My journey in sports marketing started at a 2nd division football club in Spain in my hometown, Tarragona.

An internship, which evolved into my first professional contract, became an accelerated MBA.

After structuring the commercial inventory of the club, and organising and pricing advertising pitch boards, jerseys, social media, site, and hospitality, the second task was to reach out to sponsors. Both current and potential.

To my surprise, when meeting several existing sponsors, the outcome of the conversations was similar. I arrived with renewal proposals instead of listening first. Many of them complained about the lack of attention during the season and were asking why.

Mission failed. In my head, it was about my proposal. About reaching an ambitious revenue goal!

Ten years later, I am on the other side of the table, receiving endless partnership requests. Most of them are still about them and their proposal, not about the results for the potential sponsor.

Closing a sponsorship deal it’s very difficult, but this is precisely why sports properties need sports marketing professionals.

Like in the world of investing, we can find both valuable long-term investments and speculative short-term bets. It depends on each one’s goals, but it needs to drive tangible results or it will end sooner than expected.

For us, sports marketing specialists seeking to create positive change through sport, we can’t afford to focus only on the financial part. We’re here to drive brand relevance, engagement and business outcomes so our projects can make an impact outside of the pitch.

Not all partnerships will be the ideal ones, actually many of them will not. But, some of them will become so important for a company that they will happily extend the contract.

So, we need to start building from the other side. From their strategy, challenges, objectives, and expectations.

Here are some lessons from experience that might help in attracting potential commercial partners:

01 Provoke and listen. Start adding value by proving you are genuinely curious about their business and by suggesting potential ways to achieve their goals. Then, schedule an exploratory call to understand what are their objectives and needs.

02 Run the numbers. Your partnership proposal goal is to solve a problem. Find out whether it’s more about brand relevance, engagement or sales, for example, and bring a brief draft of a business plan to help out.

03 Timing is vital. Competition is not only another sports property but it can be also an internal investment. Understand and adapt to the moment the company is going through, particularly from a marketing perspective.

04 Focus on activation. Support the brand with rights activation to make the partnership work. Proactivity, frequency and relevance separate an expensive sponsorship contract from a profitable one.

05 Internal sale. For the company, communicating good results internally is as important as achieving them. Involve the sponsor leaders to let them feel the impact of your property, especially about their objectives.

06 ROI data. Focus on the sponsor’s strategic KPIs from day one, particularly commercial metrics such as likelihood to buy or recommend. Not sharing partnership results data is bad, but sending only irrelevant data is even worse.

07 Play beautifully. Emails, meetings, presentations or calls. Each interaction must be professional, reasonable and motivating. Show your passion for the potential of the project with robust knowledge and materials.

It seems easier to close a deal from the sponsor side, it’s not easy at all. We need to put ourselves in a position to help, or the project will not move forward from a non-solicited sales email.

We don’t do business with companies, we do business with people.

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