Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

Desperately Seeking Sponsorships – A “How-To” Guide

I get a lot of sponsorship requests at work.

The ones I receive run the whole gamut from being absolutely atrocious to bloody brilliant, but most of them fall in that big gap called boringly mediocre.  Out of every ten requests I get, I tend to forward around three to my marketing colleagues for their consideration. Of those three, I usually recommend only one.

The rest gets ignominiously junked in my trash, both virtual and real, unworthy of the paper and kilobytes they were written on.

The sad thing is many of these proposals come from small businesses, and it can get heart-wrenching to turn them down. While I can’t close an eye at my workplace while assessing these proposals, I can certainly share my five years experience of assessing sponsorships to help entrepreneurs hone their sponsorship proposals so that their ideas stand a chance to see the light of day:

1. Do Your Research, Don’t Embarrass Yourself

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t research on the companies they are seeking sponsorships from.  Did you bother to find out what my company’s corporate social responsibility programs focus on i.e. sports, music, the fight against cancer? Do you even know what the last few events we sponsored were?

And for goodness sake, understand our business needs and product portfolios. I’ve ever had someone call me and say, “This event will make a fantastic branding platform for your (insert competitor’s product name here)”. You’ve probably guessed my response. She’s never dared to call back since.

2. Be A Sniper, Avoid The Shotgun Approach

Pull the trigger on a target which you have confidence of hitting.

So don’t, don’t, don’t try to shoot everyone by sending your sponsorship proposal to every single marketing contact you have in every company you know, just in the futile hope that they’ll respond. If you’ve done your research right, you should already have a list of brands and companies who may possibly be interested in what you have. If you know what you have won’t interest me, don’t waste my time. You’ll end up on my Blocked Senders list.

Also, if you’re going to shoot, aim for importance. Instead of telling me that “it’s a great platform for your brand”, tell me how your proposal can do wonders for my key, flagship product.

3. It’s Not You, Honey, It’s Me

Don’t fall into the “me” trap. Seriously, I don’t really care about you. Write your proposal from the premise of how it can benefit the sponsor. I don’t care how many visitors you plan to attract – tell me how many of those visitors you can help me convert to my brand or buy my products.

It’s funny how predictable how most proposals are – they start by telling me about their wonderfully great idea, and finally end off with the price tag. The ones that really catch attention, in my opinion, are the ones who present the price tag first and then tell me exactly what I get in return for it. See the difference in the approach?

4. Personalize, Customize, Individualize

Yes, for every different company you approach, you lazy bugger.

Plain vanilla proposals are the bane of every marketer, and ones guaranteed to end up in the trash bin. If all you’re doing is tailoring a template and changing the name of the addressee and company – shame on you. I’ve gotten one where they couldn’t even be bothered to fill in the “Dear _______”.

If you can’t be bothered to tailor your proposal for me, you can’t tell me in my face that you care enough to do right by me, the sponsor.

5. I’m A Marketer, Not An Academic

Great elevator pitches don’t only work for entrepreneurs seeking investment funds. Try it for sponsorships as well.

Sell me your idea in your one-page executive summary. If it doesn’t grab me by then, nothing else in that 256-page document will (because out the window it goes). I’m not obliged to read the rest of it.

So tell me in short, sharp sentences in your executive summary what your idea is, how much it costs and what I’d get in return. Yes, all in one page. And not in size 6 Times New Roman font either. The rest of the document serves only to justify my interest.

6. It’s Not A School Project, Or Is It?

Professional-looking presentation counts for a lot.

Use proper, readable fonts – Comic Sans MS is not proper – and real stock images (not ones ripped off Google Images). If you can afford it, get the proposal professionally printed. At the very least, print it on a color laser printer and have it properly bound. Anything less, and you run the risk of it looking like a school report.

Go on, impress me.


Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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