You should review your membership fees regularly to ensure they cover your operational costs. If they don’t, your club may be unsustainable. To extend your financial resources further, other business units or revenue streams should be considered. Sponsorship is one way of generating additional income or obtaining equipment or services for a reduced rate.
Sponsorship is very different from a donation. It is a business relationship between a provider of funds, resources or services and your club. Ultimately, the aim of the sponsor is to increase their business. For a sponsorship arrangement to be successful, your club needs to assist the sponsor to achieve this aim.
Typical methods for clubs to help increase business for their sponsors to make more money are through personal referrals, media exposure, advertising to a specific audience (e.g. signage), increased public awareness or representation at events and special occasions.
Sponsorship may be sought for the club in general or specifically for events, competition participation or individual athletes.
Sponsorship is difficult to attract and many community organisations are competing for sponsorship dollars. If you can provide evidence of your club’s ability to increase a sponsor’s business, this will improve your success in recruiting and retaining sponsors.
Sponsorship is typically offered in the following ways:
- Packaged or tiered sponsorship – packages for different levels of investment (e.g. gold, silver and bronze)
- In-kind sponsorship – goods or services as sponsorship, for instance uniforms or discounted sporting equipment
- Tailored sponsorship – customising a package based on the value of the potential return on investment for the sponsor
Considerations for sponsorship success:
- Identify what you have to sell – think about how you can create an attractive advertising package to sell to sponsors. This may be signage space around your facility, naming rights for teams, competitions or events, and exclusivity arrangements with suppliers. In working out how to price your package, be realistic and reasonable and always think about the true value of your offering to a potential sponsor. Avoid the temptation to under or over price your sponsorship package.
- Link you sponsorship offering to the needs of sponsors – sponsors usually pay for forms of promotion that help them increase their brand awareness and provide them access to their target markets. What can you do to increase the value of your sponsorship offering by best promoting your sponsors and giving them access to your members and their families (without breaching privacy or incorporation legislation by selling your membership database)?
- Conduct some research into potential sponsors – once you have determined what forms of advertising and promotion you can sell to sponsors and what sponsors seek to gain from a relationship with your club, think about the businesses or organisations that best fit the bill. Find out all you can about your target sponsors. What do they sell? Who are their customers? What markets are they in? Do their values and beliefs align with yours? Do they already sponsor similar or competing organisations? Do they have pre-packaged sponsorship or grant programs? Do they already participate in community activities?
- Start selling your sponsorship offering – personal contact is always best. Before developing a ‘cookie cutter’ sponsorship proposal, arrange to meet with your identified potential sponsors. Your first meetings should be all about them. Avoid the temptation to tell them what you want or why you think you need their money. Rather, ask questions to help you understand their target markets, their products and services and how you can help them through a professional sponsorship arrangement. If you do this step right, by the time you are ready to suggest a partnership, they may ask for it first! Take your time to create an emotional case about why they need to sponsor you. Stories of up-and-coming young players or members, photos and your emotive language should all link to how the sponsorship arrangement will benefit the sponsor and increase the sponsor’s business. Consider opportunities for mutual benefit, such as the club running a sausage sizzle at the release of a new motor vehicle at your local dealer.
- Develop a sponsorship agreement – most of your sponsorship selling should happen face-to-face. So rather than investing time in a sponsorship proposal that may never be read, agree to the terms of the sponsorship personally and document it in a simple agreement that is developed collaboratively with the sponsor. The sponsorship agreement
should outline the responsibilities of both the club and the sponsor and be signed or agreed to in writing by both parties. Involve the sponsors in the club – ensure they feel a part of the club and always make them feel special. Service the sponsors – ensure that you not only deliver the benefits promised but aim to exceed sponsors expectations. Remain in constant contact with sponsors, but keep your communication with them relevant to their products and services and how you are increasing their sales. Look to your members – your membership base may be an untapped resource when it comes to finding sponsors. They may be business owners or know of organisations that could be great sponsors. Maybe your members already buy from a business, making it likely that other members would do so too once the business becomes a sponsor. Be innovative – consistently seek out new ways to bring business to your sponsors to ensure they keep signing on the dotted line. Work out the best ways to track sales generated for the sponsor by your arrangement with them. E.g. members could ‘check in’ on social media or leave club vouchers when they buy from your sponsors.