• ADC Partners

True Confessions of Sponsorship Decision Makers


We recently completed a project designed to give sponsorship sales professionals a “behind-the-curtain” peek at how buyers perceive the sales process. Here’s how we went about it:

  • We posed our six questions to sponsorship decision makers from the following categories: telcom, banking, investment services, auto, apparel, beer, insurance, and healthcare.

  • The eight people surveyed represent both corporate and agency decision makers.

  • They are responsible for marketing initiatives with both regional and national focus.

  • They are collectively responsible for ~ $110MM in annual sponsorship buying.

  • To encourage frank (ok, blunt) responses, all the participants were guaranteed anonymity.

Here’s what they said (and yes, the questions were posed as they are written):

Question #1

"We all know you're just sitting around on a big pot of money that you get to lavish on sports properties at a whim. Right...?"

  • Telcom: “Nope! Might have been true years ago… Budgets have been consolidated and spending is scrutinized more than ever…”

  • Banking: “We’re under a TON of pressure to maximize return on every marketing dollar... ”

  • Auto: “Our budget changes month-to-month based on vehicle sales from corporate to dealerships…”

  • Beer: “We actually have very limited funds to allocate towards sports properties… we have to be very careful where we invest.”

Takeaway #1: Marketing budgets, and returns on those budgets, are under a microscope. There’s a TON of pressure to minimize spending and maximize impact.

  • Telcom: “Shifts in strategic priorities (moving from traditional sponsorship activation to digital/social-focused) are driving how dollars are spent.”

  • Banking: “…what we’re recommending has to make strategic sense… ”

  • Auto: “As an agency, we make recommendations that align with current budgets and vehicle/client strategic priorities.”

  • Apparel: “We have a limited marketing budget that requires us to be very strategic - smart with our spending.”

  • Beer: “Needs to serve a strategic purpose of either protecting our home turf or growing brand awareness in a market we are focusing on.”

Takeaway #2: Strategy really matters, so dig in. Get to know the category (generally) and the business (specifically).

Question #2

“OK, we get it already: you need to show ROI. How can properties help you do that?”

  • Banking: “First, push us to make sure that you truly understand our KPIs... ”

  • Apparel: “We need partners that get “us” and will work to establish joint/measurable KPIs…”

  • Investment: “Get inside the walls, understand our business, KPIs and how we monetize the investment. Period, end of story.”

  • Insurance: “What I need from YOU is to HELP me show value, in hard terms. Work with me understand my KPIs to leverage data and digital tracking to demonstrate who is coming to your venue….

Takeaway #1: If it isn’t already, make “KPI” part of your everyday vocabulary and interaction with your partners and prospects. Dig in to learn what their essential KPIs are. The more specific you can be, the more equipped you’ll be to address their needs.

  • Auto: “Provide research and relevant information. Exit surveys or email database surveys help us make decisions.”

  • Healthcare: “I want to know if it influenced my consumers...”

  • Banking: “Engage our internal analytics groups to discuss synergies between measurement efforts. Show us how we compare with other sponsors in terms of awareness and how it impacts brand preference. Tell us how many of your fans are already our customers.”

  • Apparel: “Help us best communicate our results/ tell our story internally.”

Takeaway #2: Once they're involved with properties, clients are vested in success. Use primary and secondary research helps your clients tell their story (case build) internally.

Question #3

“You've dealt with all kinds of properties for years now. All things being equal, what separates a good property management team from a bad one?”

  • Banking: “Push (appropriately) to understand my marketing objectives.”

  • Telcom: “One that looks out for their client’s needs more than their own…”

  • Investment: “Ability to listen, trust and be responsive to my needs.”

  • Healthcare: “The good ones know what’s valuable to me…”

  • Apparel: “Be good listeners, be curious, know and understand what makes us tick.”

  • Insurance: “Good is PUT YOURSELF IN MY JOB.”

Takeaway: It’s all about them. Success involves being able to see the perspective from the other side of the table. Work to learn a client’s business and what they need to be successful. Be curious about people individually, the company specifically, and the business category in general.

Question #4

"Clearly the 22 emails. 5 voice mails and 12 decks I've sent aren't reaching you. So what's the best way to get you to pay attention to my property?"

  • Banking: “Show that you’ve done some research on my company and my brand.”

  • Insurance: “Demonstrate you get my business and have a hypothesis of how you can help me achieve MY goals”

  • Telcom: “Do your homework. Get to know me. Build trust.”

  • Apparel: “Be good listeners, be curious, know and understand what makes us tick.”

  • Auto: “Humanize the investment in a genuine way and getting to know the clients.”

Takeaway: You simply cannot go in blind. Use what you’ve learned during research phases to demonstrate a working knowledge of the business, category and competitors. Then provide specific examples on how your property can specifically apply to a prospect.

Question #5

“What's the biggest mistake people trying to sell you a sports property make?"

  • Investments: “They don’t listen.”

  • Auto: “Not listening to budget or objectives. Not getting to know the clients and decision makers...”

  • Apparel: “Talk too much about themselves. We don’t care how pretty you are if you don’t get us.”

  • Insurance: “Bad is when you talk and talk about how great your property is and do not ask me what I need or help me craft a story for why I should work with you.”

Takeaway: You’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them in that proportion, especially in the early going when you’re in learning mode about the sponsors needs.

Question #6

“What's the most valuable thing a sports property like mine can offer you? Put another way, where do you find the greatest value from sports properties?”

  • Apparel: “Be a partner and an extension of the brand.”

  • Insurance: “Be a true partner and help grow business in a mutually beneficial way.”

  • Auto: “To be a long time partner, be there with us through thick and thin.”

  • Banking: “Properties who really partner with us to understand those objectives.”

Takeaway: “Partnership” means working toward a mutually understood goal. Sponsors want properties that are in it with them.

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