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Finding sponsorship opportunities for your team requires a great deal of time and research, and it can be difficult to know where to start. Our communications partner SQN joined us for a PitStop Chat to discuss how to build a successful partnership – and even have fun doing it. These were the main talking points with Account Director Stuart Owen and Chief Operating Officer Chris Ritchie.
Stuart: “Successful sponsorship, especially for Greenpower, is very much subjective and related to each teams’ journey. There could be some very established teams who are familiar with sponsorship and who will be looking for the opportunity to renew sponsorships or bring new sponsors in and have multiple partners. On the other hand, there may be some new teams who are beginning their journey and getting that first bit of money to make sure that they can buy their kit car; just getting onto the track is a huge success for them. It’s very subjective depending on where you are on your journey. Sponsorship from an external perspective can look very different, but mean something special for each of those individual teams.”
Chris: “The other important thing about successful sponsorship is that it should be a partnership. It’s a two-way relationship that adds value to both partners. They might be giving you some cash or something of value to the team, but you need to think of what value you are bringing to the sponsor as well and offering in return.”
How do you identify value for sponsors?
Stuart: “If you have a strong brand and it has a professional look, then it’s going to help your case. If a potential partner doesn’t have a great understanding of your story or background, then having a professional look and feel to your team can help support your case. When you’re identifying value for sponsors, you need to look at the assets you have. It’s not just about your physical or tangible assets such as your car and team members, but it’s also looking at the intangibles such as the story behind the team, the area you come from, the school you go to. Those are all stories you can sell into the brand and partners. You need to list all your assets down and go beyond the physical properties you see because there is a lot that you can sell and promote to a partner.”
Chris: “One of the key things is listing assets, but then thinking about those assets in terms of what do they mean for the potential partner or sponsor, and translated into where the value is for them in those assets.”
When you are talking to big companies, how do you identify the opportunities for them? Do you spend a lot of time looking at their website and what kind of things they are already involved in?
Stuart: “Most definitely. Sponsorship is something that you need to treat with a lot of respect and time. You should do lots of research on the brands that you want to target. You can usually get details off a company’s website about their background story, values, and any current sponsorships they are involved with. It helps you identify whether they understand sponsorship due to past partnerships and whether the company would have an interest in what you are doing or if they are already sponsor something or somebody else in the same area as you. I recommend doing lots of research and due diligence. You wouldn’t pay lots of money for a house without first having a proper look at it and doing research into the local area, so why should a company spend money on you without understanding in detail what they are getting in return? You shouldn’t go to a brand and expect them to just hand money to you, they want to see everything that you have available. So that’s how you should think and treat the situation.”
What would be your starting place for putting a proposal to an organisation?
Stuart: “I would say the research element. Before anything goes on paper, there has to be research carried out. You need to know the company you’re targeting inside and out. You need to understand their sponsorship history, their values and then brainstorm with your group. Whether it’s a board similar to a mood board for branding, you can do that to out your ideas together. It is also important to figure out what your assets are and what are you pitching to them. Also, seeing if there are any connections between what you are doing as a team and what the company are doing. It could be something small such as, if one of their values is about doing better things for the environment then there’s a nice link. You need to consider areas such as that and look at where your strongest connections are, all while building your proposal around that.”
“One of the key things to remember is not to bring money into it at the “early stage”. Sponsors want to know how much you are asking for, but if you give that to them too early then they may be convinced in their head that it’s not right for them because of the money factor. If you sell them your story and you convince them on your story and they love the story, they could be willing to invest more as opposed to declining straight away. If you leave the money aspect out until you finish your pitch, then you can talk financial terms.”
Chris: “Yes, I was going to say the same thing. Get them involved in the conversation, get them engaged with what you’re passionate about and the whole journey you are going on while being flexible. Don’t have the mindset of, “we are going to either get £5000 from them or we go away.” They might be able to help you out but not necessarily financially. Get them involved and passionate about the conversation and see what they can do.”
How do you keep a sponsor happy?
Stuart: “Because you put a lot of effort into getting sponsors in the first place and it’s an achievement to get a partner onboard, people often think that the job is completed when in fact it’s only just beginning. You may have received the money, you may have secured branding on their car, but then it’s about how to keep in communication and make sure they are updated for a whole season. It could be about inviting them along to events, providing them with speaking opportunities such as at a school or community event, offering your car at events or within the company building. It’s about keeping them happy and keeping them involved. You can send out newsletters or little marketing documents after events so they can share them internally. If you do the little things throughout a whole season, at the end of it, you give yourself a better chance of the sponsorship rolling onto another year because they enjoyed the experience and they’ve been able to share their own story through you. That’s what you should always aim for a long-term partnership, not a short-term deal.”
And is it fair to say that the sponsorship process can be fun too?
Stuart: “Yes, it is fun! The holy grail is you get some money out of it and you can have a new partner in place. You also get to be innovative with how you activate your partnership which can be fun. It’s about building relationships and meeting new people and building contacts. It’s an enjoyable part of it. It can be hard work, but at the end of it, you get to do what you want and build great relationships along the way.”
You can watch the full PitStop Chat on our YouTube channel, as well as enjoy the other videos in the series.