Mar 05, 2012 at 03:35 PM
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Confessions (and Learnings) of a First-Time Sponsorship Seeker

This is the fourth installment of a weekly Monday series called Confessions (and Learnings) of a First Time Sponsorship Seeker. Before reading other articles in the series, we'd suggest going back and reading Part I, Part II, and Part III in the series.

One of the key steps to securing sponsorship is doing your homework. You must get to know your potential sponsors and determine if you’re compatible with their target audience(s) and marketing objectives.

One of the worst things you can do is send an unsolicited, untargeted, irrelevant proposal to a potential sponsor. You'll get absolutely nowhere and will waste your time and their’s.

Time spent doing your research now will pay you back 10 fold in the long run.

Before you begin the process of finding that perfect sponsor, I assume that you have a good understanding of your target audience – those people who are interested in what you do. Be it visitors to an event, members / fans of a sporting association or specific audience demographic etc.

The process:

Step 1 - Create a wish list of sponsors

Step 2 - Research each of the sponsors

Step 3 - Record the details in the Sponsor Research Template

Step 4 - Reality check using the Sponsor Compatibility compatible are you really?

Step 5 - Pick up the phone and contact your hot list of sponsors

Step1 - Create a wish list of sponsors

Consider the following:

- What products and services does you target audience use?

- What business / social connections do you have to a sponsor?

- Who sponsors events, teams or organisations similar to yourself?

- Who are their competitors?

- What products and services would you recommend to someone else? This gives you an idea of where your brand loyalty lies

The easiest way to work this out...

- Really get to know and understand your target audience

- Take a good look at your peers / competitors. Who's been successful with their sponsorship programs?

- Review the peak sources of information in your area. Websites, forums, social media, journals, magazines, TV etc.

- Keep writing down names of companies until you've got a nice healthy list – say 25 to 50 to start with. You can always add more as new ideas come to mind.

Step 2 - Research each of the sponsors

Once we have a list of sponsors it's time do to some detailed research. The idea is to get a good understanding of what makes the company tick and realistically assess the potential sponsorship opportunities.

How do you research a potential sponsor? Here are some ideas:

Company website – Go thorough this is great detail. Get know the company and what makes them tick.

Brand websites – Often a company will have multiple brands so make sure you research these in detail as well. Each brand may be supported by separate marketing and sponsorship staff.

LinkedIn profile – Most large companies and their staff have LinkedIn profiles. This can be a great way of discovering who you need to speak to and it also opens up networking opportunities. If you have a LinkedIn profile yourself you may find a colleague, client, supplier or friend who is connected to one of your target sponsors. Warm lead anyone?

Social media – For business to consumer brands consider Facebook and Twitter. Use Twitter hash tags to see what other people are saying about the company / brand.

Google search – Make use of Google search to look for references to a company / brand using the example keywords below. Limit your search to your geographical area and use the advanced search options to limit the results to the last 12 months or so.

Google alerts – A great way to keep up-to-date with the latest news on a potential sponsor is to create a Google Alert. These are automatic emails sent to you when Google finds relevant information about a potential sponsor. For more details please see Google Alerts.

So we've found a list of sponsors and researched each of them to get a better understanding of what they do and the potential sponsorship opportunities.

Step 3 - Record the details in the Sponsor Research Template

To keep track of all the research information about a potential sponsor I've created a Sponsor Research Template for you (Word doc).


The template includes the following fields:

Company name


Compatibility score – discussed below

Primary and secondary contact information

Website and social media links

A list of brands, products and services

The sponsor's marketing objectives

Target audience details

Current sponsorship arrangements – a list of existing sponsorships

Operational areas and geography

General notes

Communications log – used to track the who, what, when and how of your interactions with the sponsor

Step 4 - Reality check using the Sponsor Compatibility compatible are you really?

To recap... We've got a list of potential sponsors together, performed the initial research and documented our findings in the Sponsor Research Template.

At this point it should be pretty clear which opportunities are not worth pursuing. This could include a non-compatible target audience, a policy of not supporting your type of property, saturation of the market or financial business pressures etc.

Of the remaining opportunities, the next step is to work out how compatible you are with a potential sponsor. To do this I've created a Sponsor Compatibility Matrix; a simple Excel spreadsheet to calculate a compatibility score.

The Sponsor Compatibility Matrix includes 8 attributes you rate from 1 to 10; the higher the score the better the compatibility.

8 Compatibility Attributes

Relationship – Do you have an existing relationship or connection with the sponsor?

Objectives – Do you fit with the marketing objectives of the sponsor?

Audience – How closely do you share a common target audience? Competition – Does their competition use sponsorship in your area as a marketing tool?

Attributes - How closely do the attributes of what you have to offer match or compliment that of the sponsor? E.g sophisticated, smart, loud, family orientated, original.

Geography – Does the sponsor operate in the same geography as you and have marketing objectives targeting the same level? E.g. National, state, region, city, district, suburb.

Comfort – How comfortable are they using sponsorship as a marketing tool? Do they have a strong sponsorship history?

Size – How big is the sponsor compared to the value you can provide? The bigger the gap the less compatibility. For example, Sony is unlikely to sponsor the local junior soccer team.

The idea is to get a "feel" for how compatible you may be with a sponsor. Your research will help you determine what numbers feel right – it's more art than science at this point.

With the compatibility matrix completed you rank the sponsors in order of compatibility; the higher the score the better.

Step 5 - Pick up the phone and contact your hot list of sponsors

What are you waiting for? It's time to get cracking and find that perfect sponsor.

Using your hot list of sponsors from the compatibility matrix, pick up the phone and start making calls right now – don't think about it, just start calling. You've done the research, you understand the sponsor so you'll have no problem speaking their language.

Good luck. And remember, a sponsor will be lucky to have you as part of their marketing mix with all the benefits and opportunities you'll provide.

Finally, don't forget to let me know how your get on in comments. I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Kym Oberauer is the author and head sponsorship seeker at Practical Sponsorship Ideas; dedicated to sharing experiences, tools and resources to help you find, attract and keep your sponsors happy.