When starting a sponsorship program for a venue, event or cause, an organization needs to have an idea of where it wants to end up—target revenues, types of partners, priority industries or companies and, of course, a plan for how to attract the new partners, negotiate agreements and manage activation.
As important as any of these factors is the need for identifying, packaging and valuing sponsor benefits. It’s vital for properties to take the time to design a program built of components that the sponsored organization can genuinely deliver to partners. In other words, a sponsorship program needs to be designed with the end in mind—for the sponsored property and its future partners.
We begin by assuming that virtually all properties want to maximize returns from sponsorship—after all, if you’re going to work through the challenging process of developing and maintaining corporate sponsors, you might as well make the most of it. This means that time should be taken to fully clarify what can be offered of value that will make a property desirable and attractive to potential sponsors.
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Whether starting a new program or enhancing an existing one, properties should identify forms of value that will help attract partner companies operating in desirable business sectors. To do so, the property should be clear about what can and cannot be offered to sponsors in those industry sectors that will be approached or considered for partnership. This process should be expansive though some lines may need to be drawn to maintain integrity of the event, venue or programs involved, particularly with a nonprofit or government partnership.
Beyond deciding the specific benefits that can be offered based on traditional sponsorship models (brand integration, venue or event visibility, tickets/hospitality, etc.), properties need to find ways that sponsors can derive value related to their industry and specific to their business. For instance, if a property wants to target auto brands, there needs to be an opportunity for car displays, ride and drives and unique driver engagements. If a property targets rideshare companies, there should be digital tools to drive audience usage and, if a physical space is involved, branded pick-up locations should be identified. In either case, once a partner is in place, their competitors should have as limited access to the sponsored property as possible.
We are currently working with the owners of Willis Tower in Chicago. This iconic skyscraper is undergoing a massive $600MM renovation “from street to sky” and is setting up to pursue sponsors. Our team has worked through this process for several industry categories including those mentioned above as well as payment systems, telecom, consumer products, beverages and more. We even developed offerings for companies involved in the redevelopment process itself. We have revised the program based on feedback along the way and are now reaching a stage of closure with initial founding partners.
Of course, this also assumes that there will be thematic linkages between the property offering and the interests of desired partners, including content alignment, shared audiences, community engagement and other common interests. We recently completed a 20-year naming partnership between Blue Shield of California and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that evolved into an ideal alignment of shared interests. Blue Shield has been repositioning around more holistic wellness themes, such as the health benefits of artistic expression, and YBCA is involved with programs and artists that use the arts to generate positive health outcomes.
The bottom line is that properties seeking to maximize their sponsorship value and attract the partners desired need to work to identify specific tools that can be offered to prospective sponsors that will directly address their partner’s needs.
Bartram Partnerships is ideally suited to help properties make these determinations. When taking on a new property client our first goal is to help maximize the value of the offering and the attractiveness of the property to potential sponsors. We do this by finding ways to address the strategic needs of the partners while helping the property generate the return needed to justify the effort.