Sponsorship sales in the age of COVID
Selling rights was never easy, but in the age of COVID it just got a whole lot harder. How do you sell rights to events which may never happen? How do you convince a brand to spend money on sponsorship when they are making staff redundant? That is tough, even for the very best business development teams. Here are some of our thoughts based on what we’re seeing in the market and how we’re currently helping rights holders to overcome the challenge. We don’t mean to teach you to suck eggs by the way, but maybe something in here will resonate and spark an idea.
- Innovate and create rights which work well in the new normal, and which won’t be lost if we go back into lockdown. You might not be playing to a live audience, but you still have fans, members and followers, and brands are desperate to access them, so think hard about how you can deliver targeted access through live streaming, social media and newsletters.
Example: British Canoeing’s official partnership program which is making the most of the rapid rise in UK paddle sport participation and creating rights focussed around membership.
- Research the market. Don’t hit the same old brands and be sensitive to what is going on in the market. There are plenty of companies out there doing well right now. Some are doing so well they think they don’t even need to market, COVID is doing it all for them, but the reality is that now is the time for them to use innovative partnerships to cement their position, raise awareness and grow share.
Comment: Financial services is set to take the biggest hit in the next 12 months according to Two Circles, but tech and ecommerce are flying.
- Target the right decision-makers. Now is the time for companies to think strategically so you may need to go higher up the chain to get your message heard and for someone to spot the opportunity. Make sure you have thought through the pitch and are convinced in your own mind as to why you make a good fit for them.
Comment: our research of rights holders this summer suggested that this was the biggest challenge – identifying the right decision-maker and getting their contact details.
- Invest in resources to support your outreach. If you don’t have the time or capability in house, sign up to resources like caytoo who act as an extension of your team and provide you with all the intelligence you need to complete steps 1 to 3 effectively, including helping you package your rights, target the right brands and connect with the people who can make a decision.
Comment: Don’t waste your time, use a resource that will give that to you. Focus on your outreach and pitch.
- De-risk the opportunity for brands. You may want a 3 or 4 year deal but that is much tougher to get in the current environment. Sell 1 year deals with COVID protection or money-back guarantees; make it attractive for new brands to get into sponsorship by testing the water, and then spend that year over-delivering for them.
Example: The Premier League’s one year deal with Tencent for broadcast rights in China shows the league thinking on its feet to secure short term revenue when an existing partner balked.
- Measure the return that they are getting and share it with them. Create partnerships which reach measurable eyeballs or target your fans with products which deliver benefits for your members and sales for your partners.
Comment: Skateboard GB’s MySkate app has a unique audience who brands could access through a partnership with them as long as their brand is young and cool!
It’s not rocket science, but we all need to adapt. Selling logos on shirts for games which might not happen or naming rights for stadiums which might not fill is nigh on impossible if you don’t think differently about what the partnership could really deliver.
At caytoo, we spend all of our time thinking about how to position rights and who to target with them. We are primarily a research and data business but we also sell rights. We do that for a number of reasons – because our clients need the help, we enjoy the challenge but mainly because living “at the coalface” helps us continually improve the effectiveness of our data-led solutions in finding sponsors for rights holders.
We have partnered with Sam Baring to help drive this side of our business. Sam has a ton of experience and some great relationships, and his innovative brand-led approach to selling rights matched our ethos. We’re really excited to pair our data and his contacts and see what happens.
Watch this space. In the meantime, if you want to hear more about how we can help you sell rights rights in the age of COVID, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We look forward to working with you.