Why Your Sponsorship Proposals Are Getting Rejected.

To some of you what I’m going to write below will be insightful information to others it will be a repeated loop of advice that I’ve whispered and gradually screamed at the top of my lungs since my start in the alcohol beverage, consumer products, and branded entertainment industries. Today, it seems more than ever many of us are engaged in multiple hustles to ultimately achieve that mythical “American Dream” whether you’re a corporate 9 to Fiver who lives out his or her passion as an Event Promoter after hours, or fledgling restauranteur with an emerging culinary arts blog, there is a shared vision for evolutionary success. I share your motivations and empathize with your challenges, which have prompted me to reiterate the points in this post.

There is no secret that in order to actualize your dreams and vision, you must mine for resources- human resources, intellectual capital and financial capital. Throughout my career, I have been known for using my position of perceived power wherever I was employed to support small businesses and creative visionaries in bringing their dreams to fruition by providing all three of the aforementioned types of resources. What I have noticed over the years is that the more I’ve helped and guided, the more seemingly narcissistic and more apathetic many of the people I’ve supported had become to the corporate business objectives I needed to achieve, not to mention my personal need for a simple showing of gratitude. In fact, many feel entitled to the support based on a perceived friendship or because their event, project, or business is a seemingly good idea. The brutal honesty is that in many cases they most likely needed the support of that multibillion dollar, multinational company a lot more than that company needed the association, but I supported because I personally believed in that person. However, it’s important to not strain and show a lack of reciprocity in your relationships with people in positions of “perceived power” and “tangible power” at corporations, small businesses and organizations as you move along your personal journey to success. Below are two tips to help you build a foundation of reciprocity. Look for a few more tips in more forthcoming e-book.

  1. Before seeking support, research the company, organization, or brand thoroughly to see if there are existing synergies or simply if it’s a good fit for their business objectives. I can no longer count the number of times a person has sent me a proposal, texted me an idea, or called me with a proposal to support and idea without doing any homework on the company I represent to see if it makes sense. The most common question, “I have this great event or idea do you think any of your brands would like to support it”. The most appropriate pitch should have been “I was reading a few articles on your company’s website about your new focus on engaging with Millennial cognac drinkers in Atlanta, I have built a great event platform I’m proud to say has heavy engagement with that consumer and ironically as the article noted cognac is the leading call at the bar during my events. I would love to explore creative ways that we can partner with you to achieve your new objectives using my platform.” Please note how the differences in approach can solicit two different responses from the receiver. The first person, is seeking support but shows no interest in whom or what entity it comes from which is a clear sign that brand loyalty is not in the cards. The second person has clearly done research and is setting intentions for a foundation of reciprocity and shared growth.

2. The pre-support, actual support and post-support phases of the partnership are equally important. Most people seeking support for their idea, event, or project spend the majority of the time trying to convince the company or organization to buy into their vision without consideration of that individual or company’s objectives. For clarity, let’s use the case of an event sponsorship as an example. Throughout my career in the alcohol beverage industry I’ve read over 6,000 sponsorship proposals, in many cases 15-20 a day. Over 90% end up in the email trash bin, and only a third of the remaining 10% actually get it right from sponsorship proposal, to pre event marketing through the line to post event recap. The other opportunistic two thirds place majority of importance on pre-event marketing such as simply adding logos to flyers and social media imagery, maybe a hashtag inclusion while fully integrating the brand into the event is lackluster, and a post event follow-up is non-existent except asking for support for the next event. Here are some tips to make your sponsor feel like their investment and support is more appreciated and the brand is truly integrated into the DNA of the event.

  • Get alignment on the tactical or event objectives of the Sponsor prior to the event? Is the goal to achieve more consumer trial of new product (i.e., more liquid to lips or sampling)? Is the objective to increase the target audience’s affinity towards the brand (i.e., positive conversation or natural endorsement of the brand from key influencers associated with the event delivered via photography and social media mentions)? Increase of company social media followership and engagement? Build your proposal around achieving those needs.
  • Integrate the brand authentically and creatively into the digital and social media marketing of the event. Spend quality time exploring unique ways integrate the brand into the marketing of the event other than the traditional lazy logo and simple hashtag inclusion. For example consider fun branded contests using the company hashtag or a call for user generated video content that brings the brand to life in your world with respect to the target audience.
  • Explore nontraditional ways to integrate the branding onsite at the venue or event space. The sponsoring company will most likely provide banners and other traditional visibility elements, however if you are positioning yourself as the leading creative visionary then present the brand with nontraditional unique experiences and branding avenues for consumers to engage with the brand. If the brand says yes to all of your ideas then you are not thinking big enough. Your goal as a creative visionary and expert on your target audience is to challenge the Sponsor with breakthrough ideas.
  • Create an amazing sponsorship recap that transports the event to the boardroom. Most people fail in this area with simple mistakes such as not having an experienced photographer or videographer, failing to provide a brand shot list to the photographer, or simply not sending a thank you letter and recap to the Sponsor. The simple trick here is to approach each event with the recap in mind starting with the pre-event phase through the end of the event. The recap should deliver a brilliant blend of rich emotion, passion, and consumer data allowing the receiver to fully grasp the opportunity cost of the partnership.
Karim Lateef
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