Apr 27, 2011 at 01:04 AM
written by Michael Munson

Software for Sponsorship

My greatest takeaway from the epic book “The One to One Future” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers was this: since software is only as good as its ability to meet the customer’s need, at the end of the day, the customer is ultimately the software. Makes a lot of sense. I mean when we build software we don’t just build things. We put some thought into it in an effort to provide what a customer will want. We either make a guess, or we gather what the requirements are. Yes, the software is a bunch of ones and zeroes programmed to do certain things, but if these ones and zeroes are just manifestations of what it takes to satisfy a customer, at the end of the day, the customer IS the software.

Yesterday, I was talking to Marty Teller of the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. He said some quite remarkable things during our conversation. The most amazing was that a major brand marketer told him that even if a sponsorship with the Trenton Thunder generated a 10% greater ROI on the sponsorship spend then other (media heavy) properties, that wouldn’t be enough to justify sponsoring minor league baseball. Excuse me? All we hear is brand marketers drone on and on about the importance of ROI, but when offered an opportunity to increase it, they are going to balk? Sadly, this mentality isn’t isolated.

Why is this the case? In my view, it boils down to the fact the Trenton Thunder provide a more emotional and experiential appeal for fans than the Yankees do. The Thunder touch the end consumer in a more personal, “one to one” way, and the Yankees sell media to reach the masses. I’m not saying the Yankees need to change what they do. Being in the most lucrative media market and being a brand with national and international appeal provides the Yankees an opportunity to take advantage of media heavy sponsorships. I am saying properties like the Trenton Thunder, that lack big media exposure, have developed different value propositions that can, with the proper programming, actually be more valuable on a dollar per dollar basis than the big leagues.

As some of you are probably well aware, I have no compunction about taking brand marketers to task for failing to actualize what sponsorship marketing can do for their employers. However, the fact is it is a two way street. Those who are selling sponsorship better be selling it in a way that allows for strong cases to be made for why marketers should invest the money. If all you do as a smaller property is sell exposure, well, traditional media heavy properties are going to offer more value, and you deserve to be passed over.

As a sponsorship property, you are a sales broker for businesses that want to leverage the assets you have to create incentives for your audience to purchase from them. You aren’t a messaging platform. Sure, you have channels to get a message out to an audience, but that isn’t what your value in the market is. You are uniquely positioned, with the ability to not only offer sponsors the right to leverage off the passion your audience has for what you do, but if you are savvy, you have the ability to actually increase margins for your sponsors, when every other marketing platform out there’s only answer is to continue discounting your prices to make sales. I’m talking to you, Groupon.

Here’s how most properties sell. They take a survey of their audience to find out its demographics. Maybe they even hire a third party to help. Then they dream up all these assets they can put together to sell sponsors to reach this audience and offer these assets to a would-be sponsor. Where in this equation has software been built? How do you know what is going to resonate with your audience, or what appeals to which members of it?

If the sponsorship only works (delivers value to the sponsor) when the audience the brand is trying to influence actually purchases from the sponsor, isn’t the audience the real customer? Wouldn’t it be more effective for the property to find out what kind of experiences, access, and recognition its audience wants, on a one to one basis, and position itself as a broker that exchanges assets with value to certain audience members for purchases from sponsors? I want a cool in-game experience. My friend wants to go behind the scenes. My sister wants to be recognized. My mom wants to win a prize. We all want different things.

The end customer is your audience, your fans, and your supporters. They fund the sponsorship revenue your property generates, not the brands that do the sponsoring. Knowing what your customers want, on a one to one basis, is the best software you have available to you to sell sponsorship.

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The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the publisher, SponsorPitch, LLC.