Top 5 ways to LOSE a sponsor

Many times, we focus on the tactic TO do to keep our sponsors as opposed to NOT to do.

But understanding the landmines, we can avoid them early before there is a problem. Mostly though…we need a map in order to navigate the way to success with our sponsors.

I’ve said it before, I’m blessed to be able to lean on Rich Franklin and his expertise here. His knowledge through decades of sponsorship sales never ceases to bring value.

This week on The Inches Podcast, Rich and I dive into the top 5 ways we lose our sponsors in sports sponsorship.

You can listen to the whole episode HERE, but as always I break down the highlights below.

#1 Lack of communication/ only communicating when we are selling something

Nothing is worse than a transactional relationship in this game, or any sales game really. If this was a fully transactional industry then we might as well set up an online shop where sponsors can just buy off the shelf.

When you create a relationship where you only communicate when there is a transaction, it will be hard to maintain it.

If you want to lose a sponsor quickly, only reach out when it is time to sell something.

As Rich puts it, you don’t want to be overbearing and hassle them every week, but keep in contact as the year goes on.

Congratulate them on company milestones, send messages for holidays, invite them out to games for new hires.

These are all great ways to help build a relationship with your sponsors.

Overall, this communicates to the sponsor that you are in it with them for more than their money. You are there to help build something great, drive sales, and create a long-lasting relationship with them.

#2 Not knowing the deliverable

The fastest way, in my opinion, to lose a sponsor is not knowing what they expect from the partnership.

Emotional selling in our industry is a big part of closing deals, but I’ve said it before sponsors are paying us for an outcome.

We have to understand the deliverable for each sponsor, tie it into our packages with a clear line to the deliverable, and then present it with an emphasis on the deliverable.

If we don’t know the destination, how can we build a map of it?

With this DON’T, you can lose them in two spaces:

  1. When you present the proposal with the assets and there is not an emphasis on the deliverable…obviously, why would a sponsor buy something that doesn’t fit their goals?
  2. After the season when your recap doesn’t focus on that deliverable stat on the value you have created. Why would you re-invest into something that didn’t produce?

This is such an easily solved problem, all we have to do in our first call is ask “What is the biggest business problem your organization is looking to solve today?”

If we ask this question, we can build a package that will be desirable to the sponsor for purchase.

Ask the question and build the package around that deliverable. If you don’t, you will lose the sponsor.

#3 Not enough time invested in building the relationship

This is tied a bit to the first reason we lose sponsors, but this is still a relationship business as we sell our packages.

If you don’t spend time in building a relationship with your sponsors, you will lose them.

This has both a business side and a personal side to it.

On the business side, if you aren’t invested in learning how their business runs and their industry works, you can’t do a great job at helping them thrive.

Invest time into learning their industry, what is most important, how it runs, and for their company how they are successful.

In this realm, there are two resources you can lean on heavily for success.

  1. Ask the sponsor. Be very curious about their industry. Not only doesn’t this build a personal relationship, but it shows you care and you will be better equipped to serve them.
  2. Google News is a savior. If you type in the industry name you will see articles in the industry explaining problems and opportunities. This will help you come into a meeting and ask questions that make you look like an expert in their field.

On the personal side, people buy from people they like. If you don’t build a relationship on the personal side with your sponsor, you become as we talked about in DON’T #1 a transactional relationship.

Look on social media channels and see what they are a fan of. Are they tweeting about basket weaving? As you build the relationship be curious about their needs.

Do they have a dog? Are you a dog person? Ask about it.

Obviously don’t be fake here. Either show an interest genuinely or not at all. But these will help take it from a transactional relationship to one that is a true relationship.

#4 Not showing Value or ROI

Ultimately a sponsor is paying us for an outcome. In today’s world, that outcome needs to have a quantifiable number with it.

If you can’t show a tangible ROI or value number…you will lose the sponsorship.

This ties back to understanding the deliverable. Is their goal to get more community awareness? You need to show how many unique eyeballs they reached.

Is it leads? You have to prove how many emails were collected and why they have qualified leads.

At the end of the partnership, there needs to be a golden number that you show that shows the undisputed value you have created for the sponsor.

If you can’t show this number, it will be hard to keep them on as a sponsor to keep spending dollars with you.

Shorter overview here, but it is pretty simple. If you aren’t bringing value…you can’t be valuable to the sponsor to continue their investment.

#5 Lack of innovation/ not listening to the sponsor’s needs

Change happens. In today’s age mediums, technology, and even the way customers buy changes every day.

While we need to listen to the sponsor’s needs, we also need to understand how their world is changing and how we can innovate to help.

I use Tik Tok here as a prime example here. Today, Tik Tok is the go-to platform for reaching consumers (give or take its future in America with government intervention).

But a year ago it was not as well known to many brands and consumers. The reach was there…but it wasn’t mainstream.

If you were a team that invested in building a following there early, when it became mainstream you would have the keys for your sponsors who would be looking for a way into that awareness.

If we don’t innovate and bring new ideas and options to our sponsors…we’ll lose them. This is really about creating the best product for them to reach our following.

If you don’t have these new tools in your toolkit, it is like selling a fax machine to a Fortune 500 company. There is simply a better product out there to sell.

Stay innovative in your offerings and you will be able to keep your sponsors. Stay in old ways & assets you will lose.

Overall, all of these are customer-centric. Be focused on your sponsor to make sure you don’t lose them.

I asked Rich what his top one was, and he gave an answer that included a bit of all of them. As I looked over the list a key item popped out to me.

ALL of these are customer-focused. They all are grounded in making sure you are bringing value to your sponsors.

As we look to service our sponsors we have to be thinking about what is best for their goals OVER what is best for our own organizationally. If we find that alignment…we can be successful in our own goals as a team.

As we navigate this time, it is more important than ever to get back to the basics. This is a key list to really study and think about as you service your current and new sponsors.

Stay away from these and you will see your sponsors ecstatic with your service and product.



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