At the time of writing this article, the country has been working through the COVID pandemic for just about a year. During that time Youth Sports markets went from $28.7 billion down to $6.7 billion in 2020. This is not to scare you, but for you to understand why it’s even more necessary to plan and approach sponsors with directness. The days of waffle and hoping to get a sponsor because they are also a parent on the team are almost non-existent.
You must be methodical and come to the table with absolute benefits, as everyone is feeling the pinch and questioning every dollar they spend and who they align themselves with.
Before you begin your search for Sponsors, you need to make decisions on what type of sponsors are best for your club. You ultimately should be looking for sponsors that align with your club’s vision and values. So you may look for key characteristics such as:
Products/Business reach a broader audience
Positive standing in the community (even with the BBB)
An audience that could be interested in your club
These example criteria might seem broad, but they are items that you can use as a guide when selecting your sponsors. While it may seem tempting to strike a deal with any company that is interested, that might not be the most prudent in the long run. Be selective, remember you have a membership pool that you are responsible for and who will hold you accountable. The only way to do that is to know upfront what kind of sponsors are suitable for your sports club.
Now that you have an idea of your criteria for sponsors, the next step is to pull together the basics for your proposal. Most clubs just run out and speak to potential Sponsors and then if they are interested, it takes them way too long to pull the information together. The chances of you locking in that sponsor are slim, so it’s best to have the basics in place and then adjust to suit the specific sponsor once they’ve asked for the information. Below are the items that you should pull together early:
Your Credentials (Who are you and why should they partner with you.)
Your history, or a brief timeline of when you began and how you have grown.
Your volunteers, staff, and how they contribute to the organization
Any information regarding your standing in the community.
Your Ideal Sponsor (What type of sponsor does the club want to align with?)
Repeat your specific criteria from above
Tell them if you want them to be involved in any events or competitions
Your Value (How far is your reach?)
Your membership size, their demographics, and if you have supporting members.
Your stakeholders and past members if you keep in touch with them. (For example, if you send out a monthly newsletter to previous members, vendors, and any other stakeholders those are additional impressions for the Sponsor)
Any information regarding your social media presence. What platforms are you on and what is the audience size. Also, include if you do any kind of marketing throughout the year as this will add to the number of impressions they will be looking for.
Your Execution (How with their sponsorship be used and how will you show a return on investment)
Present sponsorship levels if you use them
Explain the specifics of what you are looking for if you don’t have levels. (Do you want sponsorship for an event or the season?)
What will they get in return?
The number of monthly impressions because they will be mentioned weekly/monthly on social media, on the website, and/or in newsletters.
Will their company name and logo be on a sign or displayed prominently on social media
Will they be recognized and allowed to speak at an event?
Now that you are armed with what kind of sponsors you want and the information you will be giving them, it’s time to get the word out and start looking for them.
When looking for initial sponsors, start with the obvious - your members. Let them know what you are looking for and the sponsorship levels. You can also ask your members to spread the word and share the information with their inner circle. While it might seem obvious, your members will be more engaged and enthusiastic when it comes to either becoming a sponsor or finding you one.
Next would be to target local and national sponsors that fit your requirements. After your proposal is ready, you can call to try and gain an appointment or send an email. Either way, make sure you follow up and keep your enthusiasm about yourself. Sponsor-finding can be more like trying to get a job, you might have to jump a lot of hurdles and field quite a few “no’s” before you get to a “YES!”.
Once you can gain a conversation about partnering together, make sure you let the sponsor speak about what they want. Often clubs get locked into or focus on the packages they’ve put together. You might need to bend or customize the proposal to ensure the sponsor feels like they are getting the best value for their support.
Ultimately, if you plan ahead, create a winning proposal that is ready to go, and are tenacious about reaching out to your desired sponsors you will have a good outcome. Just remember the financial climate we are in today, be understanding and be prepared because there will be a lot of competition for those sponsorship dollars.