Sponsorship is NOT Transactional
People buy from people they like and trust. Sure, you might buy a product from someone you don’t like, but there would be reasons for it, such as it was a necessity, there was no alternative at the time, or it was the least expensive. But that is what I call a transactional purchase. Sponsorship is not a series of transactional purchases-at least not successful sponsorships. Sure, there may be a sponsorship buy that is done through an advertising agency that looks at it as a media buy or promotional activation, but normally those sponsorships do not renew. They don’t get what they want.
To me, real sponsorship is about relationships-developing trust and belief that your partner (be it the brand or the property) is working in your best interests. They are committed to making the partnership work so that both sides win. I don’t see this enough. Too often, I hear properties talk about what they need and how important it is that they close this deal so they can enhance this or that project. Too often, I hear properties talk about how “this sponsorship is so small for that big brand, they won’t even notice the investment” or about how the sponsor doesn’t want to conform to what the property wants to sell them. Far too often, it is about the property not really caring or knowing about the brand. And the property cannot figure out why it doesn’t do well in sponsorship.
I also see it from the sponsor’s side. I see where the sponsor spends big dollars and thinks it “owns” the event from an operational perspective. It thinks it can tell an artistic director how the play should look or what films to screen (or not screen) at a film festival. Often the brand wants to run an activation program that doesn’t suit the audience for the property it invested in, but insists “because it worked at this other event.” When the property says it won’t work, that information should be heeded. Sometimes I hear sponsors who are very small investors asking for the world. Yes, sponsors sometimes are at fault in this disengagement.
The truly successful long-term sponsorships that I have seen in my decades of experience are the ones where there is a relationship-trust, mutual understanding and concern for each other’s well-being. It is important to cultivate, develop, educate and learn about your partners…even before they become your partners. Perhaps this is why we have our clients conduct discovery sessions before they build proposals. Sometimes we send them back to learn more about the brand they are pitching or the property they are considering investing in. Sometimes there are four, six or even 10 meetings before the trust and relationship is there. But now they have a foundation upon which to build a lasting and prosperous partnership. Perhaps this is why real true and significant sponsorships take 18-22 months to close in Canada.
These are just one person's thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well, so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or add your comments below.
Brent Barootes is President of Calgary-based, Partnership Group. The Partnership Group is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta Canada and provides innovative sponsorship programs for corporations and sponsor properties in the areas of not-for-profits, sports organizations, and government agencies and government operations, charities, events, member associations, tournaments and conferences.