Sponsorship Culture

5 Easy Steps to Creating a More Successful Sponsorship Culture

We have long believed that sponsorship is a team sport. Everyone you work with within your organization must understand this. It isn’t just one person or department; it’s the collective power of the entire organization coming together that ultimately creates sponsorship success.

Developing a culture of sponsorship is a gradual process, and it may feel like an isolating process. Firstly, sponsorship as a marketing discipline is often misunderstood. Every step of the way, you may feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s more complicated, time-consuming, integrated, and high stakes than anyone around you can fathom.

The journey to creating sponsorship success is rooted in embedding sponsorship in the organizational culture. To many, this may seem impossible or unattainable. But, I’m here to say you have the power to create a culture that not only embraces sponsorship into the fiber of the organization but drives revenue and develops more substantial, more meaningful partnerships as a result.

I’m going to share a few considerations and actionable steps you can take to begin the process to affect real change within your organization.

    1. Amplifying Sponsorship Reach

A strong sponsorship culture means you are maximizing connections throughout your organization.

Everyone in your organization should know who your sponsors are. Can you say that to your colleagues? What about your board, vendors, and volunteers? The more people you have who know who your sponsors are, the more everyone seeks opportunities to promote them. Everyone should be thinking about the sponsors. They should be coming to you, calling you, and sending you messages on how “we” can strengthen the relationship by promoting them and involving them in the organization.

If your stakeholders aren’t coming to you, you must ignite the process by inviting those around you to be a part of the conversation. That means regular interactions, discussions, and brainstorming sessions are going on with departments or stakeholders. Even possibly individuals or groups that you wouldn’t always immediately think to involve. So, whether you’re talking about ways to engage prospective sponsors or engage current sponsors, you should be connecting regularly to see how to maximize sponsorships.

    1. Encouraging Thoughtful Leadership 

An article in the Harvard Business Review assessed the relativity of W.C.H. Prentice’s 1961 article about leadership where he stated, “a successful leader as one who can understand people’s motivations and enlist employee participation in a way that marries individual needs and interests to the group’s purpose.” They found that this principle, including how leadership’s influence can impact the organization’s goals and results, was timeless.

Sponsorship is no exception to the purview of leadership. Leadership support is critical in creating a sponsorship culture. Is your leadership ready to make a declaration in support of sponsorship? This is important an important step, and it needs to happen from a leadership position.

This could look like active participation in developing the sponsorship plan, including active conversations, meetings, and ideation. In addition, they should be asking about the plan and supporting its development process. It also looks like supporting sponsorship is being integrated into regular team meetings.

Leaders should also be actively showing support to your sponsors. This can happen in a small or more robust integrated way; From asking the CEO to announce new sponsors, either through email or at meetings, or writing notes for a CEO or four board members for them to send to new sponsors.

    1. Recognizing the Bottom Line

What if there were no sponsorship efforts at all? If sponsorship went away, what would happen? To illustrate this, I’m going to share an exercise I have done with many organizations.

When reviewing the profit and loss statement, I have asked that the sponsorship revenue be removed completely. This includes in-kind contributions, food and beverage operations, direct revenue.

Almost every time I have gone through this exercise, we find that sponsorship is the difference between being in the red versus being in the black. It illustrates very quickly for everyone involved the critical need for sponsorship. This simple practice has helped increase the understanding of why sponsorship revenue is so crucial to an organization.

    1. Transparency in Your Work

Sharing your goals and progress is a bold step in demonstrating how far you are willing to go to create a sponsorship culture. Unfortunately, many departments will keep goals, benchmarks, and current activity under their hats for fear of being held broadly accountable.

Now I know that sharing the goals and sharing the progress towards the goals can be scary because there’s a very high level of accountability in doing that. However, by being transparent, you’re inviting everybody in to be a part of your success, and you’re asking them for their help. So, sharing what the goals are and sharing the progress to those goals regularly is essential.

One idea is to create an internal newsletter about sponsorship. This does not have to be a fancy template, just a simple email that features updates about new sponsors, activations, upcoming deals, stories, and happenings. This is also a way to acknowledge the internal support if a volunteer, vendor, board member, or colleague went above and beyond to support the effort.

    1. Be the Champion

Creating a sponsorship culture will not happen without you being the champion. Period.

The culture can be the game changer in your future success. It can help you to get where you want to go faster and easier if you have that support in your organization. And we’ve all been in situations where we may not have had that support, or we may not have felt it. So by creating it, it will make your job much easier to engage the organization and their participation and understanding of the sponsorship.

Start by asking yourself objectively, does everyone in this organization understand the role of sponsorship and why it’s vital to our success overall?

If you feel like people don’t understand the importance and role of sponsorship at your organization, you may want to start by introducing the idea of a “Sponsorship Lunch and Learn.” People may be interested in helping but may not know-how. Invite them to ask questions, be prepared to have Sponsorship 101 information, and include actionable, easy steps on how they can help you. This can help you measure your success as a sponsorship leader and take more steps toward reaching your goals.

If you’re looking for more thoughtful involvement from your team, you can invite them to support the development of your sales plan. Creating a simple sales plan can be a collaborative process. If it’s a tool or process that doesn’t exist in your organization, it shows your leadership and your colleagues you are a champion of what you do and what your job is. A sales plan showcases what you’re working on, talks about the sales process, invites collaborative brainstorming, and asks for inputs.

When we work with an organization, we often learn that the goals are not being met because of the culture. There is a lack of understanding around sponsorship, lack of support, and unrealistic goals. The lack of culture is rooted in the lack of understanding of sponsorship. Additionally, as that sponsorship leader, how you are integrated into the organization and how other departments support you play a significant role. We often find that once these elements are addressed, it helps everyone be more successful in accomplishing the goals. It is usually around having consistent business practices and including everyone in the process that elevates sponsorship in the organization and improves your results.


About the Author

Paula Beadle is the CEO of Caravel Marketing, a national consulting company specializing in sponsorship marketing, and the founder of Sponsorship Mastery, an annual summit and programming dedicated to improving individual and organizational sponsorship performance. She is a results-driven trailblazer with a proven record of developing smart strategies and creatively connecting the right partners. Paula has helped iconic events and major brands achieve their goals through innovative sponsorship initiatives, generating incremental revenue and successfully coaching thriving teams, executives and boards.