My controversial stance on “the current climate” 5th September, 2017

The British public have been told that funding and corporate sponsorship is a bleak business.  Our sports, health, arts and culture sectors are battling those strong arm brands who are becoming increasingly “difficult”.  Nevertheless, those underdogs continue their uphill struggle whilst we root from the side lines.

I hate to burst your bubble, but despite the hundreds of articles, interviews and broadcasts, this is just not so.

Let’s start with the facts:

  1. Industry: sponsorship spend in 2016 was $60.1 billion USD, which was a 4.6% increase since 2015.  The amount of sponsorship dollars spent has continued to increase.  More importantly sponsorship growth has outpaced advertising growth since 2014 and just recently surpassed marketing/promotional spend in 2016.  In short, sponsorship spending is on the rise.
  2. Market: sponsorship is being purchased by businesses and business is also on the rise.  Globally there are over 100 million start-ups launched each year and in the UK alone we have seen 429,950 businesses launch since the start of this year.  We have also seen an increase in businesses of all sectors start contributing to sponsorship with law firms, online networks, and new technology getting in on the action.

So if both spend and new customers are increasing dramatically, why the sullen faces when it comes to pitching sponsorship opportunities?

The fundamental issue is the proposition.  No one seems to know what they are selling.

The best and worst thing about sponsorship is that it can be very intangible – you can’t touch and feel a sponsorship like you can a t-shirt or even an employee.  The benefit of this is that you can work with your future partners to shape and structure the end result.  The negative is that many people find it incredibly difficult to sell something they can’t see.

However, there are many individuals and agencies who can help NGOs and rights holders build a strong proposition and formulate the opportunity so it’s easily understood (but most importantly bought) by brands.  The issue is that 99% of these people go out and try and do it alone.  Most fail to recognise that this is a specific skill set and experience is required first and foremost to build the opportunity.  Once packaged properly and the people going out to market are equipped with the right tools and information, sponsorship sales becomes much simpler.

My one tip before going out to sponsors – get some help to first identify what it is you are selling in the first place.  You’ll soon find that the “current climate” isn’t so difficult after all.


The Smell of September 4th September, 2017

September is my most favourite month at Slingshot – mainly because it is the kick off of our busiest quarter and ‘buying season’.  Over 80% of big brands purchase their sponsorship deals in this period, which means if you are in sales, the majority of the quarter is spent closing everything you’ve worked so hard on for the calendar year thus far.  For those less cut-throat, it is also the time when your ideas and pitches finally come to fruition.  Outlining execution and following through on the deliverables of programmes, it’s when creativity comes alive.  It is both the most commercial and creative quarter of the year – which is where Slingshot as an agency excels and when our clients truly feel our value to their bottom line.

Many people assume that our success lies in our ability to close deals, when in actual fact it’s how we combine our creative flair for partnerships into a commercial deal.  This synergy is the reason closing becomes easy.  There are better ways to sell sponsorship than cold calling and I truly believe sponsorship deals cannot exist without understanding both the commercial and creative value.  Yet most of the sponsorship industry is still wholly divided with activation agencies and sales consultants.  What makes Slingshot’s strategies work time and time again is understanding the client’s vision and finding the right brands to partner with where both visions align.  Insight and foresight is incredibly important to create the lasting partnerships that are necessary in this churning industry.

If you haven’t ever seen them or need a refresher, I encourage you to have a look at our latest case studies here.  And if you ever want to have a cup of coffee to discuss how we do what we do, I’d love to.  You can reach me at jackie@slingshotsponsorship.com subject ‘Coffee Break’.

It’s September after all.

 


Top 5 Tips To Ensure Your Next Sponsorship Proposal Doesn’t End Up In The Trash 21st August, 2017

Far too many people fail to realise how crucial a sponsorship proposal is.  They are hoping that the reader can decipher the value through your iPhone photos arranged into a poorly formatted PowerPoint.  You wouldn’t get your haircut from a guy who handed out leaflets that he created with crayon, and the same goes with sponsorship proposals.  The lack of resource put into making an amazing sponsorship proposal outlines how people fall into the trap of how most people approach sponsorship.

Sponsorship is not free money.

Now that’s out of the way, the key is effective communication in a short space of time.  So how do you articulate the many wonderful benefits of your package succinctly?  Here are my top 5 tips on doing this well:

  1. Talk about them, not you. Sponsorship is purchased with the aim that it will help the sponsor achieve something.  If you spend the first 8 out of 9 pages talking about how great you are, it will become difficult for a prospect to understand how this great thing is going to benefit them.
  2. Use a graphic designer. You don’t have to invest in a photoshoot, but having a graphic designer format this will make all the difference – even if you don’t use any photos.  If you want to take it one step further, have a video made (example from one we’ve done here).
  3. Put in a cost. So many people fail to put in the investment of their sponsorship in hopes that someone will ring them back to ask. Whilst in principal this makes sense, it almost never happens in practice.  Don’t make people work too hard to sponsor you, give them all the information they need straight away.
  4. Use testimonials. Credibility is often an issue for sponsorship opportunities that don’t have broadcast backing.  Therefore, invest some time to ask your network and previous sponsors to write some quotes on how sponsoring your event helped them achieve their goals.
  5. Keep it short, but engaging. I have seen over 30,000 sponsorship proposals and only 1 of those was a great sponsorship proposal that lasted over 20 pages.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’s unlikely you are the 0.003% of the population that can engage someone throughout a 10+ page sales proposal.  Our rule of thumb is that if you can say everything you need to say in 1 page, then keep it to one page.  This is rarely the case and our proposals tend to average 4-7 slides.  So keep it short, but informative!

Creating a proposal is only one small part of the sponsorship sales battle, so make it easier on yourself by putting in more effort in at the beginning so your proposal actually gets read. Instead of being like most and ending up in the bin.


eSports: It’s here and it isn’t going away 11th August, 2017

A force to be reckoned with

320 million eyes. That is the amount of exposure a brand could potentially gain through the sponsorship of eSports right now, with predictions of a £1bn market and audiences doubling to over 600m by 2020. The elite professional gaming industry is taking over the world at an ever-increasing rate.

With the millennial generation becoming ever more influential, eSports currently taps into this demographic like no other, with an estimated core audience of 145 million. This means that eSports can offer brands considerable value immediately, due to the technology developed world that we now live in.

In 2016, Twitch became the official streaming partner of the eSports live gaming events for League of Legends, Call of Duty and Counter Strike. Twitch are able to stream to 100 million people at the same time and all for free, meaning that economic cycles will not affect the exposure brands gains as much as mainstream sport. To put this in perspective more people in the US watched the League of Legends Championship final than the NBA Finals, the Masters and the Stanley Cup individually. eSports has arrived.

What does this mean for mainstream sporting rights holders?

With eSports already selling out stadiums and attracting major brands such as; Orange, Apple and Samsung, mainstream sports rights holders are now faced with the challenge of how and if they should compete with eSports for global brands’ sponsorship budgets.

What can the mainstream sports rights holder do?

Some mainstream sports rights holders have already embraced the industry by not viewing eSports as a competitor but another vehicle to grow their own brand, with football clubs such as PSG deciding to create their own eSports team for League of Legends, which is a game not linked to football whatsoever, in order they can tap into an entirely new fanbase.

Whether this strategy will work is yet to be seen, but one thing the eSports industry is doing is disrupting the landscape. With eSports becoming a force to be reckoned with, it will not spell the end of mainstream sports sponsorship but will mean these commercial teams will need to seriously review their proposition and strategy within the market.


Getting Personal with Sponsorship 1st August, 2017

Securing sponsorship personally can be a headache. You’ve got a great idea or enormous appeal, yet as do others. Being original isn’t enough. You need to create a platform for brands to bounce off, whilst building a reputable image for the future. Conjointly you need to shelter your platform from being saturated with content by sponsors, otherwise you will lose your authenticity and your audience will turn off.

Best practice is to press for sponsors who value your platform amongst your audience as well. Here are the top 5 ways to attract platform partners and create value:

The Demographic Shield

Your aspired audience is your most valuable asset you can offer a sponsor. They want to know exactly what market they are investing in by pairing with your platform. This is where you need to be persistent and shape digital and offline content at your market. If you are a social fitness influencer, you would throw yourself in the direction of the market eye. In the UK, around Spring, this would be FitCon, the biggest fitness event in the country. Sponsors that offer an authentic partnership will want to see you reaching out to your audience frequently. This will freeze out brands who essentially want to saturate your platform with their content, which would hurt your image.

Form Unique Content

Social media is an effective way to build your digital platform and highlight unique content. Yet, the quality of the content should be regarded just as high as the quantity of substance your platform offers. Unique content Isn’t spontaneous as social sites may lead you to believe. It takes an abundance of research and investigating into the market climate and being visionary in how you present it. It is crucial to protect the content from becoming subdued and commercialized. A partnership that seamlessly integrates each other’s content will be more relateable to the target audience.

Create a Credible Platform

Just as a sponsor would pass by a corporate brand with little mojo, the same can be said with an individual’s level of distinction and trademark personality. Exploiting the distinct dynamics and style of your personality would encourage sponsors to take a risk on you. Likewise, being consistent with your identity, will allow your brand to grow naturally, thus giving you a higher level of credibility. Additionally, it is in your interest to keep the sponsors image separate from your own, preventing your audience from losing sight of what your image stands for.

Build and Share your Network

Giving sponsors additional reasons to invest in you, such as networking opportunities, will further cement your chance of creating a partnership with them. Having an interesting network group that a sponsor can benefit from, by being in contact with, is likely to lure them in your direction. Competition is immense amongst many consumer markets; therefore, the benefit of new client contacts is essential for sponsors to gain ground on their competitors. However, their acquisition of your clients must benefit you. For example, sometimes it can be as simple as trading clients to further your account. This will allow you to build your network and reach out to new investors.

Make yourself Cause-related

Niche ideas can likewise go further than you think. Being different in the 21st century is hard, yet making your platform cause related could break this trend. Moving further forward, one could create their own life changing project or become a charity ambassador, which would give sponsors the chance to invest in CRM. Projects like this will better your image and the sponsors image which will in time put real value into your sponsorship platform.

If you desire a powerful sponsorship partnership, building an extensive platform is the way forward. Sponsors crave ambition and energy in a platform. Likewise, it is vital that there is engagement between you and your audience as sponsors will disregard a static audience.


Top 5 Ways To Uncover If You Can Get Sponsorship 31st July, 2017

Slingshot was launched with the ambition to help organisations uncover revenue that they weren’t capitalising on.  More often than not, it meant absolutely no change in the way things were currently done.  No additional investment, no additional resource.  Just free money.  And who doesn’t love free money?

But mining for free money is the key to what makes us different.  Unlike our competitors who mine for oil through guesswork, we have a strategic framework which allows us to ensure that targets can be met and understanding how strategic investment into certain areas of the business can be more beneficial (through sponsorship) than others.

There are some key things to consider when trying to understand if you are missing out on sponsorship investment:

  1. Your competitors make more in sponsorship than you do. By reviewing the competitive landscape, you can start to understand the potential.  If Coca-Cola sponsors every one of your competitors, but not you, you are obviously missing a trick.  This research can be done through a simple Google search and will start to identify whether there are sponsorship dollars you are missing out on.  The caveat: not all sponsors are cash sponsors, so beware of this as this might be misleading, but common sense should point you in the right direction.  It’s also worth mentioning, that just because your competitors don’t have sponsors, doesn’t mean you can’t generate sponsorship revenue.
  2. You have an audience. An audience is a fickle thing and is wholly dependent on whether your audience is B2B or B2C as to understanding if you are missing out on sponsorship revenue.  If your B2C audience is less than 100,000 then unfortunately it’s not going to make you millions; however, we’ve secured millions of pounds in sponsorship revenue for events with less than 100 people.
  3. You are unique. Although this is similar to your audience, the uniqueness is critical – the more unique you are, the higher value your audience becomes.  Again, if you the only person in the world who can balance a pen on your nose and no one cares, this is not a sponsorship platform.  But if you have a blog that speaks to young women who just bought a pug, then there is money in that.
  4. You currently generate advertising revenue and/or selling tickets. The fact you are making money through other means outlines that what you are doing is of interest, and more often than not, if it’s of interest, there is sponsorship value behind this.
  5. You have regular engagement. It is easier to justify sponsorship when you have multiple touchpoints for a sponsor to speak to your audience.  So even though you might have an annual event, you have a high open rate with your weekly blog.  These are the kinds of assets that help justify a sponsorship spend and create value for your sponsors.

We receive over 10 calls each week from events, charities, start-ups and sports teams enquiring whether they can generate more sponsorship (or new sponsorship) and almost 99% of the time we speak to them the answer is yes.  To find out how we’ve helped our clients succeed, I’d encourage you to read some of our rights holder case studies outlining how quickly we’ve increased their bottom line.  Then give us a call!


Evolve With Social Or It Will Pass You By 12th July, 2017

Social is soaring and it doesn’t look set to slow down anytime soon. The majority of online users are moving away from computers in favour of smartphones. Figures released by OFCOM show 66% of the UK own a smartphone, as do 90% of 16-24 year olds. It’s the latter group that makes brand sponsorship on social platforms very profitable to those targeting their content at millennials. Social media sponsored content is fast becoming the best way to reach out and inform a digital generation.

Brands generally prefer the  method of sponsored content as it differs from usual native advertising and its purpose is to inform and not necessarily convince its audience, keeping the brand message much more authentic.

A case study posted on the Instagram website claims that sponsored posts results in 2.8x higher ad recall than other online advertising. The soft nature of the posts and the tailored way in which Instagram integrates the posts are the likely reasons for the higher re-call rate. The company has also moved to close the gap between celebrity endorsements and sponsored posts by placing them under one umbrella. Snapchat has also introduced it’s sponsored filters campaign, where brands can sponsor a filter for a specific amount of time. With 150 million users daily it makes for a very lucrative opportunity.

Facebook has gone a slightly different way and created a unique sponsorship system, which  is now in high demand. The company allows brands to sponsor user activity instead of posts. Partner’s simply pay to highlight an action that users have already taken on the social network or within a Facebook-connected app.

Social platforms have created great ways for brands to capitalise through sponsored content and thus far, audiences have been receptive to this influencing method due to sponsorship’s credibility to not be so intrusive. With social media continuously evolving and creating new opportunities for brands, rights holders must ensure that they are constantly up to date with changes so that they too can offer relevant opportunities for brands. It is not enough anymore to offer Facebook or Twitter posts as part of a sponsorship package. Rights holders need to understand how brands will want to use social platforms to ensure maximum cut through.


Creative in Context of Commercial 3rd July, 2017

It’s that Cannes time of the year.  A time where the focus is on excellent creative – what makes it, how to harness it, and who is doing it best.  I am a huge fan of good creative.  As I’m not particularly creative myself, great concepts executed phenomenally really drives inspiration.  And who doesn’t want to be inspired?

Creative used to drive commercial.  The best creative television ad had the capability to harness the purchase power of millions, dropping credit cards like flies for the latest milk chocolate or iPhone.  However, as more channels are developed, more creators are surfacing and it’s now harder than ever to guarantee that great creative will drive the bottom line.  With exceptional creative, this still exist (and perhaps stands out more than ever), but on the whole – it’s harder to get your ad to stand out.

And so the value of understanding commercial in view of the creative increases.

Commercial in the creative industries can be viewed in two ways:

  1. Creating ads that are more effective
  2. Reducing the spend on ads through other channels

Efficiency

Being more effective can be done in many ways now that brands have the capability to take more risks.  Creative is no longer confined to pre-planned, locked-in billboard and television ads, creative now can be tested in real time with smaller markets producing immediate feedback.  Furthermore, planners can now be more creative on how that spend is made.  Efficiency can also be found through sponsorship.  Purchasing assets that can have multi-purpose uses throughout the business; tickets for hospitality, brand ambassadors for influencer marketing, rights for reach.  The value to broadening the historical isolated view of marketing and sales departments can produce even greater results than exceptional creative alone.

Multi-channel

Ads no longer work like they used to.  And for that matter, the logo in sponsorship drives zero value.  And yet, sponsorship is on the rise.  The reason being is that sponsorship provides multi-channel marketing that is wrapped up to make it financially less risky than ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’.  The cost to repurpose creative across these channels makes it easier to become more effective, whilst also saving money.  Understanding how to leverage a sponsorship proposal’s multi-channel assets is incredible vital to the success of the sponsorship campaign – and yet most don’t even go into detail to what channels they are purchasing and how they can be used until after the deal is done.

By viewing creative in context of commercial at the outset, you can ensure that even so-so creative has the power to drive the bottom line.  And whilst I wouldn’t want to champion average work, it is important to view this in light of the ever growing marketing industry shifting faster than most of us can truly keep up with.