Sponsorship Predictions for 2017 – Opportunities for NFPs
9 February 2017 at 8:20 am
From big data to cause alignment, sponsorship expert Abby Clemence looks at the opportunities for not-for-profit organisations to connect with the corporate world in 2017.
Have you read recent predictions for the sponsorship landscape in 2017? I was lucky enough to join 13 other sponsorship experts recently to discuss some of the upcoming challenges sponsorship seekers (from all walks of life) will face over the next 12 months or so.
After digesting these and other contributions of more than 50 experts worldwide, talking about how they see things playing out in the sponsorship space over the next year, I wanted to take some time to share my views, in more depth, on the sponsorship opportunities that are just waiting for our not-for-profit sector.
To begin with, the best summary I can give you on all the content I have read can be summed up in just two words. Big data. That is social media, marketing in a digital world, habitual guessing algorithms, 360 marketing models and any platform that helps a brand take the guesswork out of what their target consumer is doing, how they spend their time, how they are being influenced and how they spend their money.
But I have to be honest with you. Whilst I believe that a) in the highly competitive sporting space and b) amongst big brands, the future of sponsorship is about needing to make use of digital technologies to create deeper connections, unique experiences and better fan engagement, I do not believe that the rest of the world is moving that fast. Not “our” world anyway.
Whilst change is afoot (see my article on how we are moving from transactional-based sponsorship to relationship-based partnerships) if you are for-purpose, for-passion and for-social change (even if you are dealing with big brands) there is still a long way to go before we all need to panic about how we can be leveraging digital technologies in order to be attractive to the right sponsor. And just so I’m not misunderstood. I’m not saying that there isn’t huge advantage to be had by delving into the world of data and analytics to help your case when attracting and retaining sponsors more easily by helping identify trends and behavioural patterns. I’m just saying that the majority of organisations just aren’t there yet.
So then, if big data is not necessarily amongst your offerings to corporate partners, what is the opportunity for a for-purpose organisation in all of this?
Your job is to fill the gap that brands are clearly needing help with. They want more information on their ideal customer. They are continuously searching for new and creative ways to connect and differentiate themselves in the market place.
If you are doing your job correctly as a sponsorship seeker, then you are only approaching brands that would see your members, supporters, or community of followers as their ideal target market. And by giving them access to research, surveys, case studies, focus groups and your knowledge of your supporters – information that opens up creative marketing opportunities for brands, it is pure gold.
Why do for-purpose organisations have such a powerful role to play in sponsorship?
Your power lies in your role as a gatekeeper. You are a gatekeeper to a community of followers that is the ideal target market to a well-aligned corporate partner. The real power however, is the fact that your supporters are not mandated to be with you. They subscribe, follow, donate, support your organisation because they believe in you, in what you do. You provide them with an avenue to be part of something bigger than themselves – every human has an innate desire for that at some stage in their life. You advocate for your supporters, agitate for change, unify, protect, educate, help them do more, be more.
The warmth and trust in that relationship cannot be undersold to a potential corporate partner because it means they are getting a warm introduction to potential clients. It also means that you need to do your due diligence during the research and relationship-building phase to ensure that your sponsors understand and honour your role as gatekeeper – a direct route to their target market. The “winners” in any corporate partnership scenario must be your supporters, for without them, your reason for being ceases to exist.
So my advice to you? In 2017 and beyond, don’t get distracted by meta data, big data, behavioural analytics and so on. Just keep doing what you’re doing – connect with your community of followers.
Continue to get to know them, dive deeper into what they want, what they need (those two things are often very different). Bring them together and be curious about them.
Brands are willing to pay for the kind of atmosphere you create with your supporters. But be smart about it. No more gold, silver and bronze proposals. No more proposals full stop, until you’ve built a relationship, or at least a strong rapport. It might seem counter intuitive to call just 10 people, rather than send out 100 proposals, but trust me, it’s not. Consumers are changing the way they spend their hard-earned money. They are seeking more meaning, action and positive change with their purchasing power. Corporates are following suit and looking for opportunities to create connection, to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
How can they do that? You. Your organisation. Your event. By aligning and supporting your cause.
About the author: Abby Clemence is managing director of Infinity Sponsorship and owner of the new LinkedIn group The Ultimate Non-Profit and Charity Sponsorship Network. She has created a free 14-day Sponsorship-Game-Changer program to help organisations create a robust plan to maximise the time spent on sponsorship approaches.