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Volume 21 No. 2
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Plugged In: Tom Haidinger, president, Advantage International

You see it every week in sports: Companies buy a sponsorship, and then they retain an agency to help them activate it. As John Wooden used to say, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Tom Haidinger, president of the reborn Advantage International of Darien, Conn., has strong opinions on property selection.


There should be a lot more education than selling, but often that is not the case.

About that “property first, strategy second” mindset:
Companies and brands are being sold to constantly. When a good salesman is selling, and good properties have excellent salespeople, most things look very good. But when the buying is done without a strategy and before criteria for property selection is established, it is backward; it’s the tail wagging the dog. A client without a strategy, without a defined selection and acquisition process, is lost. They don’t know how to say yes and, more importantly, they don’t know how to say no. When you have one, saying no and saying yes to the right property becomes easy.

What’s needed before a first sales meeting with a property?: A properly constructed sponsorship strategy will speak to the core mission of the business and it will connect both to marketing metrics and business goals. If well established, that will reveal criteria through which the right properties will reveal themselves clearly; there’s really no need to listen to all the selling going on out there until you understand what could offer a solution.

What next?: Armed first with an activation plan, you can have a negotiation that pulls out everything valuable to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t modify a partnership once it’s under way. However, you should never walk into a relationship with a property that’s generic and make up your activation later. You’ll have inefficiencies built in.

How best to prepare for selecting a sponsorship: You should just never do a property deal until an activation plan is devised. The activation plan will inform what the property deal should look like. The deals need to be category- or even client-specific, not property-specific. An activation plan has all the parts that will hook the brand into consumers’ passion points. The less sexy parts are about goals and how to measure progress toward those goals. Once you establish those, you can see your way through the property acquisition piece with some sanity.