I'm proud I have organized many sport & adventure projects without ever having been an elite athlete. Just as I have always been aware of my sporting level, I had obviously had to work much harder in the organization and marketing of the project; because our dreams will never become reality alone, they will have to be managed and they exist only if they're sold.
There is not a magic formula to find sponsoring, but nearly three decades knocking on doors in countless offices, have given me considerable experience, from which I highlight a few key points that sport men or project organizers should consider:
1) KNOW WHERE WE ARE: be realistic and know well our position. One thing is winning gold medals in the Olympics or world championships, and another is being the best of our neighborhood (or sometimes not even that). Sometimes we excel only in a particular area, in a form or category of little relevance, or for a very specific circumstance not related to the results of competition. Everything can be sold, but everything must be sold according to their real value.
2) KNOW WHAT DO WE SELL: clearly definition of the value we bring to the sponsor. Our objectives are one thing, and another is what we have to offer the sponsor. Something difficult does not mean it has to be interesting to be sponsored. Usually we fight so hard to achieve certain objectives, that we think that this is already interesting in itself, and we forget that those who invest in us require a return. We can be the best, we can be innovative, can be provocative or we can add value in other ways, but we can not allow our activity is not profitable for those who invest in it. And keep in mind that, apart from sports or communication results, we can provide many other values that can also be interesting: use of our image, internal communications for the organization, product testing, employee/managers escorts, participation in their events, lectures, etc.
3) KNOW WHO WE SELL TO: have a lot of information about the company or institution to whom we do our sponsorship proposal. What are its objectives, its values, its products, its markets, its codes and communication channels, etc. The more we study, the more likely we'll be successful because we will have more information, we will let them hear things of their interest, and they will appreciate our work and rigor.
4) FIT REASONS: to match our reasons in the project with the sponsor interest. Our sales strategy must be adapted to each case. Broadly speaking, a potential sponsor can answer the following reasons:
- Affinity: the owner or manager responsible is a passionate on our activity
- Target: our activity fits with the market that is intended for their product or service
- Strategy: sponsorship action has to fit in with its strategy of Marketing and Communication
- Patriotism: a feeling of emotion and identification with a particular area
- Cause: a feeling of emotion, identification or supporting for a specific cause
- Cooperation: just to support an athlete for different reasons
5) BRAND MANAGEMENT: we are all a brand, but we must be aware of this and we have to be responsible of it. Sports results are only part of our brand. We have to work well the character as part of the product that we sell. A character will always be an integral part of our person, but has not to be the whole person. We must have clear values, attributes and communication codes will form part of the character. And we need to create a personal brand strategy and a communication plan OFF and ON Line. The OFF Line strategy will always depend more or results, but the ON Line part must be done very well because it depends only on us. Building and managing well the personal brand is fundamental to be appreciated as valuable by sponsors, since at the end of the day, if they invest on us, we will become their ambassadors temporarily.
6) DEMONSTRATE PROFESSIONALISM: if you're a genius or an absolute number one, you can allow more margin; but in general we can not base everything on results, and we have to show the possible sponsors that apart from passion, ambition and characters with many possibilities, we are very serious and professional to manage communication, because that is why they invested in us.
7) WORK/COMMUNICATION PLAN CLEAR AND STRUCTURED: the sponsor must see that everything has a meaning, an approach, a certain objectives and tasks. If they have to decide to invest on us must, then need to have a rational support for it, and the best one, besides the expectations of sports and media success, it is to see that there's a good structuring of work.
8) RISK ASSESSMENT: there must be a ratio of the expected result of communication and the risks involved in our project. If in case everything goes well, we will appear a couple of regional newspapers, local TV and three radio secondary programs; and if it goes wrong, maybe not even that, the price of our proposal has to be at that level. But if the success of our action can make a very large visibility, then the price is another, provided that the chances are not too small. Specially if the sponsorship has an strategic approach, It will be treated as an investment; and investments are decided through an analysis of opportunity/risk.
9) PRESENTATION PACK: This will be our basic working document that will collect everything we sell. As it should be developed:
- Prepared to work attractively in different supports: Tablet or printed presentation, delivery in digital format, presentation on a projector, etc.
- A very brief and schematic part for being able to present fast and clear (I suggest maximum 2 or 3 shees), and another part developed to deepen if the case.
- Must have good sections that explain the entire project, which among other possible, at least should be: 1) Project itself (objectives and environment). 2) The organization and implementation team (with summary of curriculum / the protagonist / main s / s). 3) Communication (strategy and factors of interest). 4) Calendar (both racing events, such as execution, communication and other outstanding facts). 5) Proposed Sponsorship (with economic amounts and possible approaches). 6) Contact information ...
- In some cases you should accompany a press kit (with results previously obtained in communication)
10) COMMERCIAL ACTION: in the end this is the real race we have to play. And if we want to maximize sales opportunities of the project, we should plan and structure the sales process. Some important steps:
- Networking: See where we can reach by direct or indirect contact of confidence. It is always the best gateway.
- List of target organizations: those identified as potentially interesting and interested for our project
- Never send a dossier presentation by post or email without prior contact. It is useless and subtract confidence and positioning.
- Try to have the support of an expert broker
- Establish a work schedule with specific targets.
More or less these 10 steps can help you to focus your sponsorship strategy, and remember that they should always be well dressed with the appropriate oil and vinegar, which are, as always, perseverance (because you have to knock many doors to have an opportunity), and resilience (because we have to overcome many negative answears and frustrations).
... And all this does not guarantee success in the sale of sponsorship, but not doing it or doing it wrong is a direct guarantee of failure.
No one will come home to realize our dreams, but we have to convert them to a project and go out to sell it to make it real.
Good luck with your dreams, and much more luck with your sales.