Top 10 Sponsor Pet Peeves

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Karen C. Cortese, (‘Casey’) owner of The Sweet Spot Agency, LLC, guest blogs for us today on sponsor pet peeves. She talks about a list of common mistakes that truly drive sponsors crazy. Casey is an entrepreneurial leader who focuses on businesses, race organizations and nonprofits in helping them create deeper and more effective customer engagement and activation strategies.

In today’s growing and highly competitive active lifestyle marketplace, there are a plethora of races that sponsors can choose from when looking to invest their sponsorship dollars. Gone are the days when fulfilling basic sponsorship benefits is enough to retain your sponsors; race organizations must show a deeper commitment to understanding and meeting sponsor objectives. To help you build a successful sponsorship program, here is a list of common mistakes that truly drive sponsors crazy (with input from sponsors and agencies across multiple industries). If you and your teams can avoid these, you will find yourself with happier, ultimately more loyal, sponsors.

10. Overpromising Audience Size

sponsor-pet-peeves_chronotrack_2This seems like an obvious one, but it’s amazing how many times the number of attendees at an event has been greatly over-stated during the selling cycle. Let me draw a parallel to online dating – do people really believe that at a first meeting a date won’t notice that you are 10 years older than the photo in your profile? Take this lesson to heart when selling a sponsor. We will know if your audience is dramatically smaller in size than you promised in your pitch. It shows a lack of transparency on the part of a property, and does not give confidence to the sponsor in the integrity of the property. And when it comes to renewal – we’ll move on to a better match.

9. Too Many Contacts Within One Property

Keep it simple! Just as you are managing multiple sponsors, most sponsors are managing multiple sponsorships. It becomes very wieldy to fully utilize all of our benefits if we have multiple people from the race organization coming to us for different things. And, I would imagine, difficult on your side to ensure that you are delivering on all promised benefits comprehensively. Assign one key person to be the primary account manager and point of contact. That’s not to say that at times it would be helpful and acceptable to connect a sponsor directly to another team member to work on specific program elements, but it will lead to more efficient and streamlined communications for all of us to have just one primary contact.

8. Not Being Prompted On Upcoming Deadlines

Sponsors are often blind-sided with deadlines within days of something being due. This is especially frustrating when it comes to content deadlines – ads, newsletter articles, etc. The most successful sponsors create their content specifically for the sponsorship opportunities and don’t have spare creative sitting around. There are also often internal corporate approval processes that need to be considered. Help ensure that benefits don’t get wasted. Create a master calendar of deadlines and present it to the sponsor during your activation kickoff meeting. Then send out reminders on a regular basis. At the end of the day if a benefit is not fulfilled simply because deadlines were missed, both sides suffer.

7. Using The “Take It Now or Someone Else Will” Approach to Sales

This feels like a strong-arm approach. If you come to me with a pitch but try to get me to bite because you have someone else waiting for it, my first question will be why you haven’t sold it to the other party already. It makes a property look desperate, not in demand. And quite frankly, it is off-putting. It appears to the sponsors that you are pitting us against each other to make a sale, versus approaching a sponsor that you think will be a good fit for your event and your brand.

6. Not Using Provided Logo Standards

We get it. Corporate logos can be complicated. Managing the rules for each logo is time consuming. But our logo on your promotional materials is often the first time that your athletes experience our brand. Too often properties take shortcuts (such as reversing out a logo that shouldn’t be reversed, not giving proper white space around a logo, or using wrong colors), which is especially frustrating for a sponsor who has provided your team with their logo standards and usage guidelines – keep them and follow them. And to show your intention to be a quality partner, get approval from the sponsor on all creative pieces in advance. It will be a time saver for your team as much as the sponsor. And it will save you money when we ask you, rightfully so, to reprint materials correctly.

5. Nickel and Diming Us on Minor Costs

sponsor-pet-peeves_chronotrack_3Here’s a great example. I once worked on an activation that generated a lot of trash – cardboard boxes – from the packaging for an onsite program. I was shocked when the property tried to charge us for trash removal, especially as we were the title sponsor. The activation was adding tremendous value to their audience and their event, but they thought they could garner a few extra bucks for making us pay for servicing a dumpster. We understand that if we’re asking for a lot of extra things we should pay. But if a sponsor has a small last minute need, such as a few extra chairs for a race expo, sandbags for holding down signage, etc., work with them and supply it without sending another bill. We will appreciate you going above and beyond.

4. Failure to Proactively Notify Sponsor of Problems

Too often properties think that if they don’t alert sponsors to a problem, we will not notice. That may sometimes be the case, but when we do, it indicates that the property is not communicating effectively with us. Most sponsors know that some challenges will arise with every event; if it’s something that affects our sponsorship, we will respect you for proactively informing us, especially if it is presented with a solution in mind or a timeline for resolution.

3. Exclusion from Audience Surveys

sponsor-pet-peeves_chronotrack_4Sponsors are continually measuring and evaluating the performance of their sponsorship portfolios. It is frustrating when we see a property going out to their audiences to get feedback on events without giving sponsors a chance to participate, or making assumptions about what sponsors need to know to measure their impact. We realize that there are limits to how often you survey your audience. Use the opportunity to include unique questions as a benefit for higher-level sponsors, but develop generic questions on your surveys that will benefit all sponsors. A few examples include unaided sponsor recall, best onsite booth, which sponsors made the biggest impact on your audience, which sponsors your audience would consider doing business with as a result of their sponsorship.

2. Not Protecting Sponsor’s Activation Ideas

The activation ideas that a sponsor brings to your event are their intellectual property. We work hard trying to develop activations that best represent our brand and that will help us achieve our bottom line objectives. It is a huge disappointment when we share our activation plans with a property, then show up on site to see other sponsors doing the same thing (the most common example of this is cheer signs), or a similar version of the same program concept. While we may not build exclusivity around an activation idea into our contract, protecting the interests of your sponsors is always good business. You are the only ones that have access to every sponsors’ activation plans. If another sponsor is already using an idea we present, let us know it’s already in use (and vice versa if another sponsor wants to use an idea we have already presented). And help us find an alternate idea that will benefit our shared audience at the event. We will respect your commitment to helping us avoid looking like a copy cat and achieve the best results.

1. Failure to Deliver a Quality Post-Event Report

This is one of the best and more effective ways of ensuring a renewal. I still find this hard to believe, but many race organizers provide absolutely no sponsorship wrap up report, let alone a quality one. You hold the key to a lot of the data that is important for us to justify returning as a sponsor. The race organizations that help measure the impact of a sponsorship are the ones that we will choose to work with time and again. I recommend keeping a master list of the contracted benefits and making notes on them as they are fulfilled. This is also a good way to record when you have gone above and beyond for a sponsor. It’s important to note that you must include some measurable results that are specific to each sponsor. For example, you may report on the media exposure the event gained, but how many times were your sponsors measured? The former without the latter may show the prominence of the event, but if you can demonstrate the prominence of your sponsors, all the better. Start your report with a high level executive summary that your sponsor can copy and paste into a report for their leadership. Then add details on specific sponsor activation results. In making measurement and reporting more turnkey, we will see the full value you bring to the entire partnership.

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About the Author, Karen C. Cortese, ‘Casey'
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Karen C. Cortese, ‘Casey’, is an entrepreneurial leader with an extensive background in sponsorship and experiential marketing, philanthropy, and event management. She recently launched her firm, The Sweet Spot Agency, LLC, to support businesses, race organizations and nonprofits in creating deeper and more effective customer engagement and activation strategies.  Casey has partnered extensively with iconic endurance brands such as IRONMAN, Life Time Fitness, Competitor Group, USA Triathlon, and more.  She feels she has found her “sweet spot” - and her passion - working and growing efforts within the active lifestyle space.