Crafting Your Sponsorship Pitch

Today’s post is from our new contributing author, J.W. Cannon.

Crafting Your Sponsorship Pitch – It ain’t that hard, and you’re probably doing it wrong!

Okay, first let me state that I have worked for several big brands in my lifetime, and I’ve seen the deluge of sponsorship proposals that they get on a weekly basis. It’s literally in the hundreds, if not thousands, per week.

I’ve also had the privilege of seeing some real doozies for proposals in my time, so know that your crappy proposal also has some distant cousins. But crafting a pitch that catches someone’s eye at a big brand is not that difficult.

Problem is, most salespeople are lazy. You heard me right: LAZY. They don’t take the time to understand their potential client’s business. They don’t take the time to understand that a person reviewing their proposal actually has other things to do with their day than to review their annual tiddlywinks festival sponsorship. Those salespeople are more concerned about how that sponsor can bring value to their pocketbook than how their property can bring value to that sponsor.

So if you’re pitching a sponsorship, you know that you already have a snowball’s chance in hell at getting through clutter. If you’re doing it blindly, there’s even less of a chance. But here’s some mistakes to avoid at least getting pitched in the garbage can right from the get go. Hope you find them helpful.

Now knock off the crappy proposals.

No Understanding of Prospect’s Business

Realize that you’re not always going to have the benefit of talking to that potential customer ahead of time to get your shot, so RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH! What is this sponsor currently doing and how are they leveraging it? Really make an effort to get to know your customer. Trust me…..if you don’t, it shows

No Respect For Sponsor’s Time

I’m sorry, but your proposal MUST look good. Don’t even think about sending a proposal that has poor spelling or is not formatted properly. Mistakes, misspells, grammatical errors and getting a name wrong show lack of forethought and respect for a sponsor’s time.

Do yourself a favor and get yourself an editor. You have to get every letter right, every word right and every paragraph right. You MUST labor over the details. And remember that spell-check is your best friend sometimes, but doesn’t always catch everything; “give us a shot” becomes “give us a [expletive]” with a simple key stroke.

Large Digital Documents

Unless these materials have been requested, save your 100-page PowerPoint decks with lots of pictures for someone who cares….like mom. Sponsors get a TON of email on a daily basis, and preventing us from receiving other important communications is almost always strike one, two and three.

Addressing Proposals to a Competitor or Another Company

A good friend, Tim McGhee (formerly of AT&T and IMG), once said, “I may not be the only guy invited to the dance, but make me feel that way.” The goal here is to make the sponsor feel special, like you’re offering them a unique opportunity, and not just another [insert name here] proposal template that you just got done sending to 100 others.

Unrealistic Fee Expectations

Make a proper valuation of your property and set realistic expectations. Sponsors compare proposals, so if you charge more, show how you are providing more value. And for the love of Pete, please understand that “in-kind” or “couponing” does not mean “FREE” to the sponsor. Just like the government, somebody has to pay for it!

Not Distinguishing Between Sponsorships and Charitable Giving

Marketing budgets reserved for business-building objectives, while donations come from philanthropic or foundation budgets. Know the difference. Pick one.

No Understanding of Measurement Metrics

The days of measuring only on “impressions” are gone and replaced with more complex “engagement” metrics, Nobody care that you get a million eyeballs if you don’t have a mechanism for that sponsor to turn those eyeballs into sales.

Not Offering to Share the Load

They don’t call is a partnership for nothin’. The more turnkey you can make it for the sponsor, the better. Don’t make the sponsor work too hard. The words “opportunity to do ‘X’” should never make it into a proposal. They already know that; they’re looking for solutions, not more crap to do.

Attempting to Involve Senior Management

Find out who is responsible, and target those individuals instead of the end-around to the CEO. Trying to leverage a relationship with senior management that simply doesn’t exist will not get you far. Ultimately, you’re going to end up working with that person if the company signs the deal, so why piss them off from the get-go by going to their boss and forcing it through. Not good strategy, my friend.

Attempting to Skirt Agencies

Treat them as you would a sponsor. They are an extension of the sponsor’s staff. See my last point.

Overly Aggressive Follow-Up

Refrain from the repeated attempts to follow up after a proposal – email, then phone, then fax, then email again. Most sponsors are courteous enough to follow up, but realize they have priorities in their daily jobs just like you do. Silence is almost always a clear indicator of a sponsor’s answer.

J.W. is a veteran sponsorship marketer with over 13 years of experience in engaging consumers with high-profile brands such as The Home Depot, Bank of America,, ING and UPS. Follow him on Twitter at @cannonjw.

2 thoughts on “Crafting Your Sponsorship Pitch

  • May 28, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Important tips!
    I always advise people to also Over-perform. If you commit yourself to an ROI, just make sure that the sponsor gets more, and be sure to tell them that they got more.

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