Why is Sponsorship Still a Four-Letter Word?

Large and small businesses are becoming fed-up with sponsorship seekers across this country. We talk to them every day. They are rightfully annoyed. We try to assist many of these brands, with their sponsorship programs so they don’t get the raw end of the deal. We try to teach them through our sponsorship mentoring services that they need to treat sponsorship like a business transaction and not a donation or philanthropic gift. If that well-meaning charity wants your business’s hard earned money, it needs to earn it. It needs to provide value in return. It needs to treat you as a partner, not an ATM!

Each day, my team of senior consultants and I also talk with sponsorship selling properties. So often, they really don’t get it. They don’t understand that sponsorship is about a relationship. It is a marriage. Both the sponsor and the property are in the deal to benefit from it and help each other in the process. That is the way it works. It is a long road and we slowly make progress, which is very satisfying. You feel so great when you see a property and a sponsor do a deal that benefits both. It is all about the relationship as each continuously tries to help the other through the term of the agreement, while respecting each other the whole time. It is gratifying to see. But it needs to happen more often.

A few months ago, I read an article by Todd Hamilton who writes for The Northern Review in Prince Rupert, BC. I smiled when I read the article. I said to myself, “There is work to be done in Prince Rupert as well as so many other places.” Here is Todd’s story.

She was visibly upset. Evidently, an innocuous 11-letter word had become a four-letter word.

“Don’t ever use that word again,” she said.”Why?” asked the ever-curious ink-stained wretch. “What’s wrong with sponsorship?” The Prince Rupert retailer sighed a bit and began to tell a story all-to-familiar with many owners or operators of businesses in this city. She recounted a day when a woman entered her store and was asking for her business to sponsor a deserving charity event. The sponsorship seeker went in great detail about how the businesswoman’s chief competitor had snubbed the charity.

The sponsorship seeker was extremely miffed about how the competitor could be so callous, cold and unfeeling not to donate to the project. After all, this charity project was deserving and that business should be ashamed of themselves for not supporting a worthwhile community event. The businesswoman agreed, regardless of what her competitor had decided, and donated a substantial amount to the project. Business sponsorship of worthwhile community projects, activities and groups is simply remarkable in Prince Rupert. One would be hard-pressed to find a city or town elsewhere in this country, that despite difficult economic times, has a business community so supportive. The request for sponsorship didn’t irk the Prince Rupert businesswoman. What did, happened later that day.

As she was driving home after work, she spotted the sponsorship seeker, who had so vociferously condemned the businesswoman’s competitor mere hours before, walking out of a store with bags of merchandise-bags from that same competitor’s store.

No wonder sponsorship became a four-letter word for the retailer.

Unfortunately, this account is well-known to the Prince Rupert business community. Well-meaning people coming in to ask community-minded businesspeople to donate their hard-earned cash or merchandise for deserving projects, only for those local business people to find out later those sponsorship-seekers are spending their money out-of-town or at non-supportive stores. Generally, sponsorship is not completely altruistic, there may be a marketing or branding component, but mainly, the reason Prince Rupert business people give is simply because they live in this city too. One hand washes the other.

Shop local, support those who support you. Otherwise, the next time you go sponsorship-seeking, the answer might be a two-letter word. No.

So please, if you are reading this and you are a property, don’t be like the “sponsorship seeker” in this article. Think about the relationship. Think about your partner and do what is right. Please, just think. Use some common sense. And if you are a sponsor, give that organization one more chance and explain your concerns at the front end. It may help!

These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

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