“Sponsorship is a relationship that requires you, the sponsorship sales person, to be a good listener.”

Sponsorship is a tough business. If you’ve ever tried to drum up even $500 for your daughter’s soccer team, you know how difficult it is to engage a corporate partner to sponsor your team, your event, your association, your venue.

Sponsorship sales and marketing is a minefield full of potential pitfalls. Mistakes are common.  It’s a competitive industry and you, the sponsorship seeker, will be up against many others who are also trying to attract sponsors. Many sponsorship seekers make some critical errors in the first initial stages of connecting with sponsor partners and these mistakes early on may result in never making it past the initial call or meeting.

Here are a few quick tips that may save you time and money (and will hopefully also position your sponsorable property in a positive light with potential brands right from the get-go).

Here are 5 important things to STOP doing at the initial stages of your sponsorship journey:


  1. Stop Talking So Much

Sponsorship is a relationship that requires you, the sponsorship sales person, to be a good listener. Dig deep into understanding the needs of your prospective sponsor by asking questions and then sitting back to listen. Let them do all the talking in your initial interaction or discovery call/meeting.


  1. Stop Trying to Close the Deal in the First Meeting

The first interaction is designed for discovery and factfinding – leave your cheesy and aggressive closing tactics at home.  This type of one-liner is a definite no-no:

“What would it take to get you into this new car today?”

Sponsorship isn’t car sales. There’s a lot of to’ing and fro’ing involved as you work towards building a relationship with your sponsor partner. Be patient. The first meeting is not a case of one and done.


  1. Stop Focusing on Logo Visibility

Every brand has its own unique reasons why it may consider sponsoring your property. Not every sponsor prospect is looking for brand impressions. The logo pizza (i.e. a sign displaying 40 sponsor logos at your event) is dead. Most sponsors do not have an obsession with seeing their logo plastered everywhere. For many brands, logo visibility is expected, but is not the sole reason why they may choose to enter into a sponsorship relationship.

There are other hooks – like lead generation, engagement, corporate social responsibility, and more. In the initial meeting, if you make an attempt to understand what your sponsor is really looking for and hoping to get out of the partnership, it will be much easier to build a relevant and customized sponsorship program that will attract brands.

Make a conscience effort In the initial stages of connecting with a sponsor prospect to avoid overselling logo visibility.


  1. Stop Pitching Gold, Silver and Bronze Packages

1993 called and they want their sponsorship proposals back. Traditional sponsorship levels where you up the price from one level to the next and include a few more PA announcements and event tickets to justify the higher status level (and price tag) is not where sponsorship is at any longer.

It’s okay to present a menu of options to a sponsor, but let the sponsor weigh-in on which assets on your menu are the best fit for their brand. If you listen more and talk less in your initial interactions with a sponsor prospect, you’ll figure out exactly what to put in the proposal (see #1 above). Leave gold, silver and bronze on the podium where they belong.


  1. Stop Being So Pushy.

The first call or discovery meeting is about THEM, not about YOU (see tip #1 above). Yes, you’re excited because you have a great property to sell and you want everyone to know about it, but going in aggressively with flashy presentation materials, analytics, and demographics in the first meeting is overkill.

Think of it like a first date – would you show up with your resume, testimonials from past partners who think highly of you, a slideshow filled with flattering photos and then proceed to talk all about yourself?

Hopefully not.

Tone it down and play it cool. In fact, bring nothing to the first meeting. Make it all about them.


Developing a mutually beneficial sponsorship partnership is a journey that starts with an initial outreach. Many sponsorship professionals never make it past the first discussion because they unknowingly commit one of these 5 common sponsorship mistakes. You usually only have one shot at this discovery meeting – make it count!

Feel free to reach out to me for a complimentary 15-minute telephone consultation if you’d like more tips on building sponsorship partnerships or if you need some advice on fine-tuning your current sponsorship strategy.