How to get sponsors working for your business

Jackie Fast shares her advice on sponsorships amid industry change.

The sponsorship industry is changing. The opportunities are endless and ways of engaging are ever increasing. And yet, the sponsorship industry still remains fairly static. Since inception, the typical transaction includes rights holders trading ‘space’ to sponsors for money. Everyone seems pretty happy. But is everyone getting the most out of the relationship? With ROI crucial to good business, I’d question whether everyone is getting as much return for the investment that is being put into the sponsorships created.

But money talks, and quite rightly, rights holders utilise sponsorship to drive revenue.  However, sponsorship can do so much more. When done cleverly, sponsorship can open business avenues and new profit centres rights holders wouldn’t have been able to create by themselves.

But it needs a rights holder who is willing to look at the bigger picture with an ambition to think outside of the box commercially.

Rather than just chasing money for logo placement, rights holders need to identify what their ideal ambition is for incorporating sponsorship revenue within their commercial objectives.  For many B2B events, it’s about attracting leading consumer brand names to their event.  For music festivals, it’s about differentiation and adding value to the festival experience. For sport, it’s getting fans to engage with the team beyond the pitch. Sponsorship does all these things, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Many rights holders fail to realise that they have to consider their sponsorship ambitions in a series of steps. Just like growing any business, in order to reach the end goal there are milestones of achievement – each one built upon success of the other. A good sponsorship strategy should be developed in the same way – with the long view in mind including phases that drive to deliver objectives beyond the financial.

And even if money really is the only objective (although if you dig deep enough, this is rarely the case), you need to create phases which will allow you to continue building value in order to increase revenue year on year.

So how do you go about building a sponsorship strategy that does all this and more?

  1. Figure out if you have ambitions beyond money. And if you do, find out if sponsorship can help you reach them.
  2. If you cannot offer a strong proposition to the sponsors you really want, carve out areas of rights that you can provide on a reduced rights fee or for free while still maintaining your core sponsors. This allows you to negotiate with the right sponsors that can deliver on some of your long-term ambitions while still ensuring your financial targets can be met by the usual suspects.
  3. Talk with your current sponsors about your ambitions and find out how they can play a role in achieving them.
  4. Partner with sponsors whose long-term goals and objectives are aligned with your own.
  5. Stop thinking transactional. Get creative.


Jackie Fast is managing director of Slingshot Sponsorship.