compile and report the following to key sponsors:

 Gate attendance, demographics and trends

  Local/regional/national/international news media print coverage and trends

  Television viewership, ratings and demographics where possible and a VHS copy of the telecast, plus clips of local affiliates' coverage of the event

  Radio coverage with a broadcast signal overlay on the sponsors' sales areas

  Complete list of associate sponsors/hospitality suite customers and trends

  Info on merchandising, product displays, sampling and signage with photographs

  On-site sampling and merchandising report

  Clip book of advertisements and property-generated promotional activities relating to the event

  Clip book of news releases and news clips tracking back to event public relations

  Public-address system announcement log with sponsor scripts

  Samples of coupons generated by all sponsors and the event itself

  A copy of the event program and poster

  Samples of tickets, especially if the tickets included the sponsors' marks

  Samples of media sponsor promotional tie-ins with comments on their effectiveness

  A personal letter of thanks to the sponsor signed jintly by the property's senior managers

  A snapshot from the executive director as to how the sponsorship affected key performance requirements stated in the contract. In other words, as much data as possible relating directly to the stated goals of the sponsor to be achieved through an association with the property (be it test drives, sampling, product trials, creation of sales contacts, trade extensions, sales measurement where possible, driving of retail-store foot traffic, hits through cross-linked Web sites, etc.)

  A summary of key deadlines leading into next year's event

  Under separate cover, a confidential letter from the executive director to the key sponsor check-signer, grading key components of the event for the year (such as goals met, marketing, PR, merchandising, execution, events, hospitality, etc.), including brief information about the status and standing of the contract, including overall information on the event's successes and failures, and any problems or ambushes that occurred, plus commentary on how well the two staffs meshed

A continual, strong business case must be made for the value the property delivers to the sponsor, and it is the property's responsibility to do so. All of the info above should be presented in a meeting that should take place no longer than three weeks after the event.

Properties that can prove a compelling history of value will be less likely to need new title sponsors.

Mel Poole (mp@sponsorlogic.com) is president of Sponsor Logic, a consulting management and events agency.

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