Apr 23, 2011 at 03:54 PM
written by Gail Bower

Six Sponsorship Takeaways From Morgan Spurlock's Greatest Move Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock's new film, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, is out today, and I urge you to check it out. It's hilarious and lots of fun to watch (see my full review). And there are so many lessons to be learned about sponsorship, if you're new to the medium, as either a buyer or seller, or need a refresher.

Here are a handful of observations I had, culled from the 30 or so I just shared in a teleseminar:

For Brands/Buyers:

1. Are you taking risks in your sponsorship decisions? Or are you doing the same old same old? Marketing is about getting noticed, getting attention, and changing behaviors or perceptions. If you sponsor the same thing all the time, people eventually tune out. Shake things up every now and then. Be open to new ideas. If your operation has impediments to ideas – an online application form, a voice mail morass, or heavy hierarchy, for example – you may want to peel back the layers and let some fresh thinking in.

2. Don't look to your ad agency for your sponsorship ideas. The first time I bought sponsorship, I was at an ad agency. One of my colleagues asked why I made this recommendation for my client: "What does the agency get out of this? Are we getting a commission?" No, no commission, just a happy client because it was a great idea and fit, plus lots of other related PR, advertising, and marketing communications projects that the agency created to support the sponsorship. And did I mention success for the client? Eventually, in my own work selling sponsorship, I found that attitude pervasively at agencies. And worse, they didn't even understand the medium. Were there exceptions? Yes. But mostly from PR teams.

3. Invest in your investment to get results. In the film, you'll see the sponsors confab and pull together resources to collectively promote the film and each of their involvements in it. Often times, I see "sponsors" listed on an event or organization's materials with no activation, no promotional support, no added effort in support of the sponsorship. What a waste! That's like buying a TV spot and not giving the station the spot. Use your investment wisely. Put all your effort around it. Get results.

For Sellers/Properties:

1. Outsourcing sponsorship sales is absurd! If you think about nothing else while watching this film, ask yourself, "Would Morgan Spurlock have been successful if he'd outsourced sponsorship sales to a third party?" I suggest: NO WAY!! He's got the vision, the passion, the flexibility, the integrity, and the drive to sell for himself and more importantly cultivate his own relationships. That's what it's all about. Can someone else replicate your passion, vision and integrity? Do you want someone else in control of your sponsor relationships?

2. Do your homework and show up with ideas. Of course we don't know what wound up on the proverbial cutting room floor, but what we see is Morgan Spurlock in action with several great and specific ideas for his prospects. No Gold-Silver-Bronze packages. No generic. Instead, lots of effort, commitment, and specifics. Is every idea perfect? No, but it gets a discussion going, it provides a starting point, and gets the prospect excited. The rest, hopefully, is co-creation.

3. Get comfortable with rejection. According to Morgan Spurlock and a Q&A he did after the Philadelphia Cinefest screening I saw last Thursday, he called 600 brands to finally get 22 sponsors. If he feared rejection, he'd still be shriveled up in a corner somewhere. In the film, he actually seems to enjoy it. Or at least moments when the rejections were particularly dramatic. Example: watch for the spark in Spurlock's eye at 1 minute 13 seconds in the trailer (which you'll find embedded into the previous post). You don't need every corporation as your partner, just the right ones.

I could spend hours chatting up sponsorship best and worst practices in the film. I want to know what you saw. What did you learn from the film?


Gail Bower is President of Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, a firm that assists nonprofit organizations and event/festival producers with raising their visibility, revenue, and impact. Gail Bower is a professional consultant, writer, and speaker, with nearly 25 years of experience managing some of the country’s most important events, festivals, and sponsorships and implementing marketing programs for clients. She offers running commentary on sponsorship at sponsorshipstrategist.com, and allows us to republish here when the subject fits.

photo credit: Sony Pictures #opinionstag