Dealing with game postponements in sports sponsorship

As we sit here in the early stages of 2022, most of us are probably feeling a bit of bad deja vu. Just as we thought we were out of the impacts of COVID to our industry, cases are spiking across the country and world.

The good part, we’ve been here before. We are a bit more prepared this time around (hopefully).

But even the most prepared teams should have a plan ready to go for each sponsor should they have postponed games.

In this episode of The Inches Podcast, Rich and I dive into how your team should look at dealing with postponements.

You can listen to the whole episode HERE. But I’ll dive into a few key points below.

Communicate early with your sponsors

Being proactive with your sponsor is always a must. They aren’t just buying your assets, they are buying the trust that you will help them drive business returns on your goals.

If you think your sponsorship team is worried about postponements, think about what is going through your sponsor’s head who has even less information.

The first key is to proactively communicate what is happening, what your prediction is for the coming months, and how you plan to deliver value if things go bad.

This shouldn’t be a blanketed or generic message you send to all your sponsors. Again you have built a relationship with your partners, They buy from you because they trust you. A blanked statement will only make them feel like they are a customer, not a partner.

Carve out time to set up a call with all your sponsors just to update them on the postponements and how you plan to make sure they receive the value they paid for. Some may just ask to send a plan, and that is fine. 

The ones that want to get on a call are probably the most important as they are concerned about the value. If they have full trust in you to solve the problem, you most likely will only need to follow up with an email plan.

This is also a great litmus for seeing who is concerned overall in their partnership spend with you. If they would like a bigger call to go over postponements…they may not be totally satisfied with the partnership overall.

Being proactive with your partners on these game postponements is vital. Even if your team hasn’t had one yet, being proactive will immediately build trust with your partner. 

Send an email to see if they would like to jump on a call to talk about how you plan to make sure they are still receiving value despite any postponements.

Remember the goal

Every sponsor that I’ve worked with either at SQWAD or my time before selling sponsorships has had a business goal they are looking to address with their sponsorship spend.

It might be community initiatives, lead generation, driving store traffic, or even just building awareness. They always have an outcome they hope to achieve by spending with your team.

As we create a plan to replace the value lost on gameday with postponements…we must remember that goal.

We cannot simply say “we’ll add more promotion onto social media with logo placement” if that does not help reach their goal. Even though you will be giving them value, they won’t see the congruency with what they previously agreed to.

This again is also a great exercise in general for our sponsorship department.

Not knowing your sponsor’s goal is like cooking dinner for someone at your restaurant without showing them a menu. You can create the most beautiful filet mignon dinner… and it has no value if the guest is a vegetarian.

In sponsorship, we must be as fanatical about their business goals as they are. Every asset needs to be a step to maximizing that goal.

For example, if the sponsor’s goal is to earn leads from boothing in your stadium and connecting with fans, a logo on a tweet simply won’t cut it.

Instead, maybe a zoom conference with a member of your coaching staff where fans can log in and listen. Have a salesperson from the partner’s local location be the moderator so they can build trust with the fans that tune in.

Add an “enter your email to win” contest and you fulfill the lead generation part.

The above example may not reach the same amount of fans as a booth on the concourse on game day, but they will definitely get a more in-depth connection with the fans that tune in to the zoom conference.

Before you even think about what make-goods you will have to make up for the lost value of postponements…you need to re-familiarize yourself with the sponsor’s goal. That is where it all starts. 

Don’t start with the assets you have to make good, start with the sponsor’s goal and find the assets that work.

Get creative with make-goods

As I mentioned above, we can’t just look at the digital assets we have and slap logos on them. They won’t see it as an equivalent value for what they paid for.

Once you have defined the goal of the sponsor, you need to look at how you can create something to reach fans.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be something outside of the game. You could add a new contest or asset that can be played at future games. But many times the sponsor has already spent on being present at those future games.

This is where your reach outside of game day comes into effect. How can you re-create the reach on gameday through your channels reaching fans outside of it?

The first that comes to mind is social media. Obviously, a campaign here can help with reach. Can you run a social media campaign to reach fans that would have a similar value?

When the pandemic hit our company SQWAD was working with the Chicago Bulls on digitizing their Dunkin’ Race in the stadium. For those who don’t know, it has been a Bulls staple at home games since the time of Michael Jordan.

Then the pandemic hit. No more games.

Dunkin’ still wanted to reach fans for the remainder of the “season”, but with no game how could they grab attention?

We worked with the Bulls to bring the Dunkin’ Race to fans at home through their social media channels. Each Friday was a new race that they could watch right on their mobile devices.

The results? Thousands of offers were sent for fans to use on mobile orders. The Bulls were able to prove value despite the shutdown.

Sometimes it’s as easy taking what you already do in the stadium and bringing it to fans at home. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel each time.

For example, one of the least utilized marketing channels I see in sponsorship today is email marketing. You have a group of insanely loyal fans in your season ticket holders.

Should you spam them? Absolutely not. This is the quickest way to hurt the brand building of your team and sponsor.

But if you give value in the email, you can create real and lasting results. 

With a car partner what if you had a player and service team member at the local dealership do a “how-to” guide to changing a tire. Funny enough this is an afterthought for most people.

If you can bring some comedy to the video it can really be a trust-building asset that fans will resonate with. This value can be as good, if not better, than the one they originally purchased.

The ideas you generate here will last long after postponements

Only about 10% of your social media followers will ever walk into your stadium. This is a huge untapped market that you can monetize.

Sometimes when I talk with people in the industry about a postponement plan they bring up the fact that it is a lot of work if the postponement never happens.

I push back on that. For one, you can never predict a postponement. If you have a plan ready to go it will make it so much smoother on your sponsorship team.

But take that element out of it. This is a great way to add even more inventory for upsells.

If these elements work during the postponement and are successful, you have just set a precedent to adding an upsell element.

If the postponement doesn’t happen, you have the new element you want to push for the next renewal season.

Either way, you are putting yourself in a position to gain more revenue. This is not a waste of time. This will in fact help your sponsorship team sell more assets for next season.

Now is the time to get proactive on postponements

It’s been said about this pandemic that customers will remember how you helped or didn’t help, in this tough time.

Above is the easiest way to build trust with your partners and campaigns that will lead to more revenue down the line.

There will be teams who do the above…and teams that don’t. The teams that don’t will be remembered.

The teams that do will ultimately win more deals.

Which side do you want to be on at the end of this come renewal time?

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