Jun 09, 2009 at 04:12 PM
written by Michael Munson

Taking a Step Back to Move Forward

When one person’s sponsorship is another person’s charity, there is bound to be miscommunication. When one person’s advertising is another person’s sponsorship, there is bound to be miscommunication. When one person’s cause marketing is another person’s charity, and another person’s sponsorship, there is bound to be miscommunication.

In order for a market to operate effectively, its participants must use the same language and understand it by common definitions. It also helps to have price transparency, or the ability to see what other people are paying for things. The more information a market has, the better it functions for all.

Think of rowing as a metaphor for a market. When a team rows in sync it goes ahead smoothly. When a team is out of rhythm it experiences hitches and isn’t as productive as the some of its parts. Moreover, a team of less talented individual but organized members will beat a team of individually more talented ones operating on their own.

Let’s call the organized team “advertising” and let’s call the unorganized team “sponsorship.” The advertising team sings off the same song sheet. It has standard definitions and agrees on common understanding of the words it uses. This enables it to have tools like the real estate Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to make available inventory public and price transparent, it has rating services that standardize a measurement methodology (no matter how dubious, it’s got something), and there are even databases that offer competitive research.

The sponsorship team is a bunch of individuals singing their own tune. It lacks standard definitions and agreement on common understanding of the words it uses. This keeps it from having an MLS-type database to make available inventory public and price transparent. It operates without a standard measurement methodology, and its answer to competitive research is buying a printed directory or a CD, that is likely outdated, and not in real time, or hiring someone to go figure it out.

There are some real fundamental things the sponsorship marketing industry needs to do in terms of information technology adoption. My last column demonstrated that despite some efforts to bring the method of facilitating relationships into the digital age, the industry still lacks a standard platform to do this.

But honestly, how can any standard platform to serve an industry be built without agreement on a common language and definitions from all the stakeholders involved with the industry?

On the software development side, we can build anything. The challenge is, knowing what to build. If as an industry, we can’t settle on common language and definitions, and can’t develop standards for selling and buying, we can’t improve.

Properties, please tell me if you DON’T want the following:

  • To know the information you provide is wanted, valued, and understood
  • To present your information in a professional way
  • To be part of a database routinely searched by marketers
  • To get your offering to the right people fast
  • To be taken more seriously and sell more
  • Sponsors, please tell me you DON’T want the following:

  • To know of and be able to understand opportunities available in real time
  • To know the price you are paying is in line with the market
  • To know the competitive landscape in real time
  • To have more dialogue with properties which align with your objectives
  • To spend more time creating value with your sponsorship investments
  • To accomplish these things, aggregate and individualized information used to define sponsorship opportunities must be in a database or be able to be put in a database. Data must be searched and crunched in today’s business environment. Otherwise, it’s near worthless, and the closer to real time, the more valuable it is. But no data in a database is useful unless it is standardized. Everyone who uses it has to know what it means and how it is used.

    Remember, the more information a market has, the more knowledgeable it is, and the more transactions occur. More of the same information in more hands helps you, no matter what side of the buying and selling equation you are on. If you sell, you get to appeal to more buyers. If you buy, you get to shop more. This in turn creates competition, and the ones not selling get information to improve their offerings, which helps the buys get better value.

    If you believe the sponsorship marketing industry needs standards so its data and methods, and ultimately its value as a marketing tool, can be made more available, I want to hear from you. I want your ideas for how you would standardize. Perhaps we’ll put together an advisory council to draw them up. I’m not going to ask whom I want to hear from. I want to see whom I do hear from. It will be kind of a test of sorts, to see who really is passionate about sponsorship as a marketing tool and really understands the importance of standardizing data so it can be made digitally useful.

    What do you think? Leave a comment!

    Mike can be reached by email at mike@sponsorpitch.com and on Twitter at @mjmunson.