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:
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:
What does the club have that can fulfil these needs?
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.
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.
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!
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?"
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.
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.
I have outlined below one suggestion for the structure of the sponsorship document or PowerPoint
Background on the club covering areas such as ethos, structure, history, Geographic location, activities, teams and achievements
The ambitions of the club – what is the clubs 'vision' and what will it look like in three years’ time.
The numbers section:
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;
The Investment – how much, when it is payable and how long the term of the sponsorship is.
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:
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.
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.