As the tennis season winds down, one sponsorship stands out in my mind as particularly interesting.
Video game maker EA Sports partnered with the Olympus U.S. Open Series for the first time to promote its Grand Slam Tennis title.
I find this sponsorship intriguing because despite the game’s subject matter, the tennis crowd is not normally the demographic that game makers covet. However, I took a closer look and some important details came to light that reveal it would be a mistake for tennis properties to scratch gaming completely off their prospective sponsor category list.
So what have you changed about the way you pitch sponsors since the financial fallout?
Something IEG tried recently—in pitching our sponsorship consulting services to a prospective corporate client—was dumping PowerPoint. Having made the final cut from an RFP, four of us were practicing our spiels when senior vice president of business development Tim Tlusty said the PowerPoint was not adding anything, and in fact diverted the focus from the speaker to the slide or the slide handout.
After years of presenting with the aid of PowerPoint, going naked was a jump. But we tried it and what a home run. The sponsor executives were downright giddy when they heard we did not have a PowerPoint presentation. Even better, they were totally engaged throughout the allotted 90 minutes, and in fact invited us to go longer, which we happily did.
Tough times call for drastic measures. Unquestionably the tough economy has led pro sports leagues and teams to make difficult decisions regarding both their brand and their bottom line. Although the practice was once uniformly (no pun intended) considered taboo stateside, the NBA and NFL have carved out an additional revenue opportunity for their teams by allowing them to sell sponsorship to their practice jerseys.
In one recent week, the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns, as well as the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, signed deals providing sponsors the rights to their practice jerseys and coaches’ apparel.
Although these deals have created quite a buzz in the sports business world, I question what relevance (past the initial media coverage/shock value) these sponsorships will have with sports fans and consumers.
IEG chairman Lesa Ukman’s latest blog post (read it here) put me in mind of a phrase she coined about seven years ago to describe cosponsorships and cross-promotions conducted by complementary brands not under the same ownership: peanut butter and jelly partners. Like PB&J, they go together, but also stand apart.
In her blog, Lesa cites the example of a property with a spirits sponsor targeting a maker of mixers as a potential cosponsor. Based on actual sponsorships we have tracked the past few years, there are many additional PB&J partnerships that properties can consider.
It’s a week for analogies (what week isn’t, I say) and I’ve got another one for you. We all spend so much time thinking about, talking about, and practicing consultative servicing, solutions-based selling, ethical selling, and so on. All good, right things. But how tangible are they when you’re racking your brain to get the job done?
This is why I like analogies, especially on Friday afternoons. We live in the world of best practices ready for the taking, and yet sometimes we just need to think about things on a practical level to make progress.
So here’s today’s analogy: think of your sponsorship program like you’re running a hotel. You want to invite sponsors in, make them very comfortable during their stay, and have them want to stay with you forever.
So many of our rightsholder clients have been successful bringing in new sponsors by looking beyond the usual suspects.
One screen we use to identify new prospects is synergy with existing sponsors. For example, if a client has an official spirits company on board, it provides a hook to attract new dollars from complementary brands such as the Rose’s line of mixers from Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Include an activation overlay such as creating and promoting themed specialty cocktails, and you’re on your way.
The news this week that Jack Daniel’s is quitting its NASCAR team and Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra is not renewing title of its LPGA Tour stop in Virginia are but two examples of the scores of sponsors dropping title of pro golf tournaments and motorsports teams.
It is a tough environment for everyone selling sponsorship, but among the most challenged are pro golf events and motorsports teams. Rightsholders in these sectors have often sold on media visibility, and that’s a dangerous path for anyone in sponsorship.
On merely a CPM basis, sponsorship cannot successfully compete with advertising. When times were flush, marketers were willing to pay the higher CPM because intuitively they understood that sponsorship offered more. But intuition is no longer enough, and treating sponsorship as the “added value” piece and media as the main event, no longer works.
I don’t envy the folks at corporations who are the recipients of hundreds, if not thousands of unsolicited sponsorship proposals, especially when many of those pitches are ill-targeted and/or don’t contain the information necessary to be effectively evaluated.
These sponsors are in their rights to expect that those pitching them will have done their homework, tailored their proposals and spelled the contact’s name right. However, there is one “recommendation” that I increasingly hear sponsors make to properties that I strongly take issue with: the advice that properties should not follow up on a proposal and simply assume that if they don’t hear back it means the prospect received it, read it and rejected it.
This is completely unrealistic. Would the salespeople at these sponsors’ own companies ever be advised not to follow up with a prospect? I highly doubt it.
Most of us probably don’t even remember learning to ride a bike or learning to swim. For those who did not learn how to do those things when they were young, trying to learn as an adult can be difficult. This typically comes with added fear, increased effort and requires more patience. Learning to do these things as an adult also usually takes a longer period of time.
Launching a new sponsorship program, or re-launching an old one, can be just like learning to swim as an adult. The problem is that many executives within organizations expect new revenue within weeks, even in this economy. The truth is it will not happen overnight. It can take several months to get your assets organized strategically for the sales process. In my experience, once the sales process starts in earnest it can take anywhere from 6-18 months to see new or increased revenue.
I heard yet another quip the other day about how a penny, the U.S. one-cent piece, costs more than 1¢ to make. It is actually more like 1.2¢ - 1.4¢ per coin, based on the increased and fluctuating price of the zinc, copper and nickel used to make pennies (including the costs of metal, fabrication, labor/overhead and transportation, according to usmint.gov).
While it at first sounds preposterous that a penny costs more than a penny to make, it is actually not such a big deal, considering that pennies are not disposable. Each penny changes hands many, many times while in circulation.
In other words, cost and value are not necessarily related; they’re two separate factors that, in the case of pennies, make for interesting cocktail party conversation but don’t actually need to correlate for it to be worthwhile to create the penny. Its functional cost and its value are separate issues. (Thanks for the insight, Snopes.com.)