Closing the Gap

Women’s sports accounts for 5.4% of the value of all sponsorship deals and just 0.4%  in the UK.

This percentage is mirrored in the number of women CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies: 5.4%, and though not one is a sports company, women are rising through the corporate ranks to become decision-makers.  The underlying cultural attitudes around women and women’s sports are slowly changing and organisations such as Women in Sport and This Girl Can are just two examples of movements working to change perceptions.

Effective communication is the key for athletes to promote themselves and their sport and to increase their share of the sponsorship pie.  By becoming part of the conversation in social media and thus becoming more relevant, potential sponsors can see the value of the athlete to their brand and the business plan becomes clear. Ultimately, they need to know they will get a return on their money as well as activation avenues.  Sponsoring female athletes creates a potential new audience and revenue stream as women today have huge buying power.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has been able to translate the popularity of the sport into large sponsorship and media deals. Last year, it signed a 10-year, $525 million media rights deal with PERFORM, the largest media rights and production deal in the history of women’s sports. Tennis is leading the way for gender equality with equal prize money for the four Grand Slams. Only a few female stars outside of Tennis such as Mia Hamm & Ronda Rousey attract the huge deals that the men so easily do.

Creating sponsorship for female athletes is no different to men: athletes need to be ambassadors for the brand and communicate well the brand’s culture. By using female athletes, brands could not only access a wider audience but also create opportunities to activate in new and creative ways.  Sponsors who integrate into women centric platforms showcase their support for gender equality and diversity.

Mastering The Quick Sales Pitch

Cold calling is not a dying art. It is however, a tough skill to master but it is integral to the sponsorship sales process.
One of the largest sponsorship deals in the UK started from a phone call. The Millennium Dome, London’s well-known landmark, cold-called O2 out of the blue to pitch them the idea to sponsor the dome. It was clearly a good pitch as it is now known as The O2 Arena.
Sponsorship sales experts who are armed with a well-valued platform, a professional and concise sponsorship proposal and their knowledge of sponsorship, will still need to reach the decision makers on the phone and interest them quickly. The best way to do this is to get hold of them on the phone for an initial sales pitch and wet their appetite.

Here are 4 key things to ensure you get the key aim from a cold call – the face to face meeting:

1. Me, me, me
The most obvious mistake that sponsorship sales people make is being too focused on ‘me’. They explain too much about the platform, how amazing their event is and how there is nothing else like it in the market. The best approach is to give the quickest, concise elevator pitch possible and then make the entire conversation about the brand. How can you achieve their objectives? How the platform solves their business problem? Why should they give you money compared to all other sponsorship platforms out there?

2. Ask the questions
There are sales people who neglect one of the most important elements to any form of sponsorship pitch, they don’t ask enough questions. The ideal initial call will be short, only a few minutes long, but the sponsorship sales person talks far less than the brand. In this short time frame, it is important to understand as much about the brand as possible and their objectives. A smart sponsorship expert can then turn any objections into positives, pulling across their various assets which can solve real business problems. The more the brand talks, the better the call.

3. Personalise each call
It is vital to ensure you aren’t going out with a blanket proposition to potential sponsors. If you get the decision maker on the phone, and simply pitch ‘brand awareness’ or ‘hospitality opportunities’ this will get you nowhere. Prior research on each brand will allow you to naturally tailor the conversation in your favour. Speak about their current clients, key markets, target audiences, how you will provide unique content creation and product integration. This will give you more credibility as it shows you’ve spent the time to understand why your platform is beneficial to that brand as a business.

4. Set a clear objective
Going into a sponsorship sales call with the objective to send across a proposal and potentially speak in the future is not productive. If you have the decision maker on the phone and they are engaged in what you are saying, the key objective is to get face to face with them. Here, you can develop a relationship, create rapport, influence their decision and spend more time to understand how you can solve their objectives.

With all of these tips put together, you will have a short sponsorship sales pitch that gives you the best chance of securing the crucial face to face pitch.

Keeping up momentum in sponsorship sales is like watching the London Marathon on your sofa

If like me, you spent Sunday morning and much of the afternoon sat on the sofa with leftover pizza and a chocolate bar saying to yourself (for the fourth year in a row), “this is going to be the year I do the London Marathon” then you know exactly how influential ‘being in the moment’ is for making decisions.  If I don’t register for the London Marathon within 4 weeks of watching, it’s unlikely that I ever will consider registering for the rest of the year – until that annual ritual of watching it sat on the sofa again next year.
Unbelievably, this is no different to sponsorship sales, especially sponsorship of annual events.  As a sponsor, sponsoring annual events is a bit like the London Marathon – you get excited about confirming your sponsorship/registration, but then months go by and it seems all but forgotten until the actual day.  However, upon passing the finish line after a number of hours of slog throughout Greater London, you remember why you signed up in the first place and quite likely think it was the best decision you ever made.
Understanding and keeping up momentum is absolutely critical within sponsorship sales.  Like the London Marathon, there is a limited time-frame from which a sponsor remembers all the great times, the finite details that may exist beyond the assets list.  Memories of the sponsorship are always viewed with a ‘glass half full’ and sponsors are more likely to de-brief with you, grab drinks with you and generally more likely to want to discuss plans for the following year.  However, go past 4 weeks and memories fade fast – leaving only hard numbers.  I should clarify that hard numbers are not necessarily a bad thing as sponsorship is only as good as the measurement and ROI behind it, but when combined with the very distinct memory of how great it was, it’s incomparable.
One of my biggest sponsorship sales tricks is ensuring that we keep up momentum as well as truly understanding the time-frame for commitment from a buyer’s point of view.

My top three ‘keeping up momentum’ sponsorship sales tips include:

  1. Renew all sponsors within 4 weeks of the event.  If you are unable to do this in this time-frame, you run the risk of starting all over again in terms of the sales process you need to go through.
  2. Include renewal clauses within the contract at the outset.  First right of refusal is a benefit and as such should be used as an asset.  Not only does this help within the sales process it also provides a clear and communicated deadline to your sponsor well in advance.
  3. Don’t just sign a sponsor and never speak to them again until just before the event (or worse yet, when you need something).  If your sponsor signs well in advance providing a very long lead time, create reasons to catch up and talk about the event in the run up.  If you have a large number of sponsors, creating bespoke sponsor communications to update them on the event progress is a great benefit and keeps everyone in the loop.

In the meantime, I shall keep you posted on my London Marathon musings.  Maybe 2018 is the year I finally get off the sofa…

The Value Is In The Detail

A frequent question asked by individuals with a new idea for a project is ‘what could my property be worth?’, which on face value you would assume is a perfectly valid question to ask a sponsorship agency, however, if the question is asked without the exact knowledge of what is being offered to a brand, it is impossible to answer accurately.

For a sponsorship agency to be able to value a platform correctly, the sponsorship assets need to have been considered and packages created detailing the frequency an asset can be used. This is then measured against the reach and using certain methodology the value of each asset can be calculated to provide an overall price.

Those with a new venture tend to have a good grasp on the fundamentals of their projects such as locations and dates but the specifics of what will be offered within their sponsorship package are generally not nailed down – and the specifics are everything when it comes to the value.

For example, claiming that an event will be shown on TV is not enough to be able to value an opportunity and likewise, probably won’t be enough for a brand to sponsor. Brands will need to know not just what channel, but more importantly, how often they can be featured – that is where the value lies. The same goes for any media partner whether it be TV, radio, magazines, blogs etc. it is imperative that such agreements have been finalised before approaching sponsors.

With the knowledge that sponsorship deals can take many months to get across the line sometimes tempts rights holders to go out to market before they have the complete sponsorship toolkit confirmed, which often leads to the rights holder coming unstuck in the boardroom as the brand cannot justify the value of the deal, thus further delaying or even ending the hope of any potential agreement.

Therefore, to understand the sponsorship revenue potential rights holders need to turn their ideas into serious realities by confirming the specifics of their offerings, and they may well be pleasantly surprised with the value at their fingertips.

Why More Brands Should Sponsor Grassroots Sport

Grassroots initiatives and participation in sport has grown hugely over the past two decades, yet the majority of marketers still see it as a naff “if we still have budget” thing. They think it lacks the sexiness or media value delivered by huge global events but a number of projects over the last few years have proved otherwise.

Take Barclays for instance, one of the biggest employers in the UK with over 1,600 branches in the UK. Back in 2004 they committed to investing £30million in a community initiative to create sustainable sports facilities across the UK – the single largest injection of cash into grassroots sport by a company in the UK.

Over the following decade Barclays invested many more millions in creating twenty-six flagship sites in partnership with professional football clubs alongside a number of local sites offering a range of sports including basketball, netball and tennis through to skateboard and BMX tracks. This generous investment has been a huge success and contributed to the health and well-being of individuals across all ages in the local areas where Barclays invested.

More interestingly though, is the abundance of positive press Barclays have received as they have become known over the years as the biggest corporate investor in grassroots sports. In terms of the Barclays brand and image, they are now seen as an ethical brand and part of the community in such a way that that is unachievable with regular sponsorship which is key to creating the pursued “trust and loyalty” of customers.

It may seem cynical, but this is a way to get to the hearts of people that common advertising and sponsorship does not allow so it is surprising to see the lack of brands involved in grassroots sponsorship. That said, it absolutely has to be conducted in the right manner and be a genuine investment in the community otherwise the many benefits of grassroots sponsorship risk being overlooked as an awkward branding exercise.

 

Why it’s important (not necessary) to be brutally honest in sponsorship 

I love the sponsorship industry and all the people that work in it.  However, I have always found that unlike the marketing or television industries, everyone in sponsorship seems to walk on eggshells with confrontation or disagreements.  In my limited experience (Slingshot is only 7 years old), very few in the sponsorship industry speak what’s on their mind.  Conversely they tend to say what most people want to hear.  Whilst being diplomatic has never been my strong suit, I also feel that frantically nodding in agreement actually erodes an existing problem within the sponsorship industry for a number of reasons:

 
1.    Growth: everyone seems to continually pat each other on the back with the quality of work produced.  Ironically, the same people will also tell you that a lot of the work produced in sponsorship is actually not that inspirational.  Certainly much of the industry does not seem interested in raising the bar for itself, and therefore gripes when other industries start taking a piece of “their pie”.  However, if PR, digital, social, VR and other agencies are better equipped to articulate and cultivate partnerships because they understand the potential of the medium, and traditional sponsorship agencies stick with what they know with broadcast consumption, then the industry continues to create a rod for its own back.

 
2.    Stand for something: I was recently commented in the Financial Times regarding the decline in sponsors with this year’s popular Chelsea Flower Show (read article here).  Having both consulted for clients who secured sponsorship for their own garden as well as shopping sponsorship opportunities against Chelsea Flower Show sponsors, I am pretty familiar with the opportunity (full disclosure, I have never worked with the Chelsea Flower Show directly). From a business point of view, it is not wise to disparage what might in the future be a great client; however, I do fundamentally believe that the value proposition is not in line with the assets they currently deliver.  This is not to say that the Chelsea Flower Show is not a good sponsorship opportunity, but I believe the current way it is pitched it is overpriced, and unsubstantiated.  While saying this in a newspaper may mean Slingshot Sponsorship will never work with the Chelsea Flower Show, it’s important to have a true reflection on why it’s happening rather than assuming an economic blip.  Assuming an economic blip means that every other rights holder who has struggled this year will attest their lack of funds through the general economy, rather than reflect on a changing marketplace and whether they are driving real value to brands.  If you drive value, can articulate and measure it – securing sponsors is no harder today than it was yesterday.

 
3.    False hope: sponsorship is driven by passion projects.  It is very hard to tell someone who is passionate and truly believes in a project that their idea isn’t going to work, or at the very least, isn’t going to work the way they expect it to.  Especially when saying it will work comes with a pay cheque.  No one wants to crush anyone’s dreams, however without being truthful, you are actually providing a disservice to the passionate person who then continues to chase their tail and ends up nowhere.  My route has always been to pull the bandage off quickly.  It’s terrible, but at least they can start investing time and resource into a project that they can be both passionate about and make money from.

 
So speak up, be heard, and try to implement change into an industry that could be so much greater than the sum of its parts.  And isn’t that what sponsorship is all about anyways?

The Extreme Tech Challenge 2018 launches with style in Oslo

After a hugely successful XTC 2017 competition, which included some amazing sponsors, XTC 2018 has officially launched with a bang in Oslo.

The world’s largest technology start up competition, backed by Sir Richard Branson, hosted an intimate launch at SALT, Oslo with multiple budding start-ups, accelerators, athletes and the XTC team. Not only will this year be bigger and better than ever, there is also a new look website, new brand and, of course, new start-ups ensuring the best of the best can achieve greatness with their game changing ideas.

After a grand opening from XTC’s CEO Bill Tai, we were treated to some insight in to the success behind some of the world’s greatest technology companies, a look in to the future and how to keep ahead of the game. Here is what I learned from the best:

The 3 P’s of successful start-ups

Paul Herz (Apple and Facebook) gave the start-ups in the room invaluable tips on ensuring scalability and success. The three key areas are platform, partners and processes. Apple for example has iTunes as its main platform which is simple, easy to use and designed for the consumer. They have over 70 partners that produce different parts of their products better and cheaper than they could, which ensures the product quality and profit margins remain high. Finally, Apple’s processes are simple, streamlined and set to ensure everything is delivered on time. All start-ups should emulate this simplicity, over complicating everything and getting expensive partners on board wont attract VC’s or investors and will erode the profit margins.

Arnold Schwarzenegger might have got it right

Isabelle Ringnes, tech-evangelist, took us all through the exciting, and slightly daunting future of tech. It was incredibly interesting to hear about the realistic possibilities to connect our brains directly with devices and robots that have been designed to emulate feelings and facial expressions. Now, I’m not against robots or AI for that matter, but as long as there are restrictions in place to stop Arnie popping back and the Terminator films coming true!

Sport and start-ups are one and the same

To top it all off, legendary Olympic Nordic Skiier (and tech enthusiast) Axel Lund Svindal explained the need to overcome adversity, not just in sport, but in the similar competitive landscape of the start-up world. There are many attributes that cross-over between sport and start-ups; determination to succeed, competitiveness, hard-work and professionalism to name a few. Axel talked us through his incredible career and the mind-set in takes to be the best, some amazing advice for budding global disruptors.

In fine XTC form, it was all finished with a party integrating round table tech discussion. With XTC applications for 2018 now open, it is the perfect time for sponsors to integrate in to this exciting and growing industry with the next global organisations. Get in touch to find out more – kieran@slingshotsponsorship.com or 020 7226 5052.

How to Hire the Wrong Sponsorship Sales Agency/Consultant/Employee

At Slingshot Sponsorship, we’ve done our fair share of hiring and working with sponsorship sales professionals – considering it’s all we do; you could almost say we are experts at spotting what to look out for.  As this is a considerable gripe amongst people looking to hire people and expecting people to work for free (aka commission-only), I thought I’d provide some guidance so you don’t continue to expect getting something for nothing or worse still, being let down and frustrated after investing time and money into making unicorns happen.

 

  1. The Black Book. If they start with “I’ve spoken to this brand already because we are BFFs and they’d be very interested in your event/charity/music festival/art exhibition/conference/awards programme/start-up, but obviously we couldn’t make that happen without being retained and hired by you first”, do not hire this person.  Firstly, anyone who can do a semi-decent job in sponsorship sales should know at least someone in every brand remotely interesting.  So this is basically a base requirement you should be looking for – not a reason to hire.  Secondly, a good person in this industry genuinely wants to create opportunities and will do so without needing to leverage a job from it – there would be other ways to frame this if it were a true statement such as, “I actually know a great brand and would be happy to make this happen regardless of whether we got the job, and I’d be happy to try and organise this for an introducer’s fee.”  Finally, it isn’t prudent for sponsorship sales people to be discussing properties they don’t represent to brands as it’ll make them look bad (imagine they didn’t win the business).  So this is usually not even true to begin with.  So don’t hire based on this statement.

 

  1. Agreeing with everything you say. Far too often we’ve lost out on pitches because I am quite open about discussing the fact that their property is overpriced and that we won’t sell it for that amount because no one would purchase it at that rights fee.  Unfortunately, either sales people don’t know or else they are just agreeing with you because that’s what you want to hear.  To be completely honest, without actually doing any strategic or valuation work (which almost never happens at pitch stage), the person you are trying to hire doesn’t honestly know and therefore shouldn’t be agreeing with you on how much it is worth.  And if they do so, they are just trying to give you what you want and you are likely going to hit a road block when it comes to properly taking your sponsorship proposal to market.

 

  1. Talking about big brands that have nothing to do with your property. A lot of people will have worked with sexy brands if they work in sponsorship, but if you are a choir in Leeds it is very unlikely that Red Bull is going to come along and give you a million pounds to sponsor you (no offense to singers in Leeds).  A lot of this is smoke and mirrors, just because they work and know big brands does not mean that these brands would be remotely interested in your property so any kind of discussion like this is completely irrelevant.

 

Saying this, it’s important to ask the right questions.  Here are the top three questions I would ask someone I was thinking of hiring if I was trying to hire someone to sell my sponsorship:

  1. Where do you think we’ve been going wrong and how do you propose you can fix it?
  2. What is your process, how many people are required (both from the client as well as from the agency) to achieve the target?
  3. What do you think the potential could be and how long will it take to get there?

 

With all this in mind, I cannot stress, people do not work for free.  As much as commission-only is very enticing to you, it is unrealistic and at the end of the day, you get what you pay for.  So invest both your time and your money, but invest wisely – you’ll be amazed at the results.

My Year as a Placement Student at Slingshot

The novelty of graduating university has decreased substantially this last decade. As the number of millennials attending university increases, the value of being a university graduate has dwarfed. If a post-graduate walked into an interview claiming they deserved the job role because he or she had a degree, employers would laugh and say ‘you and a million others’.

 

The only thing that’s increased from university are the expenses of attending the education system and the level of competition in finding a job post-graduation. 10 years ago, It was almost a guaranteed deal in finding a job after University – those graduates didn’t find themselves with their backs up against the wall like this contemporary generation does today.

 

As an undergraduate I’ve learnt that a degree simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

 

The real value lies within acquiring hands on, tangible experience through embarking on a placement year. Students need to be able to provide employers with sufficient evidence that both supports and reassures, you can get the job done.

 

One way or another, acquiring work experience is critical in the process of becoming employable; and I drew the most benefit is working in a smaller organisation.

 

I cannot stress enough how working in a smaller firm has affected my professional development for the better. My understanding on how the entire agency operates strengthened as I was an integral part of the team. In a big company, you become a cog in a piece of machinery and never truly achieve full awareness to your impact – having that lack of insight to your progression indefinitely detriments your experience as an intern.

 

The Key Thing I’ve learnt:

Passion over credential. I had zero experience prior to working with Slingshot and minimal knowledge on sponsorship, yet my passion to learn allowed me to develop quickly and become a valuable asset to the agency – drive can’t be bought, but knowledge can be taught.

 

The Top 3 Favourite Things about My Job:

  1. Numerous role opportunities. Operating within a small team provided me with the chance to perform every job role which offered me and understanding for what career I’d want to specialise in for the future.

 

  1. Creating relationships. Focusing on sales allowed me to build rapport with various clients and individuals both nationally and internationally that has not only helped me grow in confidence but has opened my world up to potential opportunity.

 

  1. Unrivalled insight. Working with a sponsorship agency that taps into all sectors meant that I’ve had the pleasure of working across various industries, which kept my experience interesting and refreshing. This allowed me to harness a much broader understanding of the realm of business.

 

What I Thought Before Work And Now:

I never expected to love work. It wasn’t until I began to see results that the obsession grew. From a sporting background myself, I was always competitive and those characteristics are easily transferable – the office is my new playground and my highs are found from achieving above and beyond from what is expected.

 

What I’ll miss the most:

Being pushed from my comfort zone. It wasn’t until Slingshot I realised my true potential. Being in an environment where I’m constantly motivated and expected to deliver helped me understand how vital it is to stay clear of what’s familiar or easy because you’ll never grow as an individual.

 

Although a degree certifies your knowledge in the field, applying your knowledge whilst earning a wealth of experience and building a vast network of contacts is critical to the early stages of your career. It’s ultimately what you do now that affects your future and Slingshot was my stepping stone.

Be The ‘Right’ Holder

In today’s age, we are witnessing industries becoming ever more cluttered with brands and consumers are spoilt for choice. With the level of competition skyrocketing; brands need to find new and innovative ways of differentiating.

 

As the market becomes increasingly saturated, trying to identify something distinct about a brand is blurred; yet deriving something unique for a brand is crucial and is the underlying principle designed to drive their success. Distinguishing that certain something about an organisation represents the biggest sales tool in their arsenal – the USP.

 

Brands are now utilising the latest innovations in sponsorship, as opposed to standard forms of marketing, to create emotional connections with their target audience, creating sustainable and long-lasting relationships.

 

Rights holders need to be aware of this and use their platforms as a gateway to helping brands accomplish their goals, providing opportunities for brands to leverage themselves from their competitors. To do this rights holders must invest time into identifying the key ways they can help a brand differentiate and reach their business objectives, which means prospecting should be more targeted than ever.

 

It is therefore paramount that rights holders promote themselves as the property that will help differentiate the brand from their competitors and become the solution, not an option, in providing brands with the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd, leading to their further success.

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