2019 Recap On Sponsorship 🔑’s From The Inches Podcast

If you’ve listened to our podcast The Inches, first THANK YOU!

If you haven’t, we’ve spent the last 6 months chatting about sponsorship and how digital is affecting the industry with some tactics you can implement to succeed.

Rich has been a huge knowledge base for me in this regard, so I decided to take his advice and post it onto some vinyl (well, at least some digital).

Throughout the year we’ve covered some great topics. You can check them all out here.

But as we have 2019 come to a close there are a few episodes & topics I think were really important to cover. So I put them all into one place to help break that knowledge down.

Without further ado:

Traditional Vs. Digital: Which Is More Valuable?

2019 is seeing this decade come to a close and never have we seen such a shift in how fans & sponsors connect than this one.

Digital has changed all of that. It has changed everything we touch today in the world.

As we look forward, the biggest item we will face in the sponsorship industry is the shift in attention away from the assets we’ve lived off for decades to new ones that brands & fans crave.

This episode was a great discussion on both sides. While we look at traditional assets as being old and digital the hot new thing, it is important as ever to remember that each one has its place.

Rich brings up a great distinction between active vs. passive. The active asset, obviously, is active in grabbing attention. It is engaging, it will command that attention. These are your digital assets that will pull the

Passive is great for visibility, but it is not there to GRAB attention. This is for branding. Don’t put a website address or a phone number. This is for a tag line and brand recognition and burning your brand into the brains of the fans.

I think the key here is understanding how each can help pull in the attention needed to reach the sponsor’s goal.

The active assets maximize the passive. You may have walked by the rink board sign with the brand logo or seen it multiple times in the arena, but maybe it didn’t compute.

But after the active asset commands your attention, you are now much more aware of the passive branding assets. The active supercharges the passive. This is HUGE in thinking through why digital is important, but also why traditional assets are needed.

A prime example comes with our work with the Winterhawks & Toyota. The active Toyota Trivia Live activation grabs a fan’s attention on the phone and engages them with Toyota.

As fans engage with a Toyota branded game, they become hypersensitive to the passive branding like the Toyota corner, rink board, even car that sometimes graces the ice.

Without the Trivia Live, some fans may overlook passive branding. Without passive branding the Toyota branding, the active “juice” may be forgotten.

As we dive into 2020 and beyond the relationship between these assets will be vastly important to our packages.

Great episode. You can check out the audio HERE and a quick recap HERE.

What Happens To Sponsorship During A Recession?

This was a big one for me. I’m young in this game of sports sponsorship and like many others out there…I’ve never been through a recession in my professional life.

We have only known large marketing budgets and an upward trending economy.

So how can I understand what will happen? How can I be expected to push for results?

We dove in on this great episode where Rich breaks down the key things you need to know to survive a recession in sports sponsorship.

A few key items:

  • TODAY build up your social & digital following as large as possible. This influence will be your leverage as fewer fans may come to your games.
  • Use the sales narrative that brands who market during the recession come out on top & you have the perfect packages and influence to pull this off where others can’t.
  • As brands will be looking for lower prices, make the deal a long term with a discount to ensure you have revenue and cash to ride out the recession.
  • Adjust your portfolio offerings to match their needs. By adjusting some packages you give them flexibility in how to spend the marketing budget they do have. This will help you build a relationship with them.
  • Empathize with your clients. They are about to go through a road & environment that many of them haven’t been through. Be the rock-solid option & support they need to be successful.

A recession is coming. When… we don’t know. It is really important we are ready for it with advice from people who have been there.

VITAL episode, you can hear the full audio HERE and recap in an article HERE.

Tik Tok is a MAJOR leverage platform for sponsorship

I get a lot of hot-cold on Tik Tok. Most say they don’t get it. Most say it is a trend that will fade.

I say….it can get you 1M views for free PER POST…..again…FOR FREE. And I’m not talking only big teams. I’m talking small ones as well.

2019 showed me that the real thing here is not necessarily the particular platform…but the strategy that your team should be building your own distribution network.

Tik Tok is the best platform to reach as many people as fast as possible today.

What does this mean in sponsorship? It means you can build a digital asset that has a HUGE reach.

I mean a reach that is bigger than your local cable shows….and you own it….and for free.

This is why it is so important to get on the platform and build content. As a small team, you can have more reach than a large pro team that isn’t on it.

As you probably guessed…the views are your main leverage. The number of people you can get your sponsors in front of his huge.

Rich and I went over a few ideas. I think integrating the sponsor into the content is key as you build your sponsored content.

Imagine a Chipotle Challenge where a player takes a burrito and tries to flip it into another player’s mouth with their hockey stick.

Then ask fans to try themselves with the hashtag to create more content you can repost.

Or film pregame on Tik Tok brought to you by McDonald’s. Corporate would be happy to get 350,000+ views on authentic content.

In short…..get on Tik Tok today and build content. This is the most important thing you can do in 2020 in sponsorship.

You can listen to the full episode HERE and a recap (with a great Division 3 Basketball program case study) article HERE.

Understand the buckets in a brand’s budget

This episode was one of those that manifested out from a strategy chat with Rich on our activations with the Winterhawks at SQWAD. Rich was able to use one of the buckets other than advertising to open more revenue and fund the activation.

As brands grow their budgets get more diversified…and I feel like each year they are getting more and more segmented.

The old days where maybe it was just advertising dollars you could tap into…today there are many budgets you can tap into.

Digital marketing, HR + Hiring, and Charity/Community are a few that really stand out as ways to drive even more revenue forward for your team.

There are buckets of money you can activate if you understand the dynamic and tap into solving the need for that bucket.

Knowing this is the case makes your job easier when you go to sell.

Mainly because it does 2 big things:

  1. It puts context on the WHY for your package to your partner. You aren’t just selling a hospitality package, you’re opening up the HR budget to sell the WHY of “Keeping your employees happy and connecting outside the office.”
  2. It tells your prospect you did your research and care about helping them as a company. This really helps you start the relationship.

It takes a bit of time, but if you do the research on the company site and through press releases, as Rich mentioned, you can see where their focus is as a company for promotion.

This time spent though will pay dividends when you go into the pitch knowing that you have thoroughly done the research and created a package that is most likely different than the other options that haven’t done this research.

Even better, Facebook ads don’t do this research. This is the personalization that you can have to have an advantage over the different digital outlets.

Overall, take the time as you look at your prospects. It will make pitching them easier.

This episode can make you money TODAY, give it a listen HERE and read more in an article HERE.

Putting together a successful pitch meeting

I loved this episode because we got down and dirty into the details…really getting into the mud of the sales process.

One thing that I am seeing less and less of in sports business, in general, is many entering the industry with no sales experience.

And it isn’t the candidate’s fault…most colleges don’t teach REAL sales. Grind it out….100 calls, 99 NO’s type of sales.

Without this, we are losing the skills needed to really be successful in sales.

I love this episode because Rich really dove into the structure of how a great sponsorship sales meeting should go…and structure is so important here.

The acronym he uses is SPAPA






A great episode that, again, got into the nitty-gritty of the sales. Give it a listen HERE and a recap article HERE.

Competing as a smaller team in a crowded market in sports sponsorship

Most of us in sports are the smaller team…numbers-wise. Obviously, because there are more minor league teams than major league ones.

One thing I kept hearing is “We aren’t getting sponsorship sales because we have a huge team in our market.”

In the past this was true, but in today’s digital age the scales are so much more balanced. You can unequivocally compete with the “bigger” teams for sponsorship dollars.

The key, as Rich points out, is by understanding your strengths and not playing the game with the same game plan as the “bigger” teams.

Simply…if you do this…you will lose. You don’t have the same resources as they do.

Rich puts it beautifully “ I don’t have a 4 state reach for my radio deal, I don’t have 20,000 fans in my arena each night. But I do have a passionate fan and an intimate environment.”

“If we think like the Yankees in here we’ll lose to the Yankees out there” (sorry had to throw a Money Ball quote in here). But this is how you have to think.

Many times teams will show the same viewer stats as their giant competitors. This is how you lose. you will never be the juggernaut of a media machine that an NBA team has behind it.

But what you can do is understand where you can be better than your competitors and execute on it.

If you find yourself using the line “well we aren’t the bigger team” this is the episode for you. Listen HERE and check out the article with a recap HERE.

Matching your partner’s brand to your sponsorship assets

One thing that I still think gets overlooked in sponsorship today is FIT.

We get so driven into our sales goal, filling an asset, and hitting our numbers that sometimes we overlook fit to the sponsor’s goals.

In order to have long-term success in sponsorship, Fit is everything. An asset and entire package has to flow fans toward their goals for sponsorship like poetry in motion.

If you can build packages around this…if you ask the brand for their goals, add assets around that, and not focus on your sales goals…you will be successful.

Whether the client is coming to you OR you are going to the client, once you establish the interest the next step is to understand the goal of the sponsor.

Is it sell more tires? Is it to drive website visits? Is it to drive sales calls?

Understanding this will help massively is your talks to figure out a fit in the brand. This is because brand stories are built to take a position toward a goal.

Great reminder as we dive into the sales season. Listen to the episode HERE and the article to recap HERE.

What “evolve” means for the sponsorship industry

Evolve…it is probably the most important word in sponsorship today.

As I stated earlier we are in the middle of a big shift in this industry. The word evolve is perfect to describe what we must do to keep being successful.

We can’t forget about the traditional assets. We must understand their value and place in our packages today. These traditional assets are not dead by any means.

At the same time…we have to shift with attention. We have to see that digital assets must be in our packages in order to continue to help our brands connect with our fans.

As we look forward, we must evolve our packages for both. We can’t only be digital, we can’t only stay in the past with the traditional.

Overall, if you aren’t evolving you are dying. This is the case in nature, humanity, and business. Sponsorship is no different.

The goal should be always evolving with whatever comes next. If evolving makes you uncomfortable, good, it should. But you need to push through to be successful.

Take risks, build it into your DNA, and your organization & career will thrive.

We are not evolving fast enough in sponsorship. We can and must do better.

Great episode with Rich, who is evolving his packages amazingly right now. Listen to the episode HERE and a quick recap article HERE.



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