Selling Sponsorships Not Wins

For several years, I worked in media and pro sports. When you try to sell based on ratings or a win-loss record, as they say, you die by those measurements as well. Very early in my sponsorship career, I learned that you need to sell the value of the assets, not the wins. I sold for a radio station which ranked close to the bottom of the charts for a decade. I sold for a professional sport franchise for which it was tough to give away tickets for free, let alone sell sponsorships. I did well with both. Fifteen years ago, I was generating in excess of $1 million in sales. But I did it right. I did what my mentors taught me. Slow and steady wins the race, but you must be applied and follow the correct steps—proper discovery sessions, building proposals that meet the prospects’ needs, and closing the business ensuring that it is truly a win-win scenario for both the selling property and the sponsor.

So, what about the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto FC? My seven-year-old daughter reminds me every spring, “How do you get leafs out of your back yard?” She confidently replies, “Put a goal net in it.” The Toronto FC recouped its cash investment of $18 million for the building of a stadium with a reported $27 million in naming rights for BMO. In the spring of this year, Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment (MLSE) reported that BMO Field had returned a $1.1 million profit which they and the city would split. How do these two organizations (there are others) continue to field losing teams and make incredible profits year after year?

In my view, it is simple. They don’t sell a win-loss record. They sell the audience, the emotion, the goodwill, and the exposure. They generate corporate sponsorship versus promoting their playoff run or amazing production. They know what they have to sell (asset inventory) and what the assets are worth on the open market (valuation). Like any other successful sales commodity (Cadillac, CIBC Run for the Cure, Apple), they don’t discount their value. They tie the emotion of their product (fans) to goodwill and true assets that drive traffic. They link emotion with buying habits and affinity with consumers. They differentiate themselves from the competition.

You do not have to win the Stanley Cup (or even make the playoffs) to be profitable. You just need to know what you have to sell, what it is worth, and present it correctly to assist the sponsors in being successful themselves. If you cannot sell like this, then perhaps you will need to ride the highs and lows (or in some cases, just the lows) of the win-loss record and hope your mortgage payments allow for the fluctuation.

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.

Brent Barootes

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