How to contact and convince sponsors in the endurance sports sector

Out of own experience, I know that approaching sponsors can be a daunting and intimidating process. Especially when it comes to cold calling potential partners many race directors are not aware of how to get the attention of their prospects and choose to write emails instead. I won’t claim that no email has ever lead to a signed sponsorship deal, but it is not very likely to happen.

Sponsorship expert Chris Baylis, President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective, once said: “I see people sending 600-word emails with a proposal attached. They hope the recipient will open, read, and respond by purchasing a pre-packaged sponsorship opportunity — it doesn’t work like that.” This quote perfectly summarizes the approach many people still follow. Pre-defined sponsorship categories with listed benefits that are sent simultaneously to all potential sponsors do not capture the spirit of the times. In fact, tailored offers that offer real added value in boosting either sales, image or market share are what sponsors are looking for.

But how do you receive the information you actually need from them and how do you get a foot in the door in the first place? The following guide will show you how to effectively contact and convince sponsors in 6 simple steps.

Step 1: Identify the decision maker

Sometimes you’re talking to the top guy the moment you walk through the doors of the business. Other times you have to get through several gatekeepers. When it comes to approaching major corporations, understanding a little about corporate structure is a big help.

Larger companies will tend to delegate sponsorship concerns to their marketing department rather than the higher-ups. You can save a lot of time and present a more professional appearance by developing your ability to quickly identify the right people to talk to in a given organization.

As a first step, it is important to research your potential sponsor online and try to get an office number or even a direct number to the person in charge of sponsorship. Sometimes it’s as easy as doing a little research on the company website. Other avenues include social media like e.g. LinkedIn.

Step 2: Make contact with the decision maker

After clearly determining the correct decision maker it is important to get in touch with him/her. If you have the opportunity to approach them in person at another event that they are sponsoring or present at you should go for it. Nothing tops direct contact with a short pitch about your event.

If you are not as lucky to get in direct contact with your respondent, it comes back to the good old cold call. But no worries, you will be well prepared this time if you follow this guide.

Even if you managed to figure out the decision maker’s direct dialing make sure to call the head office first. Yeah, you’ve read it right. This might sound strange but trust me with this one.

Calling the head office first will not just help you in confirming that you figured out the right contact person but will also give you an advantage as soon as you speak to that person. Referring to the name of the gatekeeper person will directly give you some trust as he knows that this person would not put somebody through who does not have an important concern.

Step 3: Meet, pitch and pay attention

Now that you have a foot in the door with the right person it’s time to move things forward. Still, when it comes to the first contact, your goal is not to directly seal the deal but simply to get a meeting. As mentioned before, personal contact is the best way to convince your sponsors and get things moving.

It’d be great if every first meeting ended with a handshake and a declaration of ‘deal!’ I’m not saying this never happens but if it doesn’t, don’t be disheartened. Instead, use it to your advantage. You should consider each meeting as more than just a chance to pitch your event’s potential, but also as a chance to learn more about the prospect and their objectives. This will help you tailor your offer more and more to what appeals to this individual sponsor.

Step 4: Keep it concise

Einstein once said, ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’. We advise sticking to this rule when it comes to each selling point you wish to use to win your prospective sponsor over. You want to be able to paint a vivid picture for them in as few words as possible. The more concise it is, the more your prospect will be able to engage with your presentation and feel confident that you know what you are talking about.

Step 5: Hit ‘em with the facts

When words fail you, bring out the data. You’ll want to be able to back up your claims about the potential benefits of sponsoring your event with proven numbers. At the same time, it’s important not to overload on metrics. Keep it relevant and customize your presentation based on what you know about the prospect.

Step 6: Professional follow up

Unless they’re the head of a department dedicated to arranging sponsorship deals, decision makers will certainly have many things on their mind other than their most recent sponsorship proposal. Just because you haven’t heard back, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the race. Your follow-up approach should be respectful but unapologetic. It’s also a good idea to have additional prospective material to send on to help flesh out each point of contact and remind the decision maker of the unique selling points of your proposal.

You will find further valuable tips in our eBook on “How to find, contact and keep sponsors in the endurance sector” Download your free copy now!

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