How to prospect for sales in sports sponsorship

Prospecting is an important part of any sales process. We can’t simply live on our current clients, we must find new ones to see how we can help them reach their marketing goals through our sponsorship.

But sometimes it is the hardest part to find and nurture great prospects. In fact, 40% of salespeople say it is the most challenging part of their job.

Perhaps it’s because finding the right person/ company for our assets takes time and we feel the pressure of selling in the off-season with a small window of time.

This week on The Inches we look at prospecting in sports sponsorship.

I say this a lot, but I am very lucky to have industry vet Rich Franklin with me on The Inches podcast to chat through his experience. This week on the podcast Rich gives great advice to help you get your prospecting game on point.

You can listen to the full episode HERE. But below are a few highlights from the episode.

Fit is still #1

It seems like every topic Rich and I talk about starts with fit…but it is really the difference between winning & losing at these things.

Fit is so important to prospecting because it gives them the reason why you should take the time to talk with you. So as you look at the potential companies that could be sponsors, think in your head “how would they be a perfect fit for this asset package I want to sell?”.

If there is not a fit, it’s like having a conversation with someone whom you have nothing in common with. It will be hard to further the relationship with.

Prospect vs. Suspect

Rich brings up a perfect distinction here as you create your list for whom you will target that will TREMENDOUSLY help your time & efficiency.

If you can break your targets into prospects & suspects you can help your success rate and save you time as you reach out.

What is the distinction of prospect & suspect? Well, let’s think of it like this…

Let’s say there is a brand in your market that has invested marketing dollars into other sports or event sponsorship. They are a PROSPECT.

Why? Well, they value what sponsorship beings to their brand…obviously, since they are investing in other assets similar to yours.

When I used to sell paper ads to restaurants I would go to my competitor’s publications and build my prospect list from the restaurants advertising with them. Some people said that was a bad idea, but my hypothesis was the restaurants were already investing in this medium, if I could show them the different value my product could provide then my job was 10X easier.

We called this list “Money in Play”.

The bigger item here is I didn’t have to explain why the medium for advertising is important, they see the value because they have invested in it previously. I don’t have to explain why overall it is valuable, I just have to explain why my platform is different and needed.

A prospect is someone you have a real reason for reaching out. You know they are investing in similar advertising, there is a matchup with a current campaign they are running, these different items help you tell a better story.

A SUSPECT is, as you can imagine, someone whom you think would benefit from your sponsorship assets but aren’t sure if there is a big fit.

Let’s say they just opened a new location in your city. You have a suspicion they want to reach the community and can sell that story, but you aren’t 100% sure and may have to do some education on the value of sponsorship as they may have never done that type of advertising.

The reason why you break them into multiple groups is to help you understand how you interact with the potential client.

For a prospect, you know you have a pretty good sync up for their goals with your assets so you can get right to the fit.

A suspect would have a different conversation. It would be more asking what their goals were and education on the platform.

To take this a step further, you may have a prospect & suspect based on the different assets you are selling.

For example, if you are selling rink board signage and find out that the client heavily invests in digital ads, they become a suspect for your rink board and a prospect for your digital assets.

By breaking down your list into prospects & suspects you can make sure the fit is right and save time as you approach the clients. This will help you fill a healthy pipeline AND have better conversations with your clients.

Prospecting happens all year round

Prospects aren’t going to jump out at you in the off-season then take a break during the season.

Rich has brought this up multiple times in our podcast, but sponsorship is a 24/7/365 job now. With the different budget cycles and timing for a brand, you need to be on your game at all times.

This is perfect for the last point that I think all sponsorship salespeople need to implement in this 24/7 world.

Digital Bonus: LinkedIn prospecting

With the introduction of LinkedIn, you have a platform in which to help reach prospective clients.

This isn’t where you should connect with someone, immediately inbox them and ask for a meeting, and try and sell them.

LinkedIn is for the “long” game. This is where you can educate your prospect on your asset and how you bring value.

Here are a few tactics that will help:

  1. Connect with people who work in marketing at the brands in the area that are both prospects & suspects.
  2. Post on your timeline videos & images of your game day. You are selling the experience, happy fans, other sponsors integrations, ways in which your product (game day) is amazing.
  3. Comment on the prospect’s wins and posts. Don’t overdo this, be authentic.

This, with your outbound email, will help you hit multiple touchpoints that bring value to the client.

The big thing here, I guarantee 99% of your competitors aren’t doing this. so you can get ahead with minimal work.

Overall this is a marathon

Prospecting doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t do the desperate push and drive all at once. Understand where your prospect (or suspect) sits in relation to the value you bring and find the best way to communicate with them.

In a marathon, sometimes you understand that your pace needs to be slower to conserve energy, sometimes you need to sprint to win. Follow the ebbs & flows, be patient, and keep in mind your job is to bring value…sometimes the value isn’t a fit for people.



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