Sponsorship the TrinityOne Way

Sponsorship is an interesting animal, and many people, even those in the business, do not fully get what it takes to grow revenues through sponsorship. We encounter folks all the time who ask us to help them with their sponsorships but do not know what they are truly asking us to do. Most believe that we provide a magic potion that miraculously infuses large amounts of sponsorship dollars into their organization. Neither I nor TrinityOne is a sponsorship magic wand. In fact, I would argue that no person in the business is. Are there talented sponsorship people who generate revenue for their organizations and clients? Absolutely. But sustainable sponsorship is not an overnight wizardry spell; it’s a long-term process and building approach.

Sponsorship should not be approached as a transactional mechanism to secure revenue. When it is advanced in this method there always will be unsatisfied and unhappy people on both sides of the deal. Sponsorship comes from a long-term commitment and a well-thought-out plan of how to help your clients achieve their goals. In The Revenue Game section of the book, Winning the Customer, we discuss what we believe are the steps necessary to ensure a properly executed sponsorship deal that will have longevity and produce beneficial results for both provider and client.

Sponsorship is not selling. Sponsorship is all about a full understanding of your partners’ needs and goals. Yes, you provide elements in the deal that allow you to recognize revenue; but as I always say: ultimately, you are in business to help your partners do business. Most people reading this, regardless of whether they are providing or acquiring a sponsorship, are nodding their heads as if to say, “Yeah, that’s exactly how we do it.” Yet I know from too many years of experience that regardless of the industry, it is just not the case, and that this approach is not the norm. The reason is that companies, teams, and charitable organizations that provide sponsorship want results today. When they bring in new sponsorship people they want immediate effects. The problem is that immediate results often destroy long-term sustainability and revenue growth. Obtaining immediate results typically means taking short cuts in getting to the deal.

Closing a sponsorship deal does not begin at the pitch. It begins with the structure of the organization and its philosophical approach. Sponsorship is not about calling on brands you think fit with your packages. It’s all about Relationship Architecture (TM) and a thoughtful process to make sure you can deliver results towards your partners’ goals. That is the TrinityOne way. It’s a detailed process, not to get quick sales, but a method to build your business and to have it flourish for years to come. What I know to be true is that if you proceed the TrinityOne way, you may not have short-term money gains, but you will have amazing growth over the course of time. If you adjust your thinking today, in three years your company will see significant revenue growth and sustainability. It doesn’t come easy, but nothing good ever does.

There is specific direction that we tell our clients to follow, and have a few tips we would like to share today. Here’s the TrinityOne way if you are entering into a sponsorship deal.

1) Understand the goals of the sponsorship elements and if they are in sync with your Brand’s goals.

2) Have criteria of what sponsorships you should enter into. Make certain that the affiliation fits not only with Brand, but also complements other initiatives.

3) Do not waste budgetary dollars on a sponsorship if you do not plan to activate it and bring it to life.

4) Have guidelines in executing and implementing the sponsorship, but do not let them prevent you from maximizing its potential.

5) Target specific results from the sponsorship and establish a legitimate way to track results.

These are five of the basics that every company, regardless of size, should be thinking of when entering into a sponsorship deal. There are other tactics you need to know and execute, but we can’t give away all of our methods.

Remember, regardless of which side of the deal you are on, there is a checklist of sponsorship aspects and steps you need to take for a rewarding sponsorship. Ok, one final tip. Once the sponsorship is in place, you can’t just expect it to run itself and work. Many times, a sponsorship deal is put into place and both the provider and the acquirer sit back and think their work is complete. A sponsorship is a living, breathing asset and like any living thing, you have to nurture it and give it some TLC. If you tend to your sponsorship it will flourish; don’t just stand by and watch it wither.

All the best sponsorship people, regardless of which side they are on, understand and implement these principles to the fullest. If you do as well, you will join them in executing great sponsorships that deliver results and revenue. Don’t succumb to the “need it now” mentality in creating and deciding on a sponsorship; do sponsorships the TrinityOne way.

And for the full 9 Steps of the New Business Funnel, check out Winning the Customer: www.winningthecustomer.com. You can also find out more about TrinityOne at Trinity1.com.

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  1. Lou, I was reading this from the perspective media outlets, specifically newspapers and web sites. Do you think your approach would work in the advertising model?

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your note. I absolutely believe the principles apply to media sales as well. There would be some other aspects to take into consideration, however the foundation of the concept is solid. I began my career in radio and TV, so much of my philosophy has its roots in media.

      Thank you for stopping by and asking a great question.

      My best,

  2. Lou –

    Fantastic post and Fantastic approach (but you already knew that!)

    First and foremost, you “hit the nail on the head” with your opening paragraph! Too many people and organizations think there is a “magic wand” or a “secret potion” to sponsorship success – the old, “Ask and You Shall Receive” method. Well, in my limited time in Sales (Media) and Sponsorship Sales, I have never witnessed sponsorship sales (or any sales happen that way!) As you mention, it is a process – a very long process that takes a great understanding of the potential client’s business and needs (as you pointed out) and the ability of the salesperson/organization to see if there is a truly a fit.) Lastly, you need to truly demonstrate value of the sponsorship, expected results, and why this sponsorship, when activated, makes good business sense, (compared to the other opportunities that are available.)

    In my opinion, alot of people or organizations don’t completely understand the process (or want to believe there is a process) and believe it is a matter of picking up the phone and saying I have an event and you SHOULD BE A SPONSOR!

    Lou, this post is right on (and so is your book, Winning The Customer which I highly recommend) – this is not a shameless plug for you and your ability Lou, but I am a big fan of your work and your approach.

    Thanks Lou


    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your kind words and support for Winning the Customer. I couldn’t agree more when you point out the so many people and companies just do not understand what it takes to build partnerships. Many just take the easy way out and select brands they believe fit, never asking questions or doing the work necessary to forge a win-win situation. They pretend that they take the appropriate steps, but they are only fooling themselves.

      Thank you again for your comments and taking the time to share with me and other readers.

      My best,

  3. Hi LOU

    I fully agree with everything you said but my my concern is the following. For example In France activation is not well understood in a lot of companies. So my question is how to make people understand it? because sponsoring agreement needs full support from the head of the companies. Withtout that support it will be harder to meet long term objectives.
    What do you think about a sixth point that would be manage your administration?
    Maybe this is a specific cultural point maybe not…


    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Michael,

      It’s not just an issue in France. I believe all of Europe struggles with the concept of how to maximize sponsorship. Most European organizations believe winning is the best marketing strategy. Unfortunately, most teams lose more then they win and the business side should implement great practices and not rely on purely what is happing on the pitch. It wasn’t too long ago that organizations in the US were lost on the concept (some still are). The mind shift is a process but once people see the results on both sides of the deal, it makes fro better partnerships and more successful programs. There needs to be agents of change in organizations that do not subscribe to utilizing proper activation to help sponsors do business. It will come eventually, hopefully you will be one to lead the way.

      Thank you for the great questions and taking the time to submit it.

      My best,

  4. Lou,

    Good post, completely agree with point 3.

    3) Do not waste budgetary dollars on a sponsorship if you do not plan to activate it and bring it to life.

    Too often sponsors waste their money on passive sponsorship options then wonder why they didn’t get results. Teams need to be proactive in demonstrating the benefits of activating a sponsorship that fits for their & more importantly their sponsors goals.


    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Sean,

      It is a huge problem with sponsorships in general and is not only the fault of the brand, but also the organization providing the sponsorship. Teams, leagues and other organizations need to have the discipline to not accept money purely for sponsorship, if activation is a must for the program to be successful. There are definitely times when the team has an all-inclusive package to get their partner to their goals, but as you know, quite often additional spend is necessary for the sponsorship to work. Activation is crucial. But this is a glaring issue that the provider typically points the finger at the brand/partner. It’s the responsibility of all to make sure the proper steps are taken in all sponsorships deals.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      My best,

  5. This is a helpful beginning for me to use with a sponsorship I’m working with – I really need to read your book! As as freelance marketing consultant, I secured a large sponsor for my local ice arena, run by a nonprofit board. The challenge is having the board view the sponsor as a partner NOT a donor/handout. I think explaining the concept of the sponsor as partner with valuable insight, outreach goals and initiatives, will help keep them. Once the board “gets” it, I think it will help bring in more sponsorships. Right now, the board doesn’t understand much of what the sponsor is talking about in terms of marketing and outreach – they just want the money. I feel almost like an interpreter. I think the board should read your book too.

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Jocelyn,

      It’s not easy to shift non-profit thinking, but you are spot on when you state the way they approach a sponsor should be very different than how they form partnerships with sponsors. Although, I would bet that they could also treat donors slightly different to build those relationships better as well. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I hope you and the board do get a chance to read Winning the Customer. Let me know what you think once you do.

      My best,

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