We are probably all bored about reading about how Covid-19 has changed certain aspects of our life and we are just excited to be getting back to playing our sport and socialising with our team mates. However, there are some changes to the sponsorship landscape we should be aware of and some opportunities we can exploit too.
Before we begin delving into the specifics. Let me begin by saying Sponsorship, at the grassroots level in particular, is well and truly alive. Some SNAP users managed to secure sponsor on top of sponsor even during lockdown. That’s because they realised three simple things:
The value of their audience (membership base), who were still reachable by email, social media and newsletters. That their members were still consuming products and services throughout lockdown. Businesses were still operating and trying to find new customers. As a club, we can facilitate an avenue for them to market to our members.
When SNAP members put those three things together, they were extremely successful in generating new sponsorship. It’s from this realisation that Woodham Mortimer, an Essex based cricket club, managed to go from never having a sponsor before, to having 18 in just two short months. Many of these sponsors were secured before the return to outdoor sport on March the 29th.
However, it's not ALL about securing new sponsors...
Starting with our existing sponsors: a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
Over the last 12 months, with the world on hold, we may not have spoken to our sponsors, or shown them a lot of love. It’s understandable, with the club shut and no players on the pitch, court, field or other, we probably haven’t stopped to think: how are my sponsors doing?
As we make our return to some form of sporting normality, it’s paramount that we re-engage with our existing sponsors. During the last year, different industries have been hit in different ways with massive disparities and therefore our sponsors' business objectives may have completely shifted since the last time that we spoke to them.
Therefore we suggest that you ask your sponsors “As we emerge from the pandemic, how can we help you?”. Thinking broadly, lots of businesses may be looking to recruit or just increase their topline sales to recover from the hits they’ve taken. Could our members be their next employee? Can we offer our members a small discount on their product or service so that everyone wins? These are just a couple of generic ideas, it’s important to remember that every sponsor is different. So, we should re-open the dialogue with our sponsors and find out what they are trying to achieve and offer our assistance in any way we can.
It’s also important to thank our sponsors for their continued support throughout the pandemic, as we are aware that a lot of sponsors have continued to pay their rights fees to advertise at a club, despite getting a fraction of the benefits that they are used to. This shows immense goodwill and a passion for grassroots sports that shouldn’t be forgotten.
As “digital” or “new media” becomes more prevalent in the wider business and sponsorship world. Grassroots sport should be quick to mirror this trend. Let’s leverage our email newsletter and our social media channels to thank our sponsors. Not only giving them exposure to our network and members, but through likes, comments and re-posts giving them awareness with potentially a far-wider audience.
The good news is that for SNAP customers, you can do the above through our platform at the touch of a button without having to even think of the words. If you need a refresher on this, get in touch with you account manager.
However if you aren’t using SNAP already, you can still be giving your sponsors shout-outs across your channels, it might just take a bit of extra time.
Securing new sponsorship: The Three Pillars
Undoubtedly, many grassroots sports clubs have had a tough time financially. With our membership fees not coming in but our direct-debits going out our club funds have probably been depleted over the last year. In fact, in a survey we ran with our members, the majority of our clubs said that they would survive the pandemic financially, but the club reserves they put aside for projects like refurbishments and clubhouse extensions would have to be spent.
Sponsorship, now more than ever, is crucial to help grassroots sport to not only survive, but to thrive. As grassroots clubs there are 3 main ways that we can increase our sponsorship revenue.
1) Members, Friends/Family, and Fans
You never know who is lurking within the ranks of your membership base! You could have key decision makers at local, regional or even national businesses. Moreover, you never know who has started a new business on the side during lockdown, and I guarantee your club doesn't already have a banana bread sponsor!
Members sponsoring clubs isn’t anything new, we aren’t reinventing the wheel here. But, traditionally when members sponsor their local club it’s them “doing their bit”. We want to turn sponsoring the club from a philanthropic donation into a genuine commercial opportunity for their business or the business they work for. And, this all goes back to communicating the three simple realisations we covered at the start: you have an audience who are purchasing goods and services and you can provide an avenue for a potential sponsor to market to them.
Therefore, how can we position sponsorship to our members in a way that comes across commercially rather than charitable fundraising?
Could we give our club members a questionnaire at the start of the season to ask them about the businesses they run or the businesses they work for, then tailor a proposition for these businesses?
Could we ask our members about their business goals in the same questionnaire so we can suggest what assets or opportunities we have that may help them achieve these objectives through sponsorship?
Could we write up case-studies of how the club has already successfully worked with previous sponsors to showcase our sponsorship capabilities to pique others interests?
2) Existing Sponsors
Okay, so granted we’ve re-engaged our existing sponsors and worked out an action plan for the next 12 months, we may have an opportunity to upsell.
If, when we asked our sponsors about their objectives for the next year, they divulged some information about where their priorities lay. We might spot a chance to add in a sponsorship opportunity to their existing package to help them achieve said objectives.
We do want to stress only to do this if there is truly the opportunity. Don't start trying to upsell all your sponsors after reading this…
But, if the sponsor says they’re looking to increase their awareness: could you add in some additional social posts, emails or perhaps even give them the opportunity to be a sponsor of an upcoming event like a mini’s festival or tournament of some kind. However if their objectives are more on the brand equity/association side: try to find a charitable event or cause at the club they can align to so members and fans of the club can start to form an emotional attachment with the sponsor.
For SNAP members, we suggest you share your profile to your existing sponsors so they can browse your inventory, there may be things they can sponsor that they never even considered. At the very least this will open up doors for conversations about sponsorship for next season.
3) New Business
Finally, we need to appeal to new sponsors. Naturally, we could do this with legwork: walking the town with a flyer or brochure. Or even, sending emails and picking up the phone. Of course, these are all still valid methods of getting our sponsorship out there and we do suggest leaving no stone unturned. However, print is very cost ineffective, once you sell something the rest of the brochures are instantly out of date and in a post-pandemic world where clubs are already struggling: every penny counts. Furthermore, we have already covered the need to digitise and mirror the trends going on in the wider sponsorship industry and business itself.
So again, leverage those social channels!
In a couple of simple posts, we could convey a sponsorship opportunity, use some conservative language to explain the potential opportunity for a new sponsor in terms of increased sales and then give a potential sponsor a call to action: i.e contact us. We can even tag in a number of businesses that compete with one another on the same post. It may seem cheeky, but here’s why it works:
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): if a number of potential sponsors are reading your post, you've effectively communicated that there's an opportunity for increased revenue and then they see a number of their competitors tagged too. One of them will likely take the bait, as they wouldn’t want a competitor in the same locality to increase their market share. This goes for estate agents to garages, from dog walkers to bakeries. Every business, particularly as we emerge from lockdown, is looking for new ways to increase their revenue and gain an advantage over competitors in order to bounce back. Your club could be that “new way”.
- Bypassing gatekeepers: When we talk about traditional sales methods (like sending emails and making calls) there’s inevitably a gatekeeper between you and the person you want to speak to. Someone screening your emails or telling you “they’re not here at the moment, can I take a message?”. By posting to social media and tagging in the business, in a larger organisation this will go through to a member of the marketing department who naturally, are the right people to be considering sponsorship opportunities. (This exact method is how Woodham Mortimer secured the majority of their 18 sponsors). Plus, if you’re tagging in a small-local business, your post will more than likely go through to the business owner themselves: not only the perfect person to review your sponsorship opportunity. But, also allowing them to review at their own leisure without interrupting their day with a call.
For SNAP users, this has never been easier. We’ve written you suggested text so that you can use the social sharing tool and post a sponsorship opportunity directly to your channels with words that communicate exactly what the opportunity is without you even having to think about it. All that's left to do is tag in those prospects and wait for them to get in touch. Have a look at a couple of examples of how this has been done really effectively below:
Hopefully this blog has given you some inspiration to get sponsorship going again at your grassroots sports club. Remember, keeping our existing sponsors is far less time consuming and far more cost-effective than going out and securing new sponsors every season. So whilst the prospect of being able to go to new businesses is exciting we must remember to re-engage our existing sponsors and be flexible with our approach to our relationships with them as their objectives may now have shifted. But, when going after new sponsors, leveraging our social channels and conveying the opportunity that sits within our audience is a sure fire way to open the door. Especially if we create a bit of friendly competition.
If you are interested in hearing more about how SNAP helped the clubs mentioned in this blog. Why not book a no-strings-attached demo HERE and begin securing the future of your club?