Don’t get us wrong, there’s no magic formula for drumming up sponsorship dollars for your youth sports league; it’s as much an art as it is a science.
That said, youth sports sponsorships are a key part of a yearly budget. They allow organizations to offer scholarships, complete projects, keep member costs down, and lots more. So here are a few things to keep in mind as you put together your organization’s sponsorship kit and begin approaching local businesses.
1. Sponsorship sales are not the same as fundraising
Sponsorship dollars and fundraising dollars come from separate budgets within a corporation. Think of a business as having two doors. The first door, around the side of the building, is the “Philanthropy” entrance. Corporate grants are typically less than ten thousand dollars and are given on a year-to-year basis. The corporate giving staff is frequently housed in the public relations department (a tip off to the next level of funding) and their goal is to spread the limited philanthropic dollars over a large number of organizations. Businesses love it when their staff is a part of the process, so needless to say, if you can add an employee from their staff to your executive board, your chances of securing the funding increases substantially.
The second door, right at the front of the building, is the “Marketing”entrance. Corporations allocate large portions of their annual budget to market their good and services and if your youth sports organization can assist the company in its marketing efforts to enhance its image, reach potential customers, or reinforce existing customer relationships, they will want to work with you. This is where you’ll find sponsorship dollars.
2. Sponsors aren’t necessarily interested in maximum exposure
Yes, sponsors are often interested in exposure, but there are also other reasons they buy into sponsorships. Here are a few we’ve heard over the years:
- Entertain their clients;
- Re-inforce their brand image;
- Differentiate themselves from their competition.
Ask what their objective is when determining how to present your offering.
3. Category exclusivity is important to sponsors
Category exclusivity is an important enticement to sponsors – it allows them to stand out from the crowd, so don’t disregard it’s potential as an enticement. Be sure to read #4 before assigning names to said categories.
4. Gold, silver and bronze sponsorship levels are a red flag!
Try to avoid too many levels or cutesy heading. Limiting it to “Title”, “Presenting”,”Associate”, product specific and event specific categories are easier to understand and sell. And, if you use gold, silver and bronze your buyer will automatically assume you’re an amateur.
5. Sponsorship sales is not a necessary evil of running an event
Sponsorships are an excellent opportunity for both the youth sports organization and the potential sponsor, if the two are properly matched. It helps administrators reduce costs or make additional money, and provides a valuable asset for the sponsor. If you are providing value to your sponsors that aligns with their objectives, you’ll have them coming back year after year.
6. Follow up!
Sponsors are busy running their business, not waiting for your call. Sometimes your phone message gets pushed to the bottom of the list or re-routed to another contact within the business. Allow a day or two for them to return your call, but if they don’t, call again.
7. Don’t get discouraged, sponsorship sales aren’t easy
If sponsorship sales were easy, nobody would be reading this article. It requires a solid evaluation of your offering, fair pricing, a strong presentation and tenacity in following up.
8. (Bonus) Ensure your website is up to date
Chances are that once you’re off the phone with the business, they’re going to do some quick research on your organization. Remember, your website is your organization’s front door, so make sure it looks professional, too. Compare other organizations in your area – how does your own site (and online experience as a whole) stack up?
Lastly, make sure your sponsorship information (as well as a contact) is easy to find on your website, because you never know when you might get lucky and a local sponsor might be looking for new ways to spend those sponsorship dollars.