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Handling objections regarding cycling sponsorship

Inevitably, at one point or another, you are going to receive objections regarding sponsorship of your club, the “perceived state of cycling” or your cycling sponsorship proposal. These objections may be driven by legitimate concerns, misconceptions or misunderstanding from something read or seen. Or, questions and objections might conceal a deeper underlying concern regarding sponsorship of your cycling club. Getting to down to the real reason a prospective sponsor says “no”can help you accurately identify their issue, enable you to respond appropriately and continue to advance through the cycling sponsorship process. Following a few simple steps can help you effectively respond to objections, pushback, questions or concerns.

Five tips for handling objections:

01) Before responding always clarify that you understand the question or objection. The best way to do this is to restate what you heard. Many times it seems that it is easiest to simply respond. However, in a lot of cases we may have a different interpretation of the question or objection, than the person stating it intended. Responding without having a true idea of the your sponsor’s or prospective sponsor’s position only complicates the issue further.

02) It’s best to ask additional questions to understand why they are posing questions and objections. Asking questions of your own will help you understand the reason and motivation behind the prospective sponsor’s questions. (What the person is objecting to and why: sponsorship proposal, sponsorship letter, perception of cycling sponsorship, etc.)  This often enables you to uncover the underlying reasons behind their questions or objections. It also gives you the time to listen to their responses, formulate answers, explore alternative solutions or propose other options.

03) Take a moment to confirm that you have interpreted their question, concerns and point of view correctly. You want to do this in order to be absolutely sure that you have interpreted their perspective in the way they intended. Simply summarize the major points you have covered in trying to understand their question or objection.

04) Next, take the time to acknowledge their point of view. This is very important, even if they have misinterpreted something about our sport or your proposal. The purpose is to confirm that you understand their issue and how they might have arrived at a specific conclusion. After all, it is their point of view, and even if you disagree you must be tactful and not make them feel uncomfortable. Remember, you are trying to get them to provide your club with cycling sponsorship and funding.

05) Last, respond in a thoughtful manner. In other words, take the information you have gained by asking additional questions, exploring alternatives , and respond to their question or objection by focusing on the overall benefits cycling sponsorship will provide. Use the context of their original question or objection as a guide for your response.

In spite of some of the recent negative exposure our sport is receiving, whether warranted or not, there are a lot of really good things happening which you can leverage during your sponsorship discussions. Cycling continues to grow as a major participant and spectator sport providing additional visibility and awareness for companies sponsoring cycling. Companies and cities are continuing to invest in cycling sponsorship as a means to promote their community, brand, products or services. Lastly, the minimal cost of cycling sponsorship when compared to traditional sports provides and excellent value and return on investment for sponsors, as well as an effective vehicle to augment existing marketing, advertising and PR campaigns.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

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Cycling sponsorship proposal presentations & meetings

Sponsorship proposal presentations and meetings are an important, and key component, of the cycling sponsorship process. Executing an effective sponsorship campaign and securing sponsors, as mentioned in the post “Cycling Sponsorship – Just as with training and racing, you need a good plan!” -  is analogous to building and following an effective annual training plan. The better your plan and execution, the better your results! The same applies to effectively managing interactions; particularly face-to-face meetings; with prospective sponsors. The manner in which you handle any interaction, whether it is a meeting or presentation, telephone or video discussion,  correspondence (using social media; blogs, forums, communities; e-mail); structure and focus can help your sponsorship interactions immensely!

Regardless of the medium, focusing your attention, and content, on meeting the needs of the prospective buyer, and articulating how your cycling club, or team, can add value to a prospective sponsors business.  Taking this approach will go a long way in helping you achieve your sponsorship objectives of securing more sponsors, and securing larger contracts per sponsor! Being able to articulate the value of sponsorship will help you advance through the process of securing sponsorship, while differentiating your club, team, or event, from other organizations requesting funding.

Here is some advice using the simple rules of “who, what, where, when, why & how.”

“Who”: “Who are you?” As mentioned in previous posts, you should open by introducing yourself, your club, or your team. Describe the purpose of why you are meeting, or communicating, with the audience. Try to open with a very brief overview of your club or team. However, always describe your club or team in terms that will resonate with prospective sponsors, i.e.  – “how sponsorship of your club could help companies achieve their objectives of making money, saving money, reaching an intended audience/niche, or projecting an intended image.”

For example, a good description could be – “We are a cycling team based in (name of city). Historically we have partnered with several local businesses to help provide visibility and awareness for their company, brand, products and services. Because of our involvement in the community, supporting various initiatives, we have been able to help our partners drive increased traffic and sales of their offerings. This is just one example of how sponsorship of our club can drive value for your company.”

Opening the meeting, or communication, is also a good time to mention the names of sponsors you have qualified as references for your club. (For more information on effective using existing sponsors to secure new sponsors please see “Using quotes and references to with prospective sponsors”)

Purpose: Objective of the Meeting – “What are you discussing?”- “What” – Take a moment to describe the purpose of your interaction, and your objective? State why you have contacted them, or are meeting with them, and what you intend to discuss. If the purpose of the meeting is to discuss how the company uses sponsorship; or to determine the process and who is involved, or potentially to explore ideas for working with your club or team; – state it clearly.

Be sure to integrate the value of cycling sponsorship into your objectives, by describing the value sponsorship provides companies. Use phrases to describe what cycling sponsorship could potentially provide in terms such as “partnership”. As an example – “To explore potential opportunities to establish a mutually beneficial partnership between (company name); and (name of your club, team or event); to provide a vehicle to help achieve your goals and objectives – increasing awareness and visibility; increasing sales, revenue & market share; increasing or improving customer retention and brand loyalty; improving or changing image and/or promoting positive PR.” (Select generic goals and objectives or ones identified from research of the prospective sponsor).

“How and Why”: “How sponsorship of your club, team or event, can drive business value? And, why they should care?” - Your club, team or event, can provide a cost-effective, highly effective, addition to augment a company’s existing marketing, advertising and PR campaigns. (For more information on the value of cycling sponsorship to companies please refer to “Understanding why companies sponsor “, “Cycling sponsorship & lessons learned from sponsors of UCI top 20 cycling teams”, and “Cycling Sponsorship News”)

Also, remember, your participation in cycling related activities (races, rally’s, group rides), community service activities, local & national initiatives (“Share the Road”, “National Ride to Work Day”, etc.), and; communication through the web, social media, newsletters, etc; helps increase visibility and awareness for your sponsors, their brand, products and services. Cycling is an excellent platform for helping companies reach their target audience. This is the reason global companies as Rabobank, HTC, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Optumhealth, Acura, RadioShack, Europcar and countless others invest in cycling as an integral component of their global marketing strategies. Your club, team, or event, can help sponsors reach their intended audience. (For more information describing key benefits, value propositions, and business reasons companies invest  in cycling sponsorship please refer to “Cycling sponsorship & lessons learned from sponsors of UCI top 20 cycling teams”, and “Cycling Sponsorship News”)

“Where & When”: Creating visibility, awareness & interest - Where are your members seen? Where will the company receive additional visibility? – describe the geographic area where your club or team participates in most events and activities. This gives the prospective sponsor an idea of the markets you are supporting, and the reach sponsoring your cycling club, team, or event can provide. Your club or teams activities should align with the markets, and audience, the company serves.

Describe the types of events, activities, and initiatives, you support, and where the events are located; providing an idea of some metrics if possible (number of people from your club that participate, amount of dollars raised for charity, number of people and spectators who participated in an event). Again, this gives the prospective sponsor an idea of the audience they can reach, how many, and where.

“When” – “What are the opportunities for the prospective sponsors brand to be visible?” - Provide an idea of when your club or team participates in events and activities. An event calendar is an excellent way to visually present “opportunities” for the prospective partner’s brand, products and services to be visible. Include weekly rides, races, charity events, fund raising activities, clinics, community service, etc. The more you can include, the more it demonstrates potential exposure for the company as a sponsor.

Concluding: “Where do we go from here?” - As you begin to conclude the meeting, presentation, or communication, recommend logical next steps. This is what you would like to see happen next. Are there additional meetings necessary, does the prospective sponsor need to review contracts, do they need to engage other sponsors for references, etc. A “call-to-action” is a vital step in the process, and helps you move forward to the next step.

Hopefully this helps you run effective, productive, meetings with prospective sponsors; enabling your club or team to do what we are all interested in – securing more sponsors,  receiving more sponsorship dollars per sponsor, & maintaining stronger, long-term relationships with your sponsors.

Thanks for visiting!

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Sponsorship proposal – Tips for writing an effective sponsorship proposal for your club or team: Part I

Sponsorship season is here. Surveys and studies show that the majority of companies are making their decisions about sponsorship in the 4th quarter; that’s NOW! Is your club ready to submit a sponsorship proposal that will stand out from the rest?

If you follow a few simple steps you can increase the chances of your sponsorship proposal being taken into consideration.

Know your audience: Do the research!

Take the time to understand a company’s mission, goals, objectives, and core values. Explore their website, blogs and social networking sites in order to learn about them, their products and services, and their target market. Look for things which will help give you insight, and ideas, into how a company can benefit from sponsoring your club or team. Spend time reading the Chairman’s Letter or Executive Summary in the Annual Report. Scan the Investor Relations section. Each of these will give you valuable insight into the business objectives, goals, performance in achieving goals, strategy and markets.

Great areas to research on a company’s website are any section entitled – Philanthropy, Stewardship, Outreach, Community, or Partnership. These deal directly with what a company is doing to support initiatives, or organizations, in order to advance their objectives, core values, demonstrate social responsibility, or support causes they deem important to their community, their image, or target audience. It will clue you in to the type of organizations a company supports, why they support them, and how it fits into their overall mission, goals and objectives.

Performing the research enables you to understand the key benefits your club or team should highlight in a sponsorship proposal; bringing me to the next recommendation.

The benefit you can deliver: “What’s in it for them?”

Framing your sponsorship proposal by focusing on the benefit you can deliver puts you ahead of most proposals companies receive. In background research writing this blog, it appears the number one complaint from companies regarding sponsorship proposals is that the organization doesn’t understand what they are trying to accomplish. You can avoid falling into this trap, and your sponsorship proposal being pushed aside, by clearly highlighting how you can help a prospective sponsor achieve their goals. Identifying who a company currently sponsors, business goals and objectives, community and social initiatives, and how these initiatives help them achieve their business goals and objectives, while supporting their core values, you automatically have insight into what is important to them. Hence, you can highlight what you can do:

Example What it means? How you can help?
“As part of our core values we will continue to educate the public on the importance of healthy, active lifestyles.” Directly reflects image, core value, goals and objectives of evangelizing importance of healthy activity Cycling is a rapidly growing segment providing numerous health benefits. Sponsoring our club will help support your company’s of core value and objectives. Group rides, newsletters, web presence, social media, clinics, events geared to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and will help provide additional visibility and recognition for your company, products and brand.
“We will open a new store in an effort to gain market share and increase sales in North County.” Need to gain market share and increase sales. Requirement to increase awareness of new store, drive traffic and increase sales and market share. Partnership with us can help increase consumer awareness and traffic to your new store; leading to increased sales. Our clubs’ activities, rides, participation in charity and fundraising events, and FREE clinics will promote your business in North County. These efforts supplemented by our club communications, web site, relationship with other local businesses can help increase visibility for your new location.

I have put a lot in front of you today regarding sponsorship proposal tips, research and focusing on the benefits your club or team can deliver. I would love to hear your opinions and comments on this topic.  Feel free to leave a comment here, or send me an e-mail – al@sponsormycyclingclub.com.

On Tuesday, September 28th I will finish this series with a post describing recommended structure and organization of a sponsorship proposal.

Thanks again for visiting.

Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down!”

Al

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Sponsorship proposal – Tips for writing an effective sponsorship proposal for your club or team: Part II

Structure & Organization: Make it clear and straightforward

Picking up where I left off in – “Cycling sponsorship proposals – Tips for writing an effective sponsorship proposal for your club or team, Part I” ; now that you understand the importance of research and focusing the sponsorship proposal on benefits, let’s take a look at the basic structure. It consists of 10 components.

Cover Letter – provides an introduction and high level overview of your club or teams sponsorship proposal.  I view this as a “mini-executive summary.” In 3 – 4, short, paragraphs you need to provide a quick synopsis of why you have submitted a sponsorship proposal, why the reader (and company should be interested), a basic knowledge of the company’s business, the benefit sponsorship can provide. Include an explanation of when you will be contacting them to follow up.

Table of Contents – lists the contents of what is included by section and page number.

Executive Summary – provides an overview of the proposal. The executive summary provides more detail than the cover letter. Include a brief overview of who you are, and an explanation of why you are contacting them. Be sure you exhibit a basic understanding of their company, products or services, and the benefits of sponsorship to them (increased traffic, increased sales, increased brand awareness and brand loyalty….). Your research will allow you to align the benefits your club or team provide with their specific goals, objectives, core values, community initiatives, etc. This is also a great place to describe the benefit your other sponsors may have received through partnership with you. Provide an overview of what you are proposing – how much, for what period of time, etc. Lastly, close the executive summary by thanking them for their time.

Benefit to Sponsor – This section of the proposal should describe specific benefits to the sponsor. Go into detail describing how your club or team would promote the company’s brand, products, or services. List events, races, fundraisers, group ride schedule, meetings. Provide visuals of your website, blogs, social media tools (include URL’s), and newsletters. Discuss where the sponsor’s logo would be displayed on club or team clothing, on web sites, in communications and collateral. Continually, tie everything back to the specific value the company will receive; explaining how sponsorship will support their mission, goals, objectives, initiatives. If your cycling club or team is a 501(c)(3), include the benefits of corporations sponsoring non-profit organizations in this section.

Budget – Include a budget to illustrate how funding will be used.

Proposal Offer – Describe what you are proposing in this section. If you have various levels of sponsorship make sure you provide a CLEAR description of what the company will receive, at each level. Be very specific. And, of course, include the benefit of each sponsorship level. Example – your biggest sponsor typically get’s the largest amount of space on your club or team jersey. This means more visibility and exposure, which can lead to greater traffic, awareness, and sales. Got it?

Overview of club or team – Excellent place to give a BRIEF overview of your club or team, activities, awards, accolades, partnerships, initiatives, etc. Weave in the value of cycling to sponsors. If you need help refer to my previous blog entries “Using Quotes and References”. Again, take the time to describe the purpose of your club, and illustrate how your mission, goals, and objectives, correlate to the sponsors.

Sponsors & Affiliations – List, or depict graphically using logo’s, companies, groups and organizations that sponsor or work with your club. Include quotes from companies describing the benefits they received from sponsoring your club here. It gives you credibility, while giving the prospective sponsor ideas of what they can expect from sponsorship.

Call to Action – Good way to close the proposal describing the action you would like the company to take. Again, take the time to summarize what your club or team is offering and benefits. Let them know when you will be following up, and thank them for their time.

Appendix – any additional information in this section – i.e. sample copy of contracts, news clippings, articles, list of URL’s, etc.

I know it seems like a lot of work, but it can pay dividends by helping differentiate your club or teams sponsorship proposal from all of the others! Not to mention, submitting a well written, organized, and sponsor focused (on the benefit to the sponsor) can help “open the door”, leading to in depth partnership discussions.

Let me know your thoughts on sponsorship proposals. After all that is a very important component of the sponsorship process; which is the focus of my blog!

Stay tuned for FREE e-book; should be available in about 3 weeks.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down!”

Al

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Why should a company “Sponsor My Cycling Club”?

If you, your club mates or teammates, are asking this question as you start your sponsorship drive, you are already ahead of the game. If you aren’t asking this question; maybe you should?

But, before we go there, let’s take a step back and take a look at a couple of pros and cons.

PRO: Sports Sponsorship is a multi-billion dollar industry. Companies use sponsorship as a vehicle to get their message into the market, to raise the visibility of their products and company, to attract new clients and consumers, and to promote a positive image. Bottom line, sponsorship is an important component of most companies’ marketing strategy; it helps them make money!

CON: The competition for securing sponsorship is HIGH! Every club, team, non-profit; individuals riding, running, walking, for a worthy cause; are typically asking some company, somewhere, in your backyard for money! So, you’re not alone. But, here is the other piece of the CON equation. If everyone under the sun is sending a sponsorship letter, sponsorship proposal, request for sponsorship, charitable donation request, fund raising request….how is a company going to filter through all of these requests, and determine who to provide with sponsorship and funding? Especially during our current economic times. Is your club or teams generic sponsorship proposal going to get noticed? And, get you funding?

So, here’s the question again – “Why should a company Sponsor My Cycling Club”?

Well, Top Ten Tips for Securing Cycling Sponsorship provides tips and answers for improving your club or teams ability to find, engage, and secure new sponsors. Companies will sponsor your club or team if you:

understand what they do

focus your sponsorship proposal on the benefit to THEM

uncovered a solution to a problem

are creative in your approach

tied the benefit you can deliver to their business and sponsorship goals and objectives

differentiate the value you provide from other organizations requesting sponsorship and funding

can justify their sponsorship investment by demonstrating ROI and value

Go ahead, download the e-book, Top Ten Tips for Securing Cycling Sponsorship, and check it out. IT’S FREE!

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down”!

Al

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Sponsorship Proposal & Social Media – harness the power of social media to increase the success of your sponsorship proposal

Even if you have a fantastic website, blog, and Twitter account, describing everything your club or team does, you are not guaranteed your sponsorship proposal will be seen, or be successful in securing funding.

Simply tweeting  “We are seeking sponsors for 2011” via Twitter, publishing your sponsorship proposal on your web site, or sending out generic sponsorship proposals and letters blindly is typically NOT going to cut it for securing sponsors. Don’t get me wrong, you might get some interest, and you may be lucky enough to land a few. But, are you really leveraging available tools to help you connect with companies that could have a genuine interest in sponsoring your club or team?

Here’s the deal, social media tools as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to name a few, can provide you with the information needed to identify companies that can be prospective sponsors. I’m not talking about building a fancy, whizz bang, web or blog site, or blasting OUT a 100 Twitter updates into cyberspace to TELL what your club or team is doing. No, what I am describing is a way to use all of the tools we use in our personal lives to LISTEN to what companies are saying, UNDERSTAND their potential needs, and IDENTIFY how sponsorship could augment their existing advertising and PR campaigns to solve a problem. By LISTENING, your club or team, can gather valuable information, quickly determining which companies might be interested in hearing YOUR story. This isn’t about driving people to your website, blog, etc….sure, that’s important – LATER! To be successful in the sponsorship process, you need to prospect, find companies, and people in those companies, that have a need, and want to hear your story. By gathering intelligence you do a few things – you qualify which company might have a need, who within the company is driving and making decisions, and therefore might be the best person to establish a relationship with, approach, and be amenable to your story!

In the past, most of us would gather information about potential prospects by – buying lists, reading the newspaper, identifying who is moving into town, expanding, hiring people, releasing a new product, etc. But in today’s information age, by the time you see this information in traditional forms; it’s old news; everybody already knows it! However, if your club or team is using tools like search.twitter, blogsearch.google, while researching company pages on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, you are already a step ahead. Taking this type of approach enables you to achieve a few things – a) you have identified valuable information early, and, b) you are able to begin thinking of how to align your club or teams value with the company you are investigating. The whitepaper “Selling in the Age of Social Media” states that using social media can enable you to “zero in on companies that contain the specific criteria best aligned with our products”; in the case of your club or team, your products are the benefits you provide.

So, here are 5 quick tips for your club or team to identify, connect, engage, qualify, advance, and close sponsorship opportunities, faster and more effectively than you ever have before.

Use tools to find companies that are prime sponsorship candidates – experiencing change; new products being released, targeting new market segments, expanding, growing, relocating, cost cutting initiatives,  ……these are all signals of change, and signs that sponsorship can offer potential value.

who is saying what, where, when, why and how” – Listen, and observe, “what they are saying?” And, equally important, “who is saying it?”, using “which tools?” This gives you clues into what is of concern or interest, who you might approach, and how you might approach them.

Customize your approach - Craft your messages around the problem they are trying to solve, or the desire they have to change something (i.e. – increase market share, increase visibility, increase sales……). And, establish a dialog using the tools they are most comfortable with. If the person you are interested in engaging “Tweets”, follow them, and communicate via Twitter.

Be a “private eye” – no, not literally! Use social media tools to investigate companies; identify who you might know, what their activities are, groups and communities they belong to, interests, etc..Determine how you can use this information to advance your sponsorship efforts.

Referrals still work wonders (and always will) – Investigate if you, a club member, or teammate, knows “someone-who-knows-someone”. You know what to do if you know them. In the case of the latter, ask for an introduction.

The more you understand about a company; their business and sponsorship goals and objectives; the better your chances of identifying companies where your club or teams value will resonate most! In addition, you are also quickly identifying who within the organization will be most receptive to your messages. Lastly, by using social media tools to their full potential, you can ensure maximum effectiveness for your club or teams sponsorship proposal.

Leveraging social media tools to improve selling effectiveness (which is essentially what you are doing during the sponsorship process) is a rapidly evolving, and highly discussed area. I found two very helpful whitepapers on the subject – “Selling in the Age of Social Media” by InsideView, and “Making Social Media Effective for Business” by Impact Interactions. Both whitepapers will provide your club and team with useful information to leverage social media for success.

As mentioned, this is an extremely HOT topic. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down!”

Al

P.S. – The FREE e-Book, “Top Ten Tips For Securing Cycling Sponsorship”, will be available on our site next week!

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SponsorshipInDownEconomy

Received a great question recently regarding trends for sponsorship in a down economy; specifically, if there are industries or types of companies that would continue to invest in sponsorship of clubs and teams?

My answer is that although we are in a down economy, companies are still continuing to invest in sponsorship as a means to “get their message” into the market, create visibility for their company and brand, and demonstrate a sense of community by supporting societal trends and concerns (healthy lifestyles, “green”, transportation issues, work-life-balance, etc.). And, sponsorship is still an excellent vehicle to augment existing marketing and public relations initiatives; not to mention, it is definitely more affordable than traditional forms of advertising.

Here are some interesting points I found while researching sponsorship trends during current economic times:

More companies were planning to invest more sponsorship dollars in 2010 than they did in 2009

Sponsorship is viewed by many companies as an important vehicle to augment existing marketing efforts, while also contributing to their philanthropic objectives (community service, etc.). This is HUGE nowadays because it’s all about spreading good PR and being in touch with what’s happening (healthy living, “green”, transportation issues, etc.). For many companies, being perceived positively, in support of societal concerns, among consumers can mean positive brand recognition (which can lead to more sales)

The majority of companies make their sponsorship decisions in Q4 (between October and December); which means they are making decisions NOW!

Are there specific industries that are more amenable to sponsorship than others; especially nowadays?

I’m not really seeing any industry coming to the forefront either in the research I have performed, or through the personal interactions I have had. At the professional level we’re seeing every possible industry involved in sponsorship in one form or another. At a local level, the cycling club I belong to is in discussions with a premier golf course community for sponsorship! One trend I am seeing though is local companies beginning to sponsor event venues. This is no longer the exclusive territory of the professional sports stadiums and ballparks. An example of the value of sponsorship on a local level is a Toyota dealership paying $ 1.5M to sponsor a park in Lewisville, TX! As of October 1, the official park name will be Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park. Approximately 582K people visit the park annually for  youth leagues, sports tournaments, and special events as the Panda Cup International Soccer Tournament, American Southwest Conference Women’s Softball Championship, Texas Firefighter Olympics and Regional Amateur Tour (RAT) Skateboarding.

A few key points I will leave you with regarding reasons companies sponsor clubs, teams and events:

As a vehicle to reach their audience and compete in segments they deem valuable to their brand, products and services.

To increase visibility of their products and services in targeted segments and niche’s.

To help create a “buzz” around NEW products and services.

To drive more traffic for their store, website, or sponsored event.

To help drive sales and revenue .

To create additional business for their partners (retailers, suppliers, affiliates, etc.).

To demonstrate a sense of social responsibility and community involvement.

To entertain existing and prospective clients and partners (events).

The bottom line – companies are still investing a portion of their budgets in sponsorship, in spite of a down economy, because it helps them achieve their goals and objectives. By aligning your value with a company’s goals and objectives you can increase your club or teams chances of successfully securing sponsorship.

Here’s my question to you – “why shouldn’t a company sponsor you?”

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down!”

Al

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Sponsorship proposal: Get your team sponsorship proposal more attention by solving a problem!

When approaching prospective sponsors, and writing sponsorship proposals, keep three things in mind:

  1. Securing sponsorship is about how well you sell yourself and the organization you represent
  2. Selling yourself is always about demonstrating value – “what’s in it for the sponsor?”
  3. There is no better way to demonstrate value to a sponsor than by solving a problem!

I recently read an interview with the Director of National Strategic Partnerships for Southwest Airlines discussing his objectives, goals and strategies for working with partners. When asked to describe what separates good partners from others, he is quoted – “They become problem solvers for us. They are interested in what we are trying to accomplish, as opposed to what they have to sell……..In a good sponsorship, the property tries to understand what I am trying to accomplish, either in the individual market or on a bigger scale, and how they can be a solution to that challenge.”

Understanding a company’s strategy, goals, objectives and focus gives you insight into what is important to them. Determining how their business objectives fit into their sponsorship goals helps you identify areas where your cycling club can make a positive impact. Performing basic research of their website, blogs, etc., and engaging them in a dialog, will give you a wealth of information you can use in creating a sponsorship proposal.

Investing the time and effort to research, explore, and understand from the companies perspective “the problems THEY are trying to solve”, and the role sponsorship can play, helps your cycling club’s sponsorship efforts in so many ways. Building your cycling clubs’ messages, and sponsorship proposal, by aligning with the company’s goals, objectives; describing how your cycling club can help to solve a problem, automatically gives you a leg up on everyone else requesting funding! You differentiate yourself because your ideas, messages, and sponsorship proposal, are focused on delivering real business value. Aligning your cycling clubs’ value with a company’s business concerns; demonstrating how your club can provide a solution; can be very powerful in helping you build an effective business case, and sponsorship proposal.

As you begin to research and engage a company in sponsorship discussions, ask questions that will help identify and clarify what they are trying to accomplish. Focus on areas and issues which are top of mind, and will help them achieve their business goals and objectives. A few examples of the prevalent business imperatives where companies typically focus a majority of their time, money and energy are:

  • increase visibility and awareness
  • increase sales and market share
  • penetrate new market segments
  • supplement existing marketing campaigns
  • demonstrate social consciousness and responsibility
  • penetrate new market segments & demographics
  • drive greater traffic our website, locations (store, etc.), or events
  • augment existing marketing initiatives and programs

Now, take these areas of concern, and put the following phrase in front of it – “How can sponsorship help us…” . Gives it a different perspective, right?

  • How can sponsorship help us increase visibility and awareness?
  • How can sponsorship help us increase sales and market share?
  • How can sponsorship help us penetrate new market segments?
  • How can sponsorship help us supplement our existing marketing campaigns?
  • How can sponsorship help us demonstrate social consciousness and responsibility?
  • How can sponsorship help us penetrate new market segments & demographics?
  • How can sponsorship help us drive greater traffic our website, locations (store, etc.), or events?
  • How can sponsorship help us augment existing marketing initiatives and programs?

By taking this approach you are taking the mindset of a company executive, and putting yourself in a position to provide a solution, helping them to accomplish their goal!

These are questions corporate executives are asking themselves; i.e., problems they are trying to solve? Asking questions, engaging in conversations, and researching – their objectives; “what’s on their mind”, the problems they are wrestling with; enables your cycling club to come up with creative ways to use sponsorship of your cycling club as a solution to their problems. This type of approach to identifying problems, and potential solutions your cycling club can deliver, allows you to to differentiate your cycling club, and your sponsorship proposal, increasing the chances of securing sponsorship and funding.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down.”

Al

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“There are a kazillion amateur teams at all levels of ability whose sponsors provide everything from a case of product to a full complement of clothing and equipment……The process of acquiring sponsorship at this level isn’t easy. These teams won’t produce the same results as the professional teams, nor will they enjoy a great reach into the market, making them a tough sell to prospective sponsors.”

“At this level, the process of acquiring sponsorship usually begins with one proactive member of the club/team who takes the initiative to write a letter…….It will be sent to one, two, or several local businesses and will contain a proposal for sponsorship that includes some explanation about the sport. There will be a list of the benefits of sponsoring a cycling team and, most importantly, a request for money.”

Jamie Smith, author – Roadie the Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer

I thoroughly enjoyed Jamie Smith’s book “Roadie: the Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer” because it explains why, as cyclists, we engage in what non-cyclists would deem, eccentric behavior and obsessive habits. However, what particularly hit home was Jamie’s description of the process of securing sponsors. As team and club cyclists, we spend a lot of time designing the “perfect” kit, to distinguish ourselves from other cyclists. Are we spending the same amount of time and effort developing requests for funding? Shouldn’t we?

Think about it. How often do you receive an unsolicited phone call, mail, or e-mail, offering you a product or service? Do you tend to pay closer attention, and be more responsive to offers which are customized specifically to you, versus those which clearly know nothing about you?

It is the same for companies receiving unsolicited proposals for sponsorship funding. So, how do you separate yourself from the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of organizations vying for funding?  Is a boiler plate, vanilla, proposal really going to get it done? Probably Not!

By following the same basic rules used in the corporate sector – knowing your audience and tailoring your message – you can vastly improve your chances of securing sponsorship and funding.

The following are recommendations you can keep in mind to create effective sponsorship proposals, helping you achieve the desired results you want – securing funding!

  1. be accurate – make sure you have the right contact, and you spell their name, and the company name correctly.
  2. customize it – add their logo to your template; or, add the prospective sponsors name to the title – “XYZ Cycling Club sponsorship proposal for ABC Electronics”
  3. focus on THEM – the benefit and value THE SPONSOR will gain from sponsoring your club. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU, IT IS ABOUT THE VALUE TO THE SPONSOR.
  4. demonstrating a basic understanding of their company, products, (and, maybe even their industry) sends a very positive message. It gives you credibility, and shows you have taken the time to learn about them. Secondarily, what you learned through your research provides an excellent foundation for explaining the value your club can provide.
  5. reference relevant information which might be of interest to them – if their target demographic and market aligns with cycling’s demographic – state it, and why it is important!
  6. differentiation is VERY important – anything describing why your club is different from the other organizations makes you stand out, giving you an immediate advantage
  7. reference stories and quotes are always helpful. Including a quote from a happy, existing sponsor, is an endorsement for your club; it is validation that sponsoring your club can deliver value.
  8. be creative – present ideas of how your club can promote the sponsors brand and products – will their logo be prominent on your jersey, website, banner, newsletters, e-mail, etc.? Explain why this is important. Also, discuss the value your club provides by aligning with their – market, customers, or initiatives (“green”, or employee health & wellness programs are good ones)
  9. provide clear options – ensure the prospective sponsor can clearly understand the various options. Include descriptions of various levels, cost, benefit for each.
  10. give direction – provide a call to action describing what you want the sponsor to do – contact you, schedule a meeting, review a contract?

Remember, anything your club can do to demonstrate an understanding, knowledge, and value goes a long way in differentiating you from others requesting funding and sponsorship.

Thanks for visiting. Until next time, keep the rubber side down!

References

Roadie: the Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer – Jamie Smith, p.134 – 135

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