Have you considered sponsoring to market your product or services, but not sure when the right time to get started might be? This post will walk through the “rules of engagement" for a sponsorship. After reading this post, you should have a clear understanding of when the best time to engage in a sponsorship is.
You are in the driver’s seat
Having worked on the sponsor side in the past, we have seen multiple reasons why companies seek out sports to market their goods. The decision to leverage sports as a marketing platform can be driven by a change in leadership, a new product launch, a new budget season or simply a new understanding of how sports can benefit your company.
Either way, something has triggered the company to believe they should be investing in sports and entertainment to help accomplish their sales and/or marketing objectives. In short, there is no magic time of the year to get started. In fact, it may be your own internal business drivers that influence the timing.
A new budget cycle often drives new sponsorship conversations. Perhaps your product or service is seasonal – meaning there are peak times of the year that consumers engage with your brand. You may have a product that is very popular in the spring time and you typically see a lift in sales during that season. With a seasonal product, you may want to capitalize on the popularity or campaign for stronger sales during a traditionally more dormant time of the year. In all of these cases, the strategy – and the implementation timing – comes from within.
For the sake of example, let’s say you represent a construction product and the largest construction trade show is coming in January next year. You really want to make a huge impact and believe that having an association with a NASCAR team/driver could really help you stand out from your competition. Specifically, because NASCAR is so popular with those who work in the construction industry. You plan to sponsor a race team so that you can promote this association at your tradeshow booth where all your target customers will be. This decision is driven by the timing of the event. Understanding the desired outcome, you would then just reverse engineer your plan to determine when you need to start conversations with the race team about sponsorship. In this example, an event is driving the timing for engagement. But, again, you are completely in control of the timing such that is best benefits your business.
Sports teams and leagues will engage in conversation with potential sponsors at any point throughout the calendar year and/or their season. You might be thinking that you want to wait until the off season to start the conversation so that you don’t “bother” the team during the season. Typically, teams have dedicated business development persons, that are not involved in the “on the field of play” side of the business, whose sole focus is to sell sponsorship, regardless of the time of year. Waiting to speak with a team until their off-season, means you might miss out the opportunity and the team assets you are interested in.
Rarely do sponsorships come together from start to finish in a matter of weeks. It doesn’t have to take a long time, but realistically, an investment of six figures, or more, does take some time to get worked out. Generally speaking - once a sponsorship is decided on, the assets are agreed to, the dollar amount is confirmed – weeks have gone by. Again, this doesn’t have to be the case, but many times it is. The specific timeline is often dictated by the overall complexity (or not) of the deal and the support you have through the process.
Always Have a Plan
This brings us to the point of emphasizing planning. When you get ahead of the timing – knowing a season is coming and backing into your starting point – you plan better. Meaning, you have had more time to think through the decision to engage in a sponsorship program, and more specifically:
- how you will use it best,
- how you will announce the new sponsorship,
- how you will activate your new assets,
- who will oversee the program,
- what new business opportunities will arise from the engagement,
- how you will address the new business
There is much value to planning a well thought out sponsorship with the right people. You don’t have to do this alone, and we recommend you don’t. Agencies are a great resource in developing strategic sponsorships, helping new companies plan out their launch and execution of the sponsorship. We can consult and collaborate with you to determine how to maximize the results of your sponsorship investment.
There’s No Time Like the Present
Ultimately, the best time to engage in a sponsorship is now. We would encourage you to be upfront and realistic with your timing, but don’t wait. A team/league might be in conversation with your competitor and this might block you from being able to work with a certain team/league. Go ahead and pick up the phone, don’t delay.
If we can help you navigate the timing or you have other questions around sponsorship, I would encourage you to contact us. We are happy to help you plan out the timing of your next sponsorship!