The Age Of Agile Sponsorship

As with all things, we must adapt to survive in business.

Whether it is the natural progression in an industry, a change in consumer behavior, or overall innovation…we have to constantly expect change.

Sometimes dramatic events accelerate these items. Depressions, recessions, war, and as we are seeing now…a pandemic.

This pandemic has totally reshaped our industry. Without the steady access to live games we’ve been a bit exposed. We’ve been exposed on how we sell, package, and create assets for our partners.

We were exposed in the advertising world, our product is not flexible and valuable enough for brands to stick through the tough times.

I think we are on the precipice of a new era in sponsorship.

One that I am coining Agile Sponsorship (I know, sounds really Elon Musk/Startup like but I think it encapsulates the basics of this idea).

Below I’m going to set up why the industry must change to Agile Sponsorship if we are going to survive and thrive into the next century in sports sponsorship.

The age of only offering gigantic packages are dead

For years in the sponsorship industry, we have chased the large package. These are usually year-long commitments, large in price tag, and if sponsors want out…tough luck.

This tactic has worked for decades…mainly because the advertising industry followed in line with these packages.

Well, the internet came and turned that on its head. Digital ads allowed companies to buy even just a day’s worth of ads. And if they don’t like the ad’s performance…they can just turn them off.

What internet ads provided that is key is flexibility. Other than traceability this is the most important reason digital ads thrive. You as a brand have the ability to cut what isn’t working, double down on what is, and make decisions in days. There is no “welp, let’s try it again next year with some changes.”

You also can be agile. If tomorrow you decide that you want to run an ad on a trending topic…you can do that in 5 button clicks. If you wanted to do this in sponsorship you would have to call the rep, build a package, agree to a large price, and the approval process that goes through it all.

Today, packages aren’t practical with how fast things change and can’t compete with the agility of digital ads.

Let me say there is a place for large packages. We shouldn’t stop brands who want to buy large packages from doing so. These are the 2-year deals that solidify our future revenue as a team.

I say we just shouldn’t have this be the only way a brand can purchase assets from us.

Ok, so what is Agile Sponsorship?

Agile sponsorship is the idea that a brand, restaurant, non-profit, whichever partner can purchase individual assets instantly as need be.

No huge 200-page contract to go over. No long-term deal. No “minimum commitment level”.

In the same way, we can purchase a Facebook Ad with a few clicks and a credit card, we want to sell the individual assets we have to sponsors if we have them open.

Agile Sponsorship is selling tweets individually. It is selling integration into our videos individually. It is selling an Instagram Story with a swipe up on a per post basis.

In real practice, this is what Agile Sponsorship will look like:

  • A restaurant wants to promote its new menu item to the city. They are only looking to promote for about a week.
  • They go to a sponsorship page on our site where they can reserve 5 social media posts, choose the dates to post, and choose the platforms to post on.
  • You see the inbound and send the specs for the artwork and an invoice they can pay right then online.
  • Once paid, you approve the creative and slot them into the schedule with your social media team.
  • If successful and the restaurant wants to buy 2 more posts, you send them an invoice for the two posts.

As you can see, the process is easy, flexible, and allows the brand to spend what they can when they need the asset the most.

That’s it. I know it seems simple but it is. It is literally giving sponsors the ability to buy individual parts instead of a bloated package with signage thrown in.

Why is this important? It captures the need of our sponsors at the moment when they are ready to spend.

Selling bottled water on a 100-degree day is a surer way to make money than on a 50-degree one.

When we package our assets we may start the conversation when the day is 100 degrees…but by the time we get them through the pitch, process, and package creation the temperature can drop back down 50 degrees. The urgency in need & value has significantly dropped.

Google Search Ads literally live off of this idea.

You could run a billboard ad for a free oil change….and maybe someone remembers your brand when they get their oil changed…but you are reaching most people at the wrong time. This means you have to keep that billboard up for months spending thousands of dollars.

It is extremely inefficient as an advertising platform. Again, for a long time, it was the only way to reach people.

Why are Google Search Ads so powerful? They reach people when they are in need of the product and drive them to purchase it. We don’t have to be inefficient with our spending, we can reach them right when they need the product.

This is why Google Ads brought in $40.4Bn last year while Billboards only brought in $8Bn.

Brands spend on assets that are efficient. They spend more when they see the returns on efficiency.

Billboards are our version of sponsorship packages, especially when they have stadium signs in them.

They are inflexible and inefficient. We will start to see a decline in brands dropping major dollars on them.

If we instead replaced these packages with the ability to in an instant buy a group of 5 Instagram Story posts to promote their new menu item, we’ll win that business. That is a business that normally would go to digital ads.

If we can’t allow our brands to buy specific ads flexibly when they need them…we’ll lose out on billions. Honestly, we’ve been losing out on Billions because of this.

If we can capture the needs of our sponsors at the moment they need it most…we make more money

When we make our assets more accessible, we open up our customer base.

For example, if a small restaurant only has a budget of $500 to spend…most of the time we tell them that isn’t enough to buy with us.

If there are 100 small restaurants in our area that would buy that asset, we are throwing away $50,000.

If we up that spend to $1,000 with our agile assets…it’s $100,000

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, all the internet ad companies have grown to huge revenues with this idea. I can buy ads at a moment’s notice without the packages, minimum ad spend, and a salesperson trying to jam more products down my throat.

They thrive on being the easy option when you need it most. Most products that have those attributes win.

And yup, we open more inventory…which means more money

How many days on your Instagram Stories do you have no posts? How many days do you have no sponsor presence?

Every day you don’t…you are losing money.

I’m not saying turn your social accounts into an infomercial channel. That would hurt the brand.

What I am saying is if you opened 4 Instagram Stories posts at $500 per post a week, you’d make $2,000 that week.

5 weeks = $10,000

35 weeks = $70,000

Sponsors of all sizes want what you have…influence and reach in your community. They will pay for it. They might not want to buy a whole package, but they would pay $500 for an Instagram Post to reach your fans.

With Agile Sponsorship, we get more at-bats. We open up opportunities for all sponsors to invest. When we do, we open up more revenue.

Overall, Agile Sponsorship will work because it is efficient for your sponsors. It is a better product for our customers.

We’ve built our product based on what is best, and honestly easier, for ourselves as teams. We built a product that fulfills our commission and season timing needs. We push signage because well…we have the real estate built in our stadiums.

Whenever a company does this and builds their product around their needs over their customers, they are ripe for disruption.

And honestly by building it this way we have lost billions in revenue. We’ve missed the ability for brands to give us money in smaller amounts when it makes the most sense for them.

In my opinion, we’ve built a bad product and haven’t changed it with the times.

If brands can buy when they need it, buy it immediately, it saves the partner time, money, and allows them to really strike while the iron is hot with a campaign.

If we save you time, we get your money. If we have a better product, we get your money.

Agile Sponsorship will open new revenue avenues because it is a better product than what we offered in the past.

Nick…how can you be so sure that Agile Sponsorship will work?

Well, it is already being done by one of the fastest-growing advertising products out there.

Influencers.

Influencers for the most part don’t sell packages. They sell by post.

The cost goes up as the following & engagement goes up. They make a lot of money doing so.

We as sports teams are influencers.

We have an impassioned following that we can reach with our content. We are some of the most powerful influencers in the world. Minor league teams are also influencers. With 10,000–15,000 followers you are considered a micro-influencer.

If we see this in the influencer market of selling by post, being flexible, and creating a product that fits our customer’s needs…why aren’t we copying it?

This is how I know it will work.

But if our packages are so inefficient for brands…why do they still buy?

There are obviously many variables here. Some brands value physical items. Some still see ROI in boothing. Some like to buy whole packages. I am not advocating for getting rid of sponsorship packages.

But honestly, brands still buy it because our job as salespeople is to persuade them to.

When I sold restaurant ads in physical travel guides people bought, many times, because my story was compelling.

It was my job to persuade them to buy it. I told a story of how the traveler market is a huge market you don’t want to miss, over 3 Million people will see the ad, and if that didn’t work my go-to was to show them other competing restaurants that were on the page to create FOMO.

“Look, other restaurants are here. Do you really want to be the one that isn’t there when visitors are looking at where to eat?”

I used my sales story to sell them on a product that honestly had no ROI traceability, wasn’t flexible, and honestly was a worse option than digital ads.

Flat out, a restaurant ad with me was a worse product than Facebook ads.

This, many times, is why people buy our packages. If you know how efficient digital ads are you would never buy our packages unless you had a huge budget with money to throw away or you personally knew me.

Side by side…it is night and day to the ROI.

Brands keep buying our packages because we are incredibly great salespeople. We are great at convincing them to.

As proof, millions of fax machines are still bought each year. In today’s technological age where we are sending civilians to space…there are still companies buying fax machines.

It’s because it is someone’s job to hit their quote and tell the story to make sales.

We can’t expect this to work forever. Eventually, the better product will win in adoption in the market and take the dollars.

The last thing I want to happen in sponsorship is we become the fax machine salespeople. We must understand that not shifting our assets to keep up with the market & demand will cause us to solely rely on our sales story, not the better product.

Ok, you convinced me. But where do I start with Agile Sponsorship?

Honestly, we should be looking to build an actual marketplace where our assets (IG posts, FB posts, etc) can be purchased online instantly by brands.

If we built an online ads portal like Facebook but with our different digital ads we would rake in the cash with little effort.

But before we go down a deep rabbit hole, here is what I would do.

I would open a private Shopify site with all of my digital inventory as the products. The variations would be days of the week (Mon, Tues, etc.) A sponsor could enter the portal, buy as much as they needed (or we had on inventory), and could buy right there with a credit card.

We’d then see the orders, reach out for info, and then send an update on placement and approval.

If we didn’t approve an ad we would ask for them to change it or offer a refund.

This would systemize the whole process. We wouldn’t need a sales rep to make calls. We could do thousands in sales with little sales effort and capture new customers.

BUT there is an easier way to implement.

Simply sell your IG stories, FB posts, etc. as one-offs. Send sales emails out that ask smaller partners if they would like to buy single social media posts…just like they would on social media ads.

How could I find who might be interested? Simple. Jump on IG and when you see a local company ad reach out.

There is a simple way to test if this will work with your team before you invest in systemizing it.

It will take some time to refine this, but along the way, we can make a ton of money.

Agile Sponsorship is the idea that we can reach more partners, faster, and open up more revenue opportunities with a few tiny tweaks.

In times of crisis, it is the organizations that make big changes, innovate, and see the opportunities that win. For sponsorship, Agile Sponsorship is that opportunity.

Google Ads in the U.S. brought in $40Bn in 2019 with billboards just $8Bn. I don’t think there is a clearer picture of why you should take a chance on it.

It’s as simple as offering sponsorship of individual posts. Don’t wait to implement this into your packages.

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