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Sponsorship post-pandemic is all about re-building habits, old and new.

Humans are creatures of habits. It is extremely hard once we’ve entered a habit to change it.

In reverse, it takes a lot for us to build new habits. But there was a pandemic that rewired a lot of our actions as humans in the way we go about our daily lives.

Some are for the better, some for the worse.

But, what if you could help re-wire your fans to go back to some of the habits they had before this pandemic hit? What if through our assets we could build habits into the daily lives of our fans?

In this article, I’m diving into habits. How do they form? And how can we in sponsorship form positive habits that benefit both our fans and sponsors?

Let’s dive in.

First, why do we need to create habits?

In short, you may not need to. But I think there are plenty of cases where it is beneficial to start creating those habits around. As we are a year into this pandemic, our fans have totally created new habits in their lives.

For example, many of us aren’t flying as of now. Maybe we’ve found road trips to be more comfortable. We’re ordering our food through an app, maybe that is a good thing for some sponsors…but it could be a bad thing for others.

Overall we should look at each of our sponsors and find the positive habits that have been created with their consumers. Are they good for the sponsor? Great, let’s build assets to reinforce them.

Are they bad for the sponsor? Let’s build packages that can re-build the habits that are profitable for them.

I am not suggesting that we fight major trends like digital access etc. Some habits like that are so far pushed forward that it would be impossible to jump back. But we can identify the new habits that affect our clients and find ways to either change or reinforce them.

The beauty of habits is if you build it…it can be repeatable value with little work each game by you or your sponsor. Our goal in sponsorship should be to build reinforcing habits into our packages.

Ok, but what psychologically makes a habit?

Before we can dive into how we can create habits through our assets, we have to understand the psychology behind how we create habits as humans. How do we re-wire our brains to create a habit?

After diving into a few places, this article from NPR was a great resource.

“It turns out that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a ‘habit loop,’ which is a three-part process. First, there’s a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.

“Then there’s the routine, which is the behavior itself,” Duhigg tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That’s what we think about when we think about habits.”

The third step, he says, is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the “habit loop” in the future.”

What a perfect set of steps that we can start with to build into our assets.

The Cue or Trigger — The Routine — The Reward

These are the foundations we need to look at if we plan to build our assets and activations into a habit for our fans. Let’s individually break those down

The Trigger

On our podcast, The Inches, Rich and I have gone into this idea which Rich calls the stunt.

In order to start a new habit, we need a trigger. Something that breaks your pattern of our fans and changes their current habit.

Rich gives an example that he had in his radio days with a young Jimmy Kimmel starting a morning show on KZOK in Seattle. Most people are in the habit of their own morning radio show, they’ve been tuning in for years.

If Jimmy Kimmel had just come onto the show, maybe they get a few listens…but they needed to have a trigger or stunt to break the pattern of listeners to listen to something new.

So they had Jimmy and his co-host drive down the highway in downtown Seattle on a giant steam pipe organ while doing some segments of their show on the organ.

Could you imagine seeing a giant steam pipe organ headed down the major highway at rush hour with a radio guy on the top? That is enough to get anyone to tune in and try it from their previous radio show.

As we think through our campaigns, we have to have a Trigger that breaks our fan’s habit of what they are currently doing. You can’t just casually announce the activation, you need to make it unique enough to grab their attention.

The trigger is the foundation for building a habit. If you can’t land the trigger, fans will go back to what they were doing before.

Get creative with the trigger. The crazier the better. You need something that is worth my intrigue as a fan to change my current habit. How can you grab my focus and get me to try something new?

The Routine

The next step is consistency. In order to get fans to truly build a habit, you have to make it operate like clockwork game in and game out.

We get conditioned to do things usually chronologically. Think about when you’ve scheduled your workouts all over the place as opposed to every M-W-F at 7 PM. In my experience when you don’t have that set time…you fall off the wagon in keeping your routine.

This is no different with our activations. You can’t just do it every other game when you feel like it. You need to condition fans that the activation comes on every day at a certain time. That could be the second media timeout of the second period in a hockey game (as we have with our Toyota Trivia with the Portland Winterhawks). That could be every game when the team enters the court for a warmup.

Maybe it isn’t around a game. Maybe it is a day of the week (Freebee Fridays) or even building into the routine of the day (when you have breakfast, you have to eat X food). These are routines that we can build into the outside of the confines of our gameday.

No matter what it is, if you build a routine you help cement the new habit you have a much better chance of it succeeding. You have to be persistent and committed to it.

The Reward

We see this a lot at SQWAD with our activations. As fun as activations are…fans like to win stuff. If they are going to spend time engaging with your activation…it needs to be worth the reward.

An example from today, Why do people wait hours on the Top Shot waiting line to get a pack…even when it seems impossible that they will get a pack?

The reward is worth the time spent waiting.

Can you build a habit without the reward? Maybe…but the experience needs to be CRAZY fun so the reward is that experience.

99% of the time in order to have fans come back each week or game you need to have a reward worth it enough to come back.

The reward helps solidify why the fan comes back on the routine side of things.

Ok, so I have the steps. How does this translate to sponsors?

These 3 steps will build a habit loop with your fans. The more times they come back and go through that loop…the more likely they are to continue the habit.

There are very real activations that we can build into packages that can change the habits of our fans. There are categories that we can really zone in on to drive the value through habits. Here are a few below:

Building a habit in travel

As I said above, habits don’t have to come around our game day. We can absolutely insert our sponsors into certain habits in daily life.

For example, when we travel, we usually have very specific ways we purchase our tickets…and even the mode in which we travel for that matter.

Maybe we like to take the train over flying….maybe we choose a certain airline for different attributes. Those are habits that we are comfortable with.

In this instance, if we are an airline that fans don’t usually use…we need to find ways in which we can insert the brand into the routine to change the habit.

One of my favorite examples of this is the activation between The Portland Timbers and Alaska Airlines. Alaska has been the kit sponsor for the Timbers for many years.

It’s one thing to pay for the jersey sponsorship with the goal of building awareness…but why should we stop there.

Assuming that the goal was to drive more travelers to book with Alaska, the team added a masterful piece to the deal that would change the travel habits of Timbers fans with an easy campaign.

If you wear your Timbers gear at the airport when boarding you get to board early. Simplicity at its core and a beautiful way to help change a habit.

Think about it, when we travel the boarding process is anything but pleasant….and other airlines even charge money if you want to board early. With one simple tweak, the club is giving fans a reason to fly Alaska.

And think about it from a fan’s perspective. As you are in the habit of booking a flight with another airline…and you see the early boarding fee…immediately you think to how you would be able to get that for free if you flew with Alaska and wore your Timbers shirt.

This is changing the habit for fans in how they choose to purchase flights…the power of this is sponsorship gold.

And all you have to do is get them to take advantage of it once. Once they do it…they have the incentive to build it into a routine of doing it every time they fly.

And the reward? Getting something for free that other airlines charge for to make for a more pleasant flight experience.

This is a perfect example of how activation can change a buying habit for your sponsors. The more fans take advantage of it…the more likely that Alaska becomes THE airline they choose while traveling.

This case study will be KEY as your airline travel picks up. How can you build those habits back for your travel partners into your fan’s buying process?

Happy Hour…and your restaurant partners

Happy hour started as a way to break the habit that you didn’t go to the restaurant until it was dinner time. For many people getting off work, when you were done you headed home and waited for dinner to eat.

This meant a valuable hour was missed by bars and restaurants. With few customers…it was a lost opportunity to drive sales.

Happy hour was built to change your habit. It was inserted into life to get you to go to happy hour drinks with co-workers after work with the reward of cheaper drinks. Once we as society adopted it…there was no turning back. It was ingrained into our culture.

And really this came with restaurants understanding our migration paths after work. We finished our work and headed home…but we walked by restaurants with no incentive to stop. The trigger of lower-priced food and drinks (also a reward) took us out of our migration routine and

I bring all of this up because we have similar migration patterns on game day. Fans come from all parts of the city…and sometimes state in order to watch our games. How can you build a habit of eating at a location before the game… or after the game?

If you can build in a program that helps build a habit of an after-game dinner… you bring repeatable business to that sponsor. The fan is already headed home on a certain route

For example…imagine that one route is extremely packed with traffic after games. People are going to be sitting in their cars…why not have them sit in a restaurant eating?

If you had the Traffic Hour restaurant sponsor that offered 20% off food during the high traffic hours, you will get fans to break the habit of sitting in traffic and redirect them to sit in a nice restaurant continuing the game experience.

This example helps bring value in two ways. First, we give the fan the lower-cost food, which the restaurant doesn’t care about because their sales were probably slow due to most fans just sitting in traffic.

Second, you are rewarding the fan with a better experience than sitting in a car. They were going to get home at the same time anyways…why wait in a cramped car? Why not spend that time continuing the great night at a restaurant?

I would bet that this even could lead fans to not leave a game early. If you really burn this habit into a fan’s game experience, you could make the offer only after the end of the game. If you left early, you would miss it (and let’s be honest, you probably would still sit in traffic with other fans leaving).

This habit may be a slow start. But maybe you have a celebrity show up at the Traffic Hour…maybe a band plays. Maybe a post-game live show. Now it is something fans need to be a part of.

All the while, you are building the overall habit that this restaurant is THE best experience for entertainment events. As my grandpa loves going to Denny’s because of the senior deal…you can build a habit that whenever a fan says “it’s a special night…where should we eat?” the first thing that pops into their head is that restaurant.

And it all started with understanding the migration habit of fans and offering a better option…

Do fans visit your sponsor car dealership lots anymore?

During the pandemic, there was a huge shift for car dealers as they had to sell a car without the car lot experience they had relied on for decades. Sure, you can buy a car online…but how do you make it so it isn’t a commoditized sale?

How can your team help build a habit of visiting the dealership lot again? Better yet, can we build a new habit of connecting with the dealers directly in parts of our game in order to drive purchases?

What if instead of pushing fans to the dealership to start that relationship, you built the habit of building a relationship with a dealer through other mediums?

What if every pre-game a new salesperson came on to give a game recap for the past game…or some color commenting on an upcoming game? What if fans could compete in a prediction game against that dealer on a stat?

Now we are building a new habit of fans building a relationship with a dealer before they even step foot on the lot. When they think in their head “where should I buy a car?” That salesperson that went on a 5 correct streak in the prediction game comes to mind.

With the example above we may be throwing aside a previous buying process habit that isn’t as relevant today for one that better fits how we consume as fans.

The dealership’s goal is usually to connect fans with salespeople…we are just changing where that relationship is built.

Sometimes the habit will come with understanding the goal and rethinking how a new, more successful habit can be formed.

This process will become extremely important in your assets post-pandemic

we have gotten into some habits that aren’t great for our sponsors. Maybe we aren’t eating out as much…or traveling as much. Those new habits have real consequences for our sponsor’s businesses.

As always in sponsorship, our goal is to help solve our sponsor’s problems. Changing habits will be critical in that goal. If a restaurant was driving in-person traffic before the pandemic…but not as many in the pandemic….how can we help them revert the habits back to purchases?

And really sometimes it can come as a simple reminder of old habits. What can you do to get your fans back in the habit that they may have abandoned during the pandemic? How can you, for example, trigger fans to get back into traveling?

In the new sponsorship era, the teams that understand the habits of fans that help their sponsors thrive and can create assets that solidify those habits will be bringing repeatable value to their sponsors. When we talk about items that get our sponsors to come back week in and week out…this is the golden ticket.

If you can reinforce these habits…you can make it so sponsors can’t live without your partnership. If they do…they risk a shift in habits that are profitable to them.

In this new age of sponsorship…the teams that become obsessed with fan habits will win deals.

Your Sponsorship Package Should Be A Story, Not A Menu

Everyone always talks about stories in sales…and rightfully so. As humans, we are physiologically conditioned to accept stories more than any other form of communication.

Stories build trust, they build empathy. Neuroscientists found that when listening to a well-told story, the exact same areas of the brain light up on an MRI in both the storyteller and listener. Your brain, as the listener, mirrors the brain of the storyteller.

We love stories so much as humans, our brains continue to consume them as we sleep when we dream.

Many times though in sponsorship, we look at our packages as a menu and sell them as such. This sign, this rink board, this sponsored tweet…

This causes our sponsors to see them as commodities. When you rip out the story, we only see black and white products.

Today I’m diving into how you can craft your sponsorship package pitch as a story to bring more context to answer the question “Why should I spend my marketing dollars with your team.”

Looking at the foundations of a story

As we look at stories, there are many frameworks we can follow. The heroes journey, rags to riches, Icarus, etc. They are all good models to go off.

But the insight I love to start with comes with this TED talk by Andrew Stanton. He is a storyteller from Pixar behind some of their greatest hits like Finding Nemo.

Click HERE to see the whole talk.

I draw a lot of this from his talk, which is one of the best I’ve seen on the fundamentals of stories. I’ll dive into the key parts below, but definitely check out the talk as it has an abundance of ideas and insights.

Andrew takes us through his journey to becoming a storyteller. It’s a great dive into the foundations he realized while working at Pixar. It’s beautifully crafted into a succinct video.

I’ll dive into some of the key points below, but one key part of the talk comes when he talks about the rules for constructing a story.

Before the story comes the research.

Before I dive into the ideas from Andrew, I think one key item comes with understanding your audience.

Knowing your audience helps you craft a better story. It helps you build in that unscratchable itch and promise (more on these below). It helps you craft the most compelling story before you even craft it.

Different stories fit different audiences in different ways. For example, I am a dog lover. You tell me a story about a dog, I’m interested. If it is a story about a cat, it better be an earth-shattering & compelling story to keep my interest.

The same comes with the story we tell to our sponsors. In order to keep them interested and make it worth their while, you will have to do your research.

We’ve talked about this in the past, but there are many ways that our clients & prospects tell us exactly what they want. You can check out their company blog for news on product launches or initiatives. You can check out the ads they are running on Facebook and Instagram to see what messages they are willing to pay money to get to their customers.

You can also do it the old fashion way and simply ask them in a discovery call.

Before you can tell a compelling story to your brand, you have to understand their needs. Before you can even start crafting the story, do the research. It will help you tell a story that connects with your audience.

Your sponsor with that unscratchable itch (goal)

Andrew dives into a really intriguing part of the video that I think really resonates with our storytelling in sponsorship.

He talks about in his character creation process that every great character has an unscratchable itch. A passion or a mission that seemingly is just out of reach that they are obsessed with solving. In Toy Story, Woody wants to be liked and the top toy. In Wall-E, the little robot is looking for connection and friendship.

In every great story, the character has an itch that they are on a mission to scratch.

In every great sponsorship relationship, we have the same thing. Our prospects all have a goal, a passion, a mission that they are looking to achieve through advertising.

For a car dealership, it might be as “simple” as doubling their sales volume over the next 5 years. For an insurance partner, it may be to become a pillar in community outreach.

Every brand prospect has that unscratchable itch we can craft our stories around. It will help pull them in. More than pull them in, it will show that you care about their goals. It will make your story their story. The focus then becomes their goals and not the assets you are looking to sell.

This may be the most important part of the storytelling process. This sets up everything we need to help draw them in and get them hooked. It may take a lot of research, it may take a few comp tickets to get them out to the game and chat with them…but they all have an unscratchable itch in their business.

“How am I going to achieve X this year/decade?” Find this unscratchable itch. It is the destination that your story will lead to in order to help get them sold.

Make Me A Promise (connection)

This is where you capitalize on the unscratchable itch to pull them in. The next step is to hook the partner in the first slide.

You see, our time is valuable. In order to ensure they will listen to your story, you need to make sure you do something to grab their attention.

In the video, Andrew calls this the “make me a promise” section. Every great story pulls its audience in with a promise that they hope you fulfill throughout the narrative. Sometimes the promise is as simple as “Once upon a time”. It pulls us in, begging us to learn more.

And really, this is the “Make Me Care” part. We need to get our buyers emotionally invested in what is to come with our story.

Think of this as a trailer for a movie. The goal of the trailer is to make me care enough to spend my time and money to head to the movie theatre. If the trailer is bad…I’m not going.

A big part of having success here comes with the unscratchable itch. If we know what the unscratchable itch revolves around, we can directly link our promise to it to pull them in.

For example, if a car partner’s unscratchable itch is to regain top market share in the city your promise should revolve around this. Maybe it’s; “What if I told you we can help you get back to #1 through the power of fan affinity and love for our team mixed with calculated retargeting to drive purchases?”

Immediately, I want to learn more if I have this itch. I may not believe you at first (that is what the rest of the story is for)…but I am intrigued.

I can’t ignore it. The desire to scratch my itch is too much to not listen.

This is how you hook them in to hear the story. This is how you make them care enough to listen attentively for the entire pitch. They are curious, they want to learn more…they need to learn more.

Finding the itch and making the promise is the first key step to closing the deal. Nail that promise and will have their attention.

Finally, craft the assets around those story elements

Notice how we haven’t touched which assets yet to use? This is on purpose.

To be honest, until you know your sponsor’s unscratchable itch and the promise you’ll start with…you don’t know what story to craft. how could you?

You can’t structure your story without these two elements. You may have an idea, but you can’t make it flow without these two north stars.

Both of the above items are on the map. They help guide us where our story will go and the details.

And really, you are crafting the story of the fan journey. How will you get your fans to eventually get to the partner’s unscratchable itch? What is the journey to that goal? What is cadence? What steps will they have to take to get there?

For a car sponsor, if we start at a fan not knowing anything about the dealership or cars…what are the assets and steps we’ll take to guide them to connecting with a dealer and making a purchase?

Some journeys are long, like a car sponsor. A fan maybe makes one purchase every 5–9 years. This is a long, trilogy-type sponsorship story (which leads to justification for a multi-year deal).

Some journeys are short, like a QSR partner’s story may be. Most of the time, the goal is a fast purchase…but we want them to come back multiple times in the season to make many purchases at the location.

With the QSR sponsor story, we’ll tell a story of multiple sales and the journey there with our assets. One that is much different from the car sponsor’s.

Don’t touch the assets until you have the unscratchable itch & promise nailed. Once you have them…use the assets as the key points to help get the fan to the itch.

Every asset needs a part in that story

The reason why stories sell is they bring context to the assets. They bring the “WHY”.

Context allows us to add more assets if they fit that why in the journey. They also help us thin out the assets that don’t make sense and hurt the story.

Nothing is worse in a movie when an obscure scene has nothing to do with the end plot of the movie. It wastes our time and distracts us.

I’ve said this before, but nothing hurts our credibility in selling more than when we offer an asset that doesn’t lead to the sponsor’s goal.

Many times, it’s because we are looking to reach a sales goal. But we cannot just throw in assets because we have them. Every asset has a role in completing the story. If the stories we tell have bad assets in them, we’ll get called out.

On the flip side, if an asset that the sponsor thought wasn’t important fits well into the story…then we have the opportunity to craft it into the story. This makes it so the sponsor could see it in a new light with newfound value.

Like a well-made dish, your assets need to make sense toward the end goal.

If there is an asset out of place, it will show and ruin the story. When a director makes a bad movie…sometimes it is a long time before they get another shot.

Storytelling also helps us ask the hard question “is this asset still relevant in today’s age of advertising?”

There are many assets that we sell in sponsorship that simply aren’t effective in the modern world of advertising. We sell them because they are legacy remnants from a time that is no longer relevant in effectively reaching customers.

For example, I believe hockey rink boards are overpriced and honestly useless in terms of today’s advertising (again, my opinion).

Before I get rocks thrown at me for the last sentence, our stories are a great way to test this statement.

As we craft these stories for the fan journey, if an asset continues to not fit into the stories we create, you have to have a real (and sometimes hard) conversation with yourself and your team as to whether you should still be selling it.

If there is little reason to add them (they don’t fit into the story) it quickly turns the meeting from “they want to help me” to “they want to sell to me” in the mind of your prospect. It instantly turns the meeting into a transactional one.

Nothing kills a sales meeting more than when it turns into purely a transactional one.

If assets like rink boards don’t fit most of the stories you are crafting for sponsors, you need to cut them. I know that sounds crazy, but it will hurt more than help you, in the long run, to continue to jam them down your sponsor’s throat if it doesn’t have a key place in their story.

A clearly defined story helps you prove the value (ROI)

In every crafted story there is a mission. We talked about it a bit before with the unscratchable itch. Each brand has a mission that this story helps achieve.

The beautiful thing about crafting these stories is we have initial landmarks we can use to show value.

Let’s say the mission is car sales for a sponsor. Most of the time one sign, activation, or sponsored tweet doesn’t sell the car. We need to condition the fan to have that brand top of mind with awareness assets mixed with leads generated.

Where are the story points that trigger the next step toward those goals?

These trigger points are what your recaps will be made of. How many fans made it through each milestone to reach the end goal?

When a sponsor asks “how did the scoreboard read perform in this asset toward our goal?” you have an answer because you are tracking each tactic and milestone. If X amount of fans saw the scoreboard read, which led to Y amount of fans going to the next step in the fan journey…you can justify the purchase of that scoreboard read asset.

This also sets up the reasoning on why they should continue to spend on certain assets in your recap meetings.

By turning your package into a story, you are giving relevance to each asset. You are giving a “why” to those assets. They now are vital to the investment and can’t be cut next season or during renewals.

You’ve taken something that may have been commoditized and give it meaning & value. More importantly, you can now report on the steps of the story and get your sponsor obsessed with them.

In today’s age of needing to prove ROI and cut waste spending by brands…this can save you thousands of dollars in revenue in sponsorship sales.

Every sponsor package needs a story

Context in sales always wins. It answers the question of “why should I invest with you?” context helps you frame the value of assets that a sponsor may have seen in a different light.

Stories build context.

For too long in the industry, we’ve offered up a menu of assets with no context. We’ve forced the sponsor to choose individual items with little context. This strategy commoditizes our assets. It lessens their value.

If we build these assets into a story that shows how they help guide fans to their overall goals, it builds their value. It increases the likelihood a sponsor says yes.

Overall though I think the biggest value this brings to a sponsorship department is truly vet out which assets we should think about cutting from our packages. If we craft stories around our packages, we’ll start to see which ones no longer fit into the journey that fans go through TODAY instead of the journey they went through 5 years ago.

It may hurt us in the short run (lost revenue from rink boards), but it will help us in the long run through building relationships and selling the right assets.

Before your next pitch, build a story for your sponsor. Ditch the menu.

Making sure your digital partnership assets pencil out for your team

Buying digital assets are fun. Finding new ways for your team to engage fans and connect partners is an essential part of a sponsorship plan.

But we can’t get too enamored with the asset, we have to keep in mind the financial implications of buying and implementing these assets.

This week on The Inches podcast Rich Franklin and I dive into how you can make sure your activation pencils out financially for your team. This is an interesting discussion for both of us, as although we have a great relationship…Rich is a buyer and I am a seller.

You can listen to the full episode HERE. Below is a quick overview of the episode:

What Does Penciling Out Mean For Your Team

Each team should have a number (usually a percentage) for how much in fulfillment you plan on spending. A common number I hear from teams is 10%, meaning the cost of the asset & fulfillment should not be more than 10% of the total package value.

This is a good starting point. Your goal in sponsorship is obviously to bring in profit to your team. While this profit calculation for the team includes your salary and other items, 10% is usually a great number to ensure you are on the right path.

Every team will have a fulfillment threshold that fits their goals. Make sure you have one for your team. This will help you evaluate the asset you are looking at and whether it makes financial sense to move forward on an activation.

As A Vendor, It’s Our Job To Know This And Provide Value

Many times I see this as a vendor and it hurts. Charging a price for activation that pushes vanity metrics.

An example: Buying something where the vendor pushes “Fan Engagement” as the main metric.

These drive me inexplicably crazy. The way I see it, my job as a vendor is to prove exponential value to you as a customer. If sponsorship revenue is the goal, it is my job to reach your 10% threshold for fulfillment to value ratio.

At SQWAD, that is our goal. We’ve built our pricing to fit most market prices for the package value so our customers can fit within that threshold. Again our goal is to bring massive value to your team.

When working with vendors, make them walk through the penciling-out phase. If they can’t walk you through how they can bring the value to help you reach your threshold, think twice about working with them.

Can This Asset Pencil Out Across Multiple Partnerships?

A great point that Rich brings up is how an asset can pencil out for your team if you look at the asset across multiple partnerships.

Sometimes a sponsor will come in and want the digital asset all for themselves. That is fine, but it will cost a high price to be the exclusive partner. This is how most look at activating an asset.

But we’ve seen success in breaking that 10% fulfillment threshold into multiple partners.

For example, let’s say you implement a Scratch & Win asset and the presenting partner doesn’t want/ can’t pay a high enough price to fulfill that asset cost at 10%. You can then go to other partners and sell “prizing” on the asset to other partners.

While the branding is mainly the presenting sponsor, the other partners see value in having their prizes or coupons on the platform.

Most times you can actually gain more revenue on the asset by breaking it up like this. The key is taking some of the risk and calculation in these two ideas: Will a sponsor pay more for the exclusive rights OR should I push for a title partner with other partnership assets?

This though could be the way you can pay for an asset and still have it pencil out. Don’t just look at the one-shot partnership here.

What Is The Lifetime Value Of This Asset And The Partnership It Opens?

Another great point by Rich is not just looking at the one-year, one deal that an asset brings…but the lifetime value it produces.

Sometimes we need to look at multiple years in order to see the full value of an asset we buy. Sometimes it is ok for it to not hit the 10% threshold in the first year if we know it will lead to more revenue down the line.

One team did this masterfully in their thinking of our platform with our scoreboard trivia asset.

In the first year of the activation, it didn’t quite pencil out in the revenue they built. But they understood that they could build this asset into a multi-year deal with the partner. While in the first year it didn’t pencil out…it did when that asset led to a multi-year partnership for even more money.

You can finance and amortize the cost of an activation out for a few years if you can build a larger sum for the lifetime value of the asset and the revenue it brings in.

Overall, you should be looking to make sure the activation pencils out to your threshold of profit, but don’t discount it because it doesn’t pull in the revenue for one deal.

Make sure you also look long-term at the effects it has toward multiple partnerships and the lifetime value those partnerships can bring in with the activation. But in that process hold your vendor to the standard of understanding and explaining how this will pencil out financially for you and your team.

If a vendor can’t speak at a high level on that profit and how their product helps you get there…you should probably look for a new vendor.

The Biggest Competitor to Sports & Event Sponsorship is Paid Social Ads. Here’s Why.

I’m sitting in a sponsorship meeting just 8 months ago with a client of ours. It’s the usual Agency, Partner, & Team three sections of the table divided (At SQWAD we get brought into sponsor meetings to help answer questions so I’m with the team reps).

As the sponsor presentation is going down most people are, funny enough, looking at a device or laptop and looking up every once & a while to make sure the assets are a fit from last year.

The sponsorship guy pitching then says, “ And this year we have some new assets, as you know digital is a big part of today’s attention, so we’ve added some ways to connect fans.”

Immediately every head looks up. That’s right, the word DIGITAL can do that these days.

All of a sudden questions were being asked. “Can we do X? Can it integrate with Y?”.

All of a sudden interest & attention was all in on the presentation.

I was astonished at first, but later that day thinking back it shouldn’t have been. Why? Well….

Take out the fact that we as humans are now glued to our phones. Take out the power & impact that these devices have on us.

30%+ today of brand marketing budgets are reserved for digital initiatives.

Let’s break down the math for what that means in the North American sponsorship world (all graphs from this IEG Sponsorship report for reference).

$24.2Bn projected spent in 2018 on sports & event sponsorship.

$24.2Bn*.30= $7.26Bn reserved for digital.

This means that today there is AT MINIMUM $7.26Bn in open sponsorship dollars looking to be spent on digital initiatives in sponsorship.

This looks like an opportunity.

So what inventory can we look at to offer up to try and grab those dollars?

Facebook posts, tweets, IG stories, Snapchat are all staple options outside the stadium.

But what about inside the stadium or on location at your event?

I hear this a lot when asking this question “In-stadium boothing and signage has made us money for decades. Brands will never stop wanting those assets.”

That may be true, but here is a fact I would like to point out followed by 3 questions:

Most brand marketing budgets are only at 30% reserved for digital.

  • Do you think that number will decrease?
  • Is your team spending less money on digital ads to get ticket holders?
  • Would you put a large amount of your budget into billboard or newspaper ads?

The answer, in my mind, to all of those is NO. If that is your organization’s mindset, it needs to change quickly.

Did that not convince you? OK, let’s see if this does…

MORE THAN HALF OF YOUR SPONSORS, ON AVERAGE, ARE LOOKING TO DROP YOU.

Holy Smokes Batman…

If only we could look into why…

The NUMBER 2 most valuable benefit in sponsorship in brand buyer’s eyes is the presence of digital media assets.

Sponsors care more about digital assets than tickets & hospitality….and where does on-site signage come to…….32%…or 6th most valuable.

Your team’s most pushed, most valuable, crown jewel asset is the 6th most valuable asset in your sponsor’s eyes.

This brings me to the epiphany that I came to about a year ago, which started a shift in what we at SQWAD Sports provide to sports teams to help:

The biggest competitor to sports & event sponsorship is… Paid Social Media Ads.

Here is the simple fact that we have to look at…Facebook, Instagram, and even Snapchat ads are a more effective marketing tool than the in-stadium signage or back of the gameday guide you offer.

  • They are more trackable
  • They are more flexible
  • They grab more attention today

Brands are learning this and adjusting their spending to the platform that is most effective for driving business. Smart brands have put more than 30% of their budgets into digital and are driving out the giants that are stuck at 30%. It is capitalism at its finest.

When you break it down to its core, you are not competing with other events, television (which by the way came in dead last on value to sponsors), or other non-digital initiatives.

You are competing with paid social ads (sorry I said it twice, only because I want this simple fact to sink in).

But what does this mean for my team, event or property?

Perfect time for one of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes

“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

How does this match up? Well if you don’t offer assets that match what the market wants, if you are not formless & flexible like water, you will crash.

If you push non-digital assets you will sell less and less of your in-stadium signage and you will lose deals. You will crash with your customers.

The premium price you charge for those in-stadium assets like signage will become less & less. You will have to wheel & deal to get them filled.

Will it be this year?… I would bet you have already lost out on major deals due to this.

This isn’t just in the sports & event sponsorship world. Paper travel guides, billboard companies, magazines are all being met with the same issue, being pushed into a slow coma due to the power of social ads.

Not death…print will always be an option that some look to grow sales. The TV didn’t kill the radio, it put it into a coma.

The same thing is happening in sports & event sponsorship. You may even have brands flat out tell you “We put all our dollars into Facebook ads, we aren’t looking at anything else because it is so effective.” already.

And just as the smart brands who are destroying in the world by spending more on digital ads…

The first teams who offer digital in-stadium & on-location activations will win that open $7.2Bn reserved for digital.

The teams who don’t will lose it. Seems simple, but it really is.

At SQWAD Sports we provide teams with in-stadium assets like mobile scratchers and scoreboard trivia to connect fans to sponsors digitally during breaks in the game. Our goal is to help teams sell more sponsorship with the assets we provide.

Some of our work can be seen with the Edmonton Oilers, Portland Winterhawks, and many others.

In this process, I sit in on some of those sponsorship meetings and here is what I am seeing:

The teams that are offering digital inventory as their prime product & inventory for in-arena engagement are flat out winning deals at a high revenue level.

They are literally stealing hundreds of thousands of sponsorship dollars from the properties in their area who are not. It doesn’t matter if they are in a power 5 league or a small minor league team.

WHY? Because they see the shift and offer assets that are as valuable or even more valuable digital assets to rival paid social ads.

In my mind, there are 2 pathways that this narrative will take in our industry:

A. Sponsorship as a collective doesn’t change their on-location & in-stadium assets to match the demand and quickly see dollars shifted to Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and whatever the next crazy digital initiative comes into.

B. Sponsorship as a collective embraces this change, massively overhauls what they offer and how they offer it, and becomes the premier advertising place to spend dollars due to its ability to command influence and attention digitally.

As we know, it usually doesn’t end in ultimatums like that so what will likely happen is:

The organizations that overhaul first will win.

The ones that don’t or do it slowly will lose.

I talked about this recently in my post on the slow adoption of scoreboards in sports. We saw it with Toys R’ Us, Sears, and many others on the commerce side losing to Amazon.

There is hope because…..sports teams are influencers.

There is a lot of talk about the power of influencers on social media. They are extremely impactful and valuable if implemented correctly as a marketing tool.

But what I try to remind our teams of is in essence sports sponsorship is the same thing where teams are the influencers. The reason why brands partner with you is that you command a massive amount of influence, passion, and influence over your fan base. This is seen in the fact that if you put a team logo on a beer can sales skyrocket.

I’m sure I’m not bringing up new here for most people, but what I would like to point out is the only reason an influencer is getting paid more than you for their Instagram post is that their platform (Facebook, Twitter, Digital) matches today’s consumer attention.

You have more influence than these outlets as a team. Your marketing inventory just doesn’t match the attention, which is digital.

This is why I am massively bullish on sports & event sponsorship. When that shift happens at a high level, where you are pushing more assets like Mobile Scratchers & Scoreboard Trivia rather than a sign in the stadium, it can unequivocally become the most powerful way to spend your marketing dollars.

Shift your entire inventory to match today’s attention and you will win.

SOOOOOO Now what?

We need a change in our mindset and ultimately the assets we provide brands.

As advertisers (which sports sponsorship essentially is) it’s our job, and dare I say our duty, to be able to provide our partners with assets that help them reach their goals and capture people on assets where the attention is.

In a free-market economy, the best product (usually) wins. We have to realize that sports sponsorship with the majority of the assets we offer, in its current form, is not the best product for our customers and partners.

Once we do this though, we can start building something that will rival any social asset by adding your influence to it along with interactive ways to pull them in the arena.

There are many products out there to help give you the assets to adapt. Again at SQWAD, we provide teams with assets that integrate easily and seamlessly with your game day.

But even before you embark on that discovery mission, I would challenge you to do one thing:

Take a day, 24 hours, to take a hard look at what you offer and the competitors in your field for marketing dollars.

Can you honestly say they can compete with Facebook ads in the long or even short term?

If the answer is no, take the steps to build inventory that can maximize the return digitally for your partners.

Why Sports Sponsors LOVE Digital Contests

In an over-saturated attention market standing out is key. Sponsors have Instagram ads to grab that attention…but those are getting pretty oversaturated.

I’ve talked before about how your influence as a team can help with the over-saturation. A logo from a team they know will get them to stop their scrolling.

But the goal for any brand is to help create a relationship with the user. Something that will create a great first touchpoint for the user and start that relationship off right.

This is why digital contests are so effective today. They grab attention and start that first step on the fan journey to a relationship with the brand.

Here are a few specific reasons why fans and brands LOVE digital contests:

 

Today the eyes are glued to the phone, which is nothing new.

This is where digital contests become important over analog ones.

While your in-stadium lucky row contest is great. Coupons get lost, they forget about the reward, and you lose attention.

Brands understand where the attention is and want to put their dollars behind those platforms. If your lucky row isn’t working as well…offer them digital contests and watch as they gravitate towards those assets.

(Quick note, we build amazing digital contests at SQWAD, Click HERE to see our suite of contests)

 

Reciprocity is a very interesting psychological item. Really it is amazing that as humans we feel the need to reciprocate the value that other people bring us. I love it.

This is why prizing when done right, is such a POWERFUL brand-building tool and why digital contesting works so well in driving brand affinity.

 

This is why brands LOVE digital contests…because it brings reciprocity and is a great way to build brand affinity. You can drive real value to your sponsor through contesting to build reciprocity.

 

 

Sponsors love digital contests because they earn fan insights. This goes in line with the need for brands to build a relationship with their customers.

With lucky row winners you can build reciprocity, but when you want to follow up there is usually no data.

With digital contests, you earn their insights, an email, phone number, and with their permission, you can continue to follow up with value.

 

 

It is HUGE to understand the EARNING their insights part. You need to establish yourself and value away from what you see with a lot of contests.

You need to bring value to them first and foremost with the experience & the prize. A sweepstake is cool, but are you really earning the right to connect with them after?

Your contests should bring so much value through experience AND prize wise that when you do follow up, the reciprocity makes them want to engage with your sponsor further.

And ultimately you need their consent to follow up as well. Don’t be a sleazy contest, your fans won’t appreciate it, your sponsors won’t appreciate it, and most importantly you will see a negative impact.

 

 

This goes in line with the earning insights, but digital contests can continue the connection all year long.

 

 

Really the best digital contests have a recurring mechanism. You can connect with your participants multiple times in a season, year, whatever.

Digital makes this easy because of the access. Everyone has a phone, it has never been easier to get their attention in each game.

Remember the goal here is to connect with fans to sponsors and build a great relationship. Nothing builds relationships better than multiple touchpoints. It’s like going on multiple dates, you build a relationship with them through multiple contacts.

Brands love digital contact to build a relationship, which is why they love digital contests.

 

 

Overall sponsors are looking to connect with your fans and build a relationship through your influence as a team.

Digital contests are the best way to do that in today’s attention-saturated market. They grab attention on the phone, build reciprocity, earn insights, and create a recurring contact with the fan.

If you don’t have them in your sponsorship package, you should add some. They hit all the items sponsors are looking for.

If you’re looking for some digital contests, we at SQWAD help teams connect fans to brands with digital contests. Click HERE to see our suite of contests.

Your Stadium Connectivity Should Not Be The Reason Why You Don’t Activate Digitally.

I hear this objection a lot…” Our stadium doesn’t have wifi and connectivity is terrible. We can’t implement this or any digital activation.”

I hear you.

Sometimes we feel like it is beyond our control. An easy out to why we want to but we can’t do digital in our arenas.

I’m here to tell you that this is not an insurmountable task. You can activate in your stadium with digital assets no matter what your connectivity level.

There are just a few levers we can adjust to help. Below are a few items we’ve found that will help.

Like draining a lake through a straw.

When we think of connectivity I like to use the analogy of a lake & a straw.

You have water you want to transfer from a lake to say a bucket. It’s a 5-gallon bucket.

You want to fill the bucket as fast as possible, but all you have is a straw.

Conventional wisdom says…don’t use a straw, use a hose. This is correct, but what if a hose costs $500,000? (Wifi set up, DAS system, etc.)

Well, we’re stuck with the straw.

As you could imagine, this is going to take a long time to get the water to your thirsty friends.

What if though we could fill one cup at a time…and keep some friends drinking.

This is how you can manage low connectivity. Make sure that what is passing through is filling cups.

Making sure that the water coming through the straw is being maximized is key. That we can optimize the water that is making it through.

In this analogy, the water coming through are your videos, images, and functions of your code.

The main issue is we try to jam so many megabytes & kilobytes of data through a pipeline as small as a straw. We then focus on the size of the straw not what we are putting through it.

If we change our mindset to see the problem in this light, we can adjust what we are expecting to put through it.

Compress your video & image files.

We can’t always control the connectivity, but what we can do is control how much output we demand our fan’s phones to handle.

When you create your videos and images on your site, compress them.

Two programs we use are TinyPNG.com for images and PSPDF for Mp4 video files. Both are free and work really well.

Many times they compress down to 10% of the original file size.

Facebook and Instagram compress all images and videos. But if we can upload an already compressed file we are only helping the process.

For our landing pages, this is key as well. Many times it is the images that are the main culprit for slowing down our loading.

When you create your pages, compress your videos & images. It will increase your speed no matter what your connectivity is.

Prompt fans to ‘log in’ or load the page early

To speed up loading times our websites cache images, that is to say, it loads the image onto your phone so the next time you visit it the image is pre-loaded unless you change the image.

With that, when your fans are at home before the match & game, prompt them to visit the site before they get into your stadium. This will help the image load that you put on the system as the images are pre-loaded on the phone.

Not only does this help in load times, but it can help with marketing as well. Prompting before the game views place it to top of mind for our fans when they enter the stadium.

The vendor you choose should be optimized for this.

As you chat with your vendors, if they ask if you have wifi and say they can’t run games if you don’t…run.

In today’s age with what we know about connectivity, there are ways on the technical side that we as vendors can optimize how much stress we are putting on the network.

At SQWAD we understand that you many times have no control over the connectivity in your stadium. We build our activations to put as little stress on the network while also keeping the experience top-notch.

That is our job as a technology vendor.

I’ll caveat that we can only optimize so much…if no websites are working then we can’t guarantee ours will…but many times ours does because we optimize.

If the vendors you talk to aren’t optimizing…. you need to talk to a new vendor.

Overall, you can solve this. You aren’t helpless.

The above are a few ways you can, today, adjust to solve this issue. There are many more. I am not a web speed expert.

But today is the last day you use this excuse that your connectivity is the reason why you can’t. You can adapt and adjust some things to make it work.

Understanding the levels to sports sponsorship and how you can close deals with it.

In sports (and really most other) advertising & sponsorship the more interaction you can build with a consumer, the more valuable our assets can be to brands.

In sponsorship, there are levels of value that a single asset will hit. Almost like stairs to the top floor, we are looking to build a valuable connection between our fans & with the brands we partner with each step they climb up.

Therefore, we should be looking to build assets packages that have depth. Depth should be the ultimate goal of our assets.

As we create our packages, think about the value we bring in the following levels.

Level 1: Awareness

The first level and most ‘ancient’ level is awareness. How can our fans know about the brand if we don’t show them?

This is where advertising started off. If we show our customers our logo enough when it comes time to buy, our brand is the first thing you think of.

In our stadiums, this is done with our signage, scoreboard reads, etc. We can reach the entire stadium multiple times with the logo

This is amplified on TV when the logo is shown to all the viewers watching at home.

Today as well we see the value boosted through social media video that is shared. This is a real multiplied value.

We report this to sponsors usually in attendance, TV views, & social media views. We show the total reach of consumers who saw their logo.

This though is hard to quantify true value. A common question is “views are great…but how many purchases did this lead to?”

For a very long time, this was just accepted because we didn’t really have the next level.

Enter social media ads and tracking…

Level 2: Engagement

The next level is a bit more quantifiable for brands. How many people actually engaged with the content? How many people did we reach on a deeper level than awareness?

At SQWAD it is how many people actually played our contest or interacted with our activations.

This is where digital assets hold a valuable edge. We can track how many people actually engaged in the arena.

This is a powerful stat to provide to brands…but most importantly this is what social media ads can show that most of our in-stadium signage can’t.

This is how you can prove the value that rivals some of the other digital ad platforms you compete with.

This depth is your most primed customer for the brand since they have had a great first touchpoint with your sponsor, facilitated by your team.

Luckily you’ve collected an email, phone number, some way to re-connect with them. More on that later.

Level 3: Action or Purchase

We’ve gotten their attention, engage with them, now the third level is usually the holy grail…leading to a purchase or action.

At SQWAD this action usually comes with a reward or coupon. 10% off to get that fan into the store to spend money.

There is no better proof of ROI than a direct purchase for a sponsor. This level should be the goal of any advertising package we offer.

Digital assets can track this and report to brands. This, again, is something that digital ads can offer as well so we need to make sure that our assets can lead to a trackable

Level 5: Re-Connect and Re-Target

This is the gold. This level is what separates the huge winners and winners.

As we know in our sales efforts in sponsorship…the follow-up is HUGE toward closing a deal.

The same goes for selling a product. Today you can re-target the people who have shown interest in your product with another piece of creative.

Imagine giving Bryce Harper only one at-bat…then basing his Hall of Fame induction on that one at-bat…ridiculous right?

This is how I think about the power of re-targeting. You get more at-bats to prove your point.

Social media ads let you re-target the people who have clicked on your ad or visited your website. This is a HUGE leg up to any other advertising.

In sponsorship, we can do the same thing. This is where data collection becomes hugely valuable in our assets.

Whether a pixel on your sponsorship content or collecting an email or phone # like we do at SQWAD with our activations, if you can create opportunities to re-connect with your fans and introduce them to sponsors.

THE KEY HERE, don’t just hand over the emails to your sponsors.

What? Why would we not do that? Well, they are pretty bad at speaking specifically to your fan base.

From what I’ve seen most sponsors throw this into the marketing machine they have with no segmentation. Your fan then gets a general email campaign and is like “why the hell am I getting this email?”

Your sponsor will see dismal return rates if you do it this way.

What you need to do instead is build re-targeting into the package (and guess what…you can charge more with it).

If you take those emails, re-target with a co-branded campaign with your team and the brand via email or Facebook ads…you will do some real damage (in a good way).

Why? Well, your fan will recognize the team logo and pay attention (throw a Raiders logo on anything and I stop to look).

Second, it won’t feel like the spam we usually get. It will feel like it was made for me specifically. This will drastically increase the purchase and return rate.

This builds an actual relationship between fan & sponsor, all facilitated by the team.

Again, make sure you charge this as an added asset. Brands will have no problem paying more for this.

Digital hits these all…which is why they need to be a staple for your sponsorship packages.

The key here with this funnel down is brands now expect the bottom rungs of these levels.

Why? Because there are alternatives that reach all of these stages in one hit. And they do it really well.

I’m talking about social media advertising. In one swoop these ads can hit awareness, engagement, and purchase in seconds.

In order to compete, we need to offer sponsorship assets that can hit all 4 levels.

Otherwise, brands will simply shift their dollars to other options.

This is why a healthy amount of digital assets in your packages are vital in today’s sponsorship industry.

Again, at SQWAD this is what we do…offer digital assets like Scoreboard Trivia that provide all access to all three levels to fans. We see deals coming in left and right for our clients as brands and sponsors see the value.

If you can tell a brand the story of how you can guide a fan through all three of these levels, they would be hard-pressed not to buy.

Look at your assets, see if they can truly reach these levels, and adjust so you can wow and close your partners this off-season.

Sponsorship can’t only be “Awareness”​ advertising anymore…or we’ll lose.

I was reading about sponsorship (because well…I’m a bit obsessed with it if you couldn’t tell) and something slapped me in the face,

I know, I’ve said things slap me in the face in the past…unfortunately, it is happening a lot more often lately.

Here is a quick snippet below from an article written about a year ago about the ROI on sponsorship (Click HERE to read the full).

Only 19% of sponsorship professionals are confident that they can actually measure the business value return of the sponsorships they undertake…

Let’s put that into a bit of perspective…4 out of 5 of your clients can’t confidently report to their CEO the business return of sponsoring your team.

Something that some brands pay MILLIONS of dollars for…

This is a huge f*%king problem.

Imagine if you were only 19% confident that your car would start in the morning…would you keep making the payments?

If I was on the reverse of this and couldn’t tell you as a team how my ad product led to direct sales & results…you wouldn’t buy.

How then can we expect our brands to keep buying with a stat like that?

Awareness is a luxury of big budgets…and we should enjoy it while it lasts.

We simply cannot keep telling the “Awareness” story to our sponsors and expect to survive… we have to drive further down the funnel with our assets.

Awareness is a vanity stat.

Let me jump in here and state I am not saying it is worthless. Awareness does work in advertising. Of course it does, we’ve been doing it for decades.

It worked for decades for the same reason typewriters worked…because we had no better option.

Today though, brands can reach the same amount of awareness AND show ROI results through digital advertising…sometimes for 1/10th of the cost of our sponsorship assets.

And let me be clear here…ROI results are not “brand value”. I have no idea what the f*#$k that means.

ROI means you can track the journey from awareness to purchase with a direct history of how they got there.

There are some awareness campaigns that you absolutely can track…it is just really expensive and labor-intensive.

Digital advertising cut right through the noise and created an easy way to grab attention (awareness) while also sending directly a site to purchase.

This is where the problem lies. There is a better product out there than our awareness-only assets.

When the luxury dollars to spend on them go away…our awareness won’t fly any longer.

So why do brands still pay for awareness?

There are a few reasons here that I’ve noticed:

  1. They have an old-school mentality still on advertising.

Some brands just have an old-school mindset on advertising and still think awareness assets are valuable and return revenue. They don’t care about metrics other than how many people they reach.

2. They have a ton of money to spend.

Sometimes brands have such a big budget that they don’t need to see a return on your assets other than awareness. You are a drop in the bucket of their overall spend.

3. There is a sales guy/gal whose job it is to sell this stuff and they are good at it.

There are some really good sales guys and gals out there that can sell ice to a hockey team. Their job is to hit a sales quota. We are taught to prospect, qualify, and fight objections in sales to get them closed and revenue in. Sometimes we can convince a brand that awareness is enough and it will lead to sales without having to prove it.

You may be asking how I know this…well I was that guy.

I sold restaurant and hotel ads in print tourism publications.

Ya, that recommended restaurant in the travel guide in your hotel when you go on vacation…a restaurant paid for that.

When I did this I would segment my sales prospects based on #1 & #2 above.

Why? Because they were most likely to buy an asset (& keep buying) because either your boss believed in print based on it being the only option 5 years ago…or I knew you had a large budget that this would be a tiny drop and risk worth taking.

As soon as a company got a taste of the benefits of digital, no matter how good a sales guy I was, it was game over. The product and measurability beat me every time.

I say this because eventually (and pretty soon) MOST, but not all, brands will outright stop paying for awareness marketing tactics.

They will go 90% in on digital and with our current assets, we in sponsorship will lose.

We have to dive more into trackable assets. We have to change this.

In order to build that confidence up in the ROI of our sponsorship products, we MUST have trackability in our assets.

There is absolutely a place for awareness assets, but we can’t put a high price on them. They won’t buy it anymore.

Again, ONLY 19% of our customers have confidence in the measurable business return of our assets.

We can’t sustain that number.

We have to change our product and give our customers confidence that our platforms will help them move their business goals forward. We need to look at the assets that we offer and how we can make our prospects more confident.

What if you were the team that changed this and added assets you can track & measure.

I’m going to go extreme here. What if we overhauled our assets. Completely either dropped the price or even more extreme….over 2 years completely overhaul and get rid of any asset that doesn’t have a trackable or measurable aspect to it?

What if we made the change to be the team that brought assets that could go blow for blow with digital ads?

Although maybe not going to that extreme…if you are the first team to drive in on this…you will win.

At SQWAD, this is what we are starting. We provide digital assets that are trackable, measurable, and grabs attention in-stadium with platforms like our Scoreboard Trivia, Mobile Scratchers, & Live Poll.

We built these because when I sold sponsorship I could feel the frustration with justifying their spend without true trackable metrics other than “you reached xxxxx fans throughout the season”.

To be honest, I got tired of telling that awareness story. I knew we could do better with our offerings, assets, and stadium experience for the brands we sold to.

I also knew we couldn’t sustain at this rate and sell the assets we had with the rise of digital ads and the power they brought.

And we’re on the right track so far. These assets are going blow for blow with digital ads…and thus pulling in digital ad money for teams.

As I see this stat, I see the need for measurable sponsorship assets like this grow even more. Ones we can actually track to brand purchases…not just “brand value”.

When I see a stat like this, I think about the fact that this shift is coming faster than we might expect.

When I see a stat like this I see the massive misunderstanding of our customer’s needs and lack of products to help that we offer.

4 in 5 of our customers don’t have confidence in our product. It’s time to make a change.

Utilizing LinkedIn to connect & stay connected with sports sponsorship prospects.

We keep saying it…but it always holds true. Sponsorship prospecting is a 24/7/365 deal now. As Rich Franklin with the Winterhawks says “We’re always prospecting.”

But when the season gets started, things like fulfillment and activation keep things hectic in our work. Sometimes it feels like a job to stay prospecting during the season.

This week on The Inches podcast we dive into a few tactics on how you can easily stay connected with prospects during the off-season and season.

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

First, prospecting is year-round in sponsorship.

I think it is key to start out here with the foundation that you should be prospecting throughout the year. During the season it is easy to get caught up in the activation side and forget to stay in touch with the prospects they spent so many hours connecting with.

Whether new leads or old, you should be looking to stay in touch with them all year.

As Rich points out, you never want to only go to your sponsor when you have something to sell.

The buyer journey has changed.

Another key here is the buyer journey has massively changed with the internet.

Buyers have so much information at their fingertips…they now control the buyer’s journey.

What does this mean for sponsorship?

Well, it means that the normal email and call push won’t work. They want to find your product and information on their own terms.

In order to keep them in our loop of sponsorship, we need to break conventional wisdom for how we connect with them.

Enter LinkedIn…or really any digital reach

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools in sales today…but many utilize it wrongly toward sales in B2B.

This is mainly due to the above, the key to understanding how to utilize LinkedIn is to understand that buyers today don’t want, or need, a push toward your product. The days of hard push are over.

If you understand this, you understand that LinkedIn is a key tool for staying in touch with your prospects without a push.

Keeping your prospects up to date with your assets & game day.

First, LinkedIn is not for connecting and sending an inbox immediately for a sales pitch.

I’ll say it again for the people in the back…

LinkedIn is not for connecting and sending an inbox immediately for a sales pitch.

They say sales and marketing people ruin everything…well they are starting to ruin it with the above tactic.

This tactic will get you minimal results.

BUT, if you look at it as a way to add value and document the assets you have…you’ll win.

Post your game day activations via image and video on your personal and company page.

On LinkedIn, the first step is to post how you are activating with the clients you do have.

If you have a military appreciation night…post a video about that. Explain the value and thank the client.

If you do a digital activation, post a video explaining that engagement and how you connect that partner with fans.

DO NOT POST A “IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN BEING A SPONSOR REACH OUT”.

That is a push…push on LinkedIn only has minimal and short-term effects. If you make it salesy…you lose.

You’ll want to post from your personal and company page. A few reasons why:

When someone buys from your team they are also buying from you as a person. By posting from your personal page, you are building a relationship with YOU as a person.

In the long term for your personal career, this is huge as you’ll have these relationships wherever you go. Think of it as a Rolodex.

People also buy from team brand power. With this, you’ll want to post as well to the company page.

Again the goal here is a pull, not a push. When you post your game experience you aren’t sending an email saying “Look what you’re missing”.

You’re posting a video that makes them think “Wow, that turned out really great….we should have bought.”

When you post how you are bringing value to other clients…you’ll win. Mainly because they get a feeling that they missed out on the activation.

You’d be amazed at how this changes the dynamic of your relationship with your prospect. no more chasing, they will start to come to you.

The LinkedIn power of the network.

Here’s why LinkedIn is so powerful, it has a built-in audience.

By that I mean it has business professionals you want to reach on it. No more writing a personal blog and paying for search ads so you come to the top.

For $0.00 you can reach almost whomever you want, and more.

The more part comes with a feature in LinkedIn that really puts gasoline to the fire.

When you post, people like your article, video, etc. who are in your network.

But when they like, comment, or interact with your article…it shows it to their entire network as well.

For every like you get, you get access to that person’s network.

If you have great content…you will have people in your target segment reaching out to you to connect.

And we have our pull.

The 2 most important items in this strategy: Message & Discipline.

For any digital campaign or strategy, there are two items that are universal to pushing change. Message & Discipline.

Message:

Focus on one message for your value. Are you the family option? The best community team?

What makes you stand out as a team in sponsorship value?

That is the message you stick with. Make sure it is simple and easy to digest.

You want to be the best option for your message in the country and all the content you push should somehow revolve around that.

This way when someone asks “why should we sponsor ‘your team’”…the answer is easy and clear…something like “Their experience for a minor league team is un-rivaled, not a huge reach…but man do fans engage with brands.”

This is the message you want to own. Otherwise, you are like all the others out there on LinkedIn.

Discipline:

This is where most go belly up on this strategy, they start posting, see minimal results in one post and quit because it doesn’t work.

This is where people win & lose. The winners don’t look at the results at first. They post to get feedback on content, tweak, and adjust.

But they ultimately keep posting.

Here is where the law of large numbers comes into effect. If you aren’t familiar with the law, it is what casinoes live on.

A casino doesn’t care if you win $10,000…because they live off the minimal returns of a large number of bets.

The odds are on their side, so they focus on scale, not individual loss.

The same holds true with your LinkedIn posts.

You may only get 1–2 likes on your article…hell you may get 0 likes for the first month.

The key is to keep posting. Obviously, adjust your content to make sure it is valuable and tweak it…but don’t look at likes.

Why? Well even if only one person likes your article, it shows that article to their entire audience.

This is why discipline is so important. Many will start on LinkedIn, see ‘no’ results and stop. This is where you win by being disciplined.

Overall you should be posting a video or image every day about the assets and value you are bringing sponsors.

Really, in the sports world…there is no excuse not to. It is as EASY as ever.

On game day take out your phone and record. That’s all it takes.

Post every day. No excuses.

Pull, not push

Overall, again, the way buyers get info has massively changed. LinkedIn is a key way to keep up with your sponsor prospects during the season and create that Pull effect.

If you implement this strategy, you will have competitors ask you “How are you growing so fast?”. It happens to us.

I would go out on a limb here and say this is more effective than cold calling or emailing (I go out on a limb here because for us it is).

There will be people who implement this and those who don’t…please dive in here and post on LinkedIn for your sales process.

What Happens When A Sponsor Bails Last Minute Before The Season?

It’s a part of sales…unfortunately.

We pitched, we got the head nods, we got the plan, we thought this one was game over and we had them closed…

Then we got a nice “NO” 4 weeks before the season starts.

This week on The Inches Podcast Rich Franklin and I dove into how we can prepare and deal with this problem.

You can listen to the full episode HERE, but I go over the key points below.

First, try and understand why?

Rich brings up a great point here in our episode. You may start to panic a bit and start seeing how you can fill this placement…but if you don’t have a why you may make some similar mistakes as you try and fill it.

Simply coming back to them and saying “ I thought we had something that worked toward your goals…can you help me understand where this fell out?” is extremely valuable feedback that will help you sell it.

A caveat here…most people won’t get back to you. But it never hurts to ask and take the feedback you get to get better.

Look at your prospects and suspects

The goal obviously is to refill the spot at full price. With that said look through your pipeline and see if you can “upsell” anyone on your sheet.

Maybe someone was looking for more coverage but you didn’t have the open items?

A key here is how you bring it to them. What has worked for me in the past is phrasing it like:

“Hey, we just had a rink board open up. Super rare I thought you may be interested in snagging it up as stadium coverage was a goal of yours.”

You may be surprised how many times this will work and get you an upsell. If you don’t ask, the answer is no.

If you can’t sell full price, look for long term revenue and reward your loyal customers

Ok, so you didn’t get any prospects or suspects to bite. Don’t panic there is still some long-term revenue to be made.

The next step is to look at some of your loyal (big spending) clients and see if you can bring some extra value.

Obviously, the first goal is to make some revenue up here, so discounting is the best bet there.

Coming to a loyal customer and rolling some discounted items may lose you money at first…but in the long run, it will make you more by building this relationship.

MAKE SURE YOU MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THIS IS A ONE-YEAR THING.

I’ve had customers I’ve done this with in the past and they pay chicken the next year to see if I will discount it again or their other assets. If you are upfront that this is a rare opening and only for this year it will help stop this.

If you can’t get them to bite on a discount, look to some of your best customers (5–20 year partners) and offer it as a bonus.

Another great strategy here is a new client. Offering them extra value here off the bat is a great way to help build long value.

If you can’t sell here, at the very least you are making a bet on value next year.

If you want to avoid this, oversell your assets

We hate when airlines do this, but it could really help here.

Unlike airlines, we can always figure out another asset to offer to replace.

When you are selling understand that you may have some people pull out and create a healthy pipeline of yes. That way you can account for the dropout and be fine revenue-wise.

Prospecting & selling in sponsorship is a 24/7/365 thing. Make sure you are always filling your pipeline for assets so you have a backup plan for when this happens.

But overall don’t panic…follow these tips…and close that revenue.