How to... find sponsorship

Sponsorship is undoubtedly one of the key sources of income for all clubs


Sponsorship is undoubtedly one of the key sources of income for all clubs, irrespective of their size.

Without a successful sponsorship programme, the clubs will struggle to reach their income targets.

What is Sponsorship?

Sponsorship is when a person or business supports a person, group of people or sporting club (this could be financially or in kind) in an activity which provides a profit for the recipient.

In return, the sponsor usually receives some business benefit, although philanthropic sponsorship does exist.

What is the situation today?

In the past, many businesses that have been connected to a club have supported it through sponsorship without wanting anything back from it.

This situation has changed dramatically during the last few years as the economic climate has changed, with many Sponsors now needing to justify their investment in the club.

What does the club need to understand?

For the club to have a successful sponsorship programme now it needs to understand the following:

  • Which outcomes does the business want to achieve from their investment?
  • How can the club assist them in achieving these outcomes?
  • How does the club put a sponsorship package together and which skills do they need to sell it, especially in the face of competition?
  • Once they have a sponsor how do they service the sponsorship and retain it?
  • Companies use sponsorship in order to fulfil their business needs


Building up a Sponsorship Campaign

Background Information

What does the Sponsor want from the deal?

As we have mentioned there are some sponsors who will provide sponsorship funds for philanthropic reasons. For the purpose of this paper we are going to assume that all sponsorships exist to fulfil business needs for the sponsor.

There are five main reasons why a business might buy sponsorship:

  1. to find it more customers
  2. to assist it in retaining its existing customers
  3. to assist in developing brand awareness for the business
  4. To build up the reputation of the business in the local community and wider world – this is sometimes called CSR.
  5. To motivate and reward it’s work force

What does the club have that can fulfil these needs?

  • To find more customers - databases, members, supporters
  • To retain customers - hospitality and games and events when the business can interact with its clients
  • Brand awareness - shirt advertising, web site, pitch side hoarding, programme, roadside advertising
  • Build their reputation - involvement in community and mini rugby activity
  • Motivate workforce - be seen to support sport, activity in their community. Employee involvement, TAG/Touch Tournaments etc.

Key Points

  • The greater the numbers that the club has for the following - databases, members, Facebook Likes, hits on the web site, spectators etc. - the greater the value the sponsorship will have
  • Different sponsor will want different outcomes from the relationship. Some may want to find new customers and to motivate their staff; others may want to build their reputation
  • The key to selling sponsorship is to find out what the business is looking for and to offer it to them!
  • Once you have a sponsor in place you need to retain them by ensuring that you speak with them on a regular basis and check that they are getting the outcomes they expect

Step one - Building up a sponsorship proposition

Using the information outlined in the background, a club should audit the club to find out what it has available to sponsors to fulfil their needs e.g. a database of 1000 that could connect them to 1000 potential customers, a schools programme that they could use to build their reputation or International Tickets that they could use to build relationships wit their existing customers.

Step Two - The Value of your inventory

The club will then need to decide what value this has.

This can be achieves through an analysis of other clubs sponsorship documents, through analysis equivalent sponsorships and advertising rates and if possible if a member of your club works at one of your target businesses ask them what they think the value is.


Step Three - Building up a target list

The club will need to carry out research to build up a target list of companies.

This can be achieved -

a) via business or council web sites

b) word of mouth

c) reading the business pages of the local newspaper

d) reading any local business magazines.

Once the target list has been established then the club will need to isolate the person responsible for sponsorship.

The easiest way to achieve this is to call up the business and ask for the name of the person.

If they won't give out the name then try to find a person who works at that business to ask or look at the recent press cuttings from the business since often the sponsorship person is photographed handing out a cheque!

Step Four - What does the business want?

The key to your success is to try and have some idea of the 'wants and needs' of the business before you approach it.

Very often there will be information on their web site, failing this simply call up the business making a 'research' call

"I am working with a local club and wanted to find out how you get involved in the local community and what sort of projects do you sponsor?"

Step Five - Contacting the Business

If one of your members is working at the target business then sending them in with an overview of the project you want to get sponsored and them asking the sponsorship person if they will meet you is your strongest approach.

If this isn't the case, then if you have a person within the club that it used to making sales calls, the initial contact should be through the telephone.

The aim is to get a meeting with the relevant person where you can

a) find out more about the businesses wants and needs

b) let them know that the club can fulfil these needs.

If you didn't have a person who can make a sales telephone call then you will need to send in information via email and through the post.

Step Six - the Presentation

If you do manage to get a meeting then you will need to a) before you present try to find out more details about the “wants and needs” of the business b) have a short professional presentation about the project you want sponsoring c) use the information they give you at the start of the meeting in the presentation to highlight the fact that this project can fulfil their business.

Writing the Sponsorship document/presentation

I have outlined below one suggestion for the structure of the sponsorship document or PowerPoint

Section One

Background on the club covering areas such as ethos, structure, history, Geographic location, activities, teams and achievements

Section Two

The ambitions of the club – what is the clubs 'vision' and what will it look like in three years’ time.

Section Three

The numbers section:

  • Size of data bases - demographics and post code analysis if possible
  • Numbers of users on the web site, social media sites etc.
  • Number of participants in each section of the club
  • Number of members
  • Coverage in local press – press cuttings if possible
  • Number of cars driving past the end of the road
  • Number of businesses using the club house

Section Four

The Sponsorship Rights

This is basically a summary of what the business gets for its money and will depend on what it is hoping to achieve through the relationship. It may include;

  • Access to the clubs data – in line with data protection laws
  • Advertising sites – web site, e mail, posters, at the ground etc.
  • Summer school for employees
  • Table at the end of season dinner

Section Five

The Investment – how much, when it is payable and how long the term of the sponsorship is.

To be successful…

  • Understand that sponsorship has to be “sold” and that the potential sponsor has business” needs” that he has to fulfil.
  • Preparation is vital – know what it is you have to sell, build up a target list and prepare sponsorship/marketing collateral. Try to find out through research how you could help a business to fulfil it’s business needs
  • Be professional at all times – your competition will be!
  • If you don’t have the necessary marketing skills (do you know how to make a sales call or write a sales letter) find a local course that will teach you
  • If you sign a sponsorship deal don’t forget to service It!

Case study - leigh miners rangers

Developing an income stream through Sponsorship

The sponsorship opportunities that Leigh Miners Rangers have available are tailored to accommodate all budgets and offer a great way for you to promote your business or simply to show your support, in the knowledge that you are making a great contribution to community sport in Leigh.

The income generated through Sponsorship at Leigh Miners Rangers is well into five figures and is the second largest income stream behind membership.

They offer a wide range of packages which include:

  • Match Day Sponsorship
  • Ground Advertising
  • Programme Advertising
  • Match ball Sponsorship
  • Player Sponsorship
  • Player Kit Sponsorship
  • Shirt Sponsorship
  • Website advertising

The Sponsorship sales are run by volunteers and focus on Corporate Social Responsibility i.e. the club is a very community orientated club offering opportunities for women, children, players who want to perform at the highest level and those who want to play socially.

This fact attracts sponsors who want to be seen to supporting their local community and to develop their brand awareness through the association with the club.

The club works very hard to ensure that the sponsor's brands are given promotion through their social media channels and web site. This in turn acts as a promotion for the sponsorship with other businesses being attracted to the club via this activity.

The packages are also promoted through the web site and a commercial document which shows an understanding of what the sponsors and advertisers want from their involvement with the club.

The club also focusses on providing an outstanding matchday experience for those sponsors whose packages include match day hospitality.

A new facility adjacent to the pitch for the sponsors allows them to provide this experience along with a personal interaction from all of the club officials.

In summary, the club's approach to sponsorship is one in which they:

a) provide packages which reflect what the sponsors want I.e. provision of brand promotion and match day experiences

b) they promote these packages well and

c) they deliver what they say they will. The result of this is that sponsors support the club year on year and new sponsors are attracted because of this.

Case study - Mirfield Stags ARLFC

Sponsorship is essential for the club since it funds all of the activity which takes place on and off the field.

Mirfield Stags has developed a very strong ethos, especially in this area and it is based upon the following.

The club shouldn't go for 'charitable handouts' from its supporters but should work to attract supporters/sponsors who benefit from their involvement.

To be in a position to provide this, the club:

a) needs to have a strong and consistent brand (all of the playing kit across the club is the same and the logo is a very strong and distinctive logo)

b) The sponsors are given exposure across all of the social media and web site channels. To achieve this, the club strives to have a high quality web site which attracts people to it and works hard to provide interesting content for its social media channels.

As a result of this they have almost 1600 followers on Facebook, nearly 2000 Twitter followers and close to 400 on Instagram.

The Club also works hard to get coverage within the local media.

The club provides a wide range of packages for potential sponsors which vary in price from £100 upwards.

These sponsorships are sold through discussions in which the club aims to find out what it is the potential sponsor wants from the sponsorship and then tries to offer it to them.

Sponsors are rewarded for their loyalty. The sponsors who have been with the club since the start of the club two and a half years ago are offered a slightly cheaper deal.

The Club also offers contra deals for those sponsors who want to become involved and want to use their goods or services in exchange for the sponsorship benefits.

Finally, the club aims to provide a local rugby league club with opportunities for all of the local community from children to adults. This is also a good CSR opportunity for local businesses.

In summary the club has taken a very professional view of its sponsorship activity. It aims to provide value for its sponsors and an association with a strong local brand.