Tips for Building Long-Term Partnerships with Your Sponsors

IStock/Credit: AlexMX

I’ve got a big topic for you today: long-term strategic partnerships in the sponsorship area. It’s the buzz – everyone is talking about it, but what the heck does it mean? Currently, I believe “long-term strategic partnerships” are simply a proxy for, “I just want to bring in a lot more money from my existing sponsors, or I’m just going after the big dollars.” This approach is not strategic or at all long-term.

What I’ve seen lately is just a bunch of sponsorship inventory slapped together with a premium price tag with the goal of tricking a big company to sign on.

So, I have a few points I’m thinking about:

#1 Don’t just package up your year-long event inventory, throw it onto the prospectus, and label it a “year-long partnership” with the hope you’ll receive premium dollars for it. My experience is this isn’t what your sponsors with this type of interest have in mind.

#2 Connect with some existing partners first. Have a conversation with your best sponsors about the inventory of a year-long strategic partnership. Ask them upfront about their priorities in your market before you ever design the program, and add their “pet projects” if feasible. Call those sponsors right now and let them know you are developing some year-long programming and would like some feedback on what is most valuable.

#3 Ensure the target companies can actually execute an integrated and sustainable program. A “corporate partner” once revealed to me the organization couldn’t provide all the deliverables of their deal.  The association wasn’t at fault directly but really didn’t think through the work required by the sponsor to take advantage of the program.  We learned they didn’t have the bandwidth to participate in all the events available to them, for example. So, make sure the partners can execute.

#4 Think through the marketing launch of the program. Once you talk to your potential partners and develop that inventory, you’ll need a plan to promote and sell.  It will require a different approach than your lanyard sales or other easy sponsor transactions.

Consider launching your prospectus through a webinar campaign, in which you can present the inventory. Share the screen with your prospectus to visually highlight the details of the program, etc. The attendees may know what the “chicken breast with vegetable medley lunch” sponsorship is, but they may not know what you are offering now. Walk them through it.