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Creating a Culture Where Sponsorship Sales and People Both Thrive

Scott O’Neil, one of the most recognized executives in sports, motivated attendees at last year’s Sponsorship Mastery Summit to examine their approach to their personal and professional lives with a presentation based on his book: Be Where Your Feet Are: Seven Principles to Keep You Present, Grounded and Thriving.

Most recently spending eight years as CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, home to the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, NHL New Jersey Devils, and leading esports organization Dignitas, Scott also has served as president of Madison Square Garden Sports. With more than 20 years of experience in the NBA, NHL and NFL, he has earned a reputation as a leader of leaders and is one of the most connected, dynamic and driven executives in the industry.

Scott provided insights for sponsorship marketers in all stages of their professional journey. We’re sharing our favorite three insights on how to create a culture where sponsorship sales and people thrive.

1. Ensure sponsorship isn’t an organizational island.
Sponsorship success relies on each department in the organization doing its part to deliver benefits and support your marketing partners, from accounting to guest services to engineering and beyond. While we are often quick to remind them of their obligations, are we also including them in the rewards?
There’s an inherent risk of overlooking support teams because they are not the ones closing the deals and ringing the bells. Although it’s not feasible to provide incentives for everyone in the entire organization, sales teams must at the very least pay attention to those individuals who directly service corporate partners.
Successful sponsorship sales organizations provide opportunities for activation and service team members to earn rewards for exemplary work similar to those earned by salespeople for hitting and exceeding targets. If there is a group incentive for meeting sales goals, the servicing team is included.
When everyone has a stake in achieving results, it’s amazing to see the increase in coordination between the two groups. A call to a partnership coordinator requesting extra tickets turns into a note to the sales contact to reach out regarding the upcoming renewal and what benefits should be included in the package. A conversation with a guest in the hospitality booth turns into a referral to sales and a warm-call follow-up.

2. Benefit your people first and the organization will follow.
It is imperative that your team members trust that you have their best interests at heart. One of the best ways to demonstrate that is by taking steps that help them achieve personal fulfillment and build a successful career.
For example, a team member might seek an opportunity the organization can’t provide, want to relocate to a different city or pursue working in another segment of the sponsorship industry. That person should know that if they express their desires, the response from their managers will be to do what they can to leverage their networks to help find new opportunities.
Even if it leads to them leaving your organization, you will be rewarded with their loyalty and hard work every day they are part of your team. And in a field as concentrated and connected as sponsorship marketing, there is a good chance those former colleagues in your “family tree” will be in a position to return the favor in the near future.

3. Encourage personal development alongside professional skill-building.
The brand marketers you’re pitching want a great sponsorship package with rights and benefits that will meet their business needs. But they also want to make a connection beyond the conversation about assets, activation, value and ROI.

As Scott put it, “We’ve all been in meetings with someone and we just want to buy what they’re selling because we appreciate their energy and how they walk into the world and walk into our life.” While some of that appeal may be innate, much of it stems from a person being well-rounded and intellectually curious, who asks questions and encourages others to seek information from him or her.

In addition to sales training and other types of professional development, space should be created for sponsorship salespeople to explore the interests and passions that make them captivating and exciting to be around, and which also helps foster creative thinking that can benefit the organization and its marketing partners.

Sales all-stars of today are not in the mold of the hard-charging, always-be-closing rainmakers of the past. They are multi-faceted individuals who can engage prospects on many levels beyond simply impressing them with knowledge of their “product” and how it could benefit the buyer.

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