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Winning Isn’t Everything

Winning Isn’t Everything

Sports sponsorship sales professionals will be the first to tell (and perhaps the only people to tell you) that winning is not relevant to the quality of the product they sell. Of course, I agree. A properly structured and executed sponsorship is not reliant on wins to deliver value or create a hardy ROI.

But it sure helps…

If you’re a sports sponsorship seller or if you sell sports on the radio or TV, a successful season means greater attendance, more branded clothing sold, and an uptick in interest in being involved with your team. In simple terms, winning makes it easier to sell sponsorship assets and pretty much everything else related to the team.

Winning can be especially beneficial in a market where there’s plenty of opportunity as well as competition for the sports marketing dollar. People (and companies) inherently like to be associated with a winner.

If you’re not winning it certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t activating or selling. In fact, you just need to activate or sell differently. As I mentioned before, winning is not necessarily relevant to the quality of your sponsorship … it just helps, that’s all. The talented people who sell sponsorships for teams that aren’t currently having success need to do some things that help them to continue to deliver value to their clients.

Here are a couple of ideas … for those of you that sell for a struggling sports team, you may find these to be beneficial. For companies that are buying from these teams, you should be seeing this from your reps:

1. Go above and beyond on your activations – Make sure your executions are engaging and flawless … weak executions for any team (winning or losing) is unacceptable. Doesn’t hurt to bonus a client something that’s unsold during a tough year either…just don’t get carried away.

2. Refine and improve your recaps – The recap is a critical vehicle for communicating value for a sponsorship. If your team is struggling, think about bringing in a trusted partner or a marketing professional to evaluate your recap.

3. Be generous with your hospitality assets, experiences, and travel – These relationship building opportunities create lasting friendships as well as loyalty to the sponsorship.

4. Get creative, try some new things with your best partners – Have a new activation idea you want to try out? Maybe a new sponsorship asset you developed midseason? Why not test run it with a loyal partner?

5. Provide added-value as appropriate (but don’t overdo it) – I purposefully put this halfway through, not to invalidate my previous points but to make sure you’re not creating problems for yourself come renewal time. Be smart and with all things business, over communicate what you are doing and why.

6. Get support from management and players – Athletes and coaches are celebrities … regardless of their record. They are great assets in building and maintaining relationships with sponsors.

7. Collaborate with your media partners – Rights deals can be a little tricky. That being said there’s nothing tricky about dealing with Fox Sports AZ or Bonneville. They are solid folks who you can work with to make sure your sponsors are getting the value they need.

8. Don’t back down on the value you are delivering – Sports delivers on a multitude of fronts and it’s by far the best positioned media asset going. If you’ve formulated a great sponsorship and delivered on all fronts, you need not worry about the standings.

9. Be confident – Being knowledgeable breeds confidence. If you are confident and knowledgeable, your clients will respond positively to that. Dan Costello of the Phoenix Suns is the very best person in our market at doing just that. He sells results, not records. If you can emulate that … you and your clients win, regardless of team performance.

10. Double your prospecting efforts – Time alone creates attrition and budgets never, ever go down in the world of sports. Losing can make that clock tick a little faster so if your team is not experiencing success, you can achieve it by working extra hard to attract as many new prospects as possible.

It was Tiger Woods who said “winning solves everything…” You most certainly can make an argument for that but in a world where you don’t always win, you need to be able to excel regardless. Follow the tips above to be able to deliver to your partners the value you promised them during the sale.


About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is an adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.

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