April 25, 2024

Event Sponsorship – When we compete, we all have a role to play!

As a marketer, I receive many requests for sponsorship in all its different forms. In my role as publicity officer for the class I sail in, I sit on the other side of the fence, and I am the one sending out the sponsorship requests. So, you could say, I am well-placed to provide some thoughts as to how to manage this process.

The nature of my business is predominantly in the marine industry, so my references are based on sailing events, but you can replace ‘sailing’ with the sport or event you are involved in.

I would like to encourage organisers of events, sponsors and competitors to read this as we all have a role to play. There is no such thing as a free ride in life, and I am a great believer that giving back is more than a literal flag at the event.

Let’s set the scene

For the participant: Every year the class you sail in has multiple series and one, maybe two, big events. You get the list of events around October for the subsequent year; you decide the ones you want to do and off you go. You turn up to those events and if you are ‘lucky’ you might take home a trophy or a glass or two. There may also be some other prizes awarded in the form of some products such as clothing, essential boat kit or a tasty bottle of your favourite spirit. Happy days… you go home smiling and onto the next event.

For the sponsor: Every year you receive multiple sponsorship requests, either a monetary value or goods in kind. You review and evaluate. Now is the time to ask, what are you already doing and what are you getting back from the classes that you sponsor? Is it time for a change – stick or switch? Looking at your budget, can you increase, or do you need to cut back? What is your relationship with that organisation, and are you maximising it? You make your decision and build on that throughout the campaign, ready for the next evaluation cycle.

For the class sponsorship officer: Your series organiser has their list of events and now it’s down to you to find the sponsorship, as no one wants to turn up to an event and get nothing – can you imagine the competitor faces?! Now is the time to be the swan, gliding on top of the water, looking totally in control whilst frantically paddling in the shadows keeping it together; not the seagull, frantically flapping, disrupting everything, making a mess and leaving. It’s important to know what sponsors are in place and are they sticking with you? What additional sponsors do you need, either to replace outgoing sponsors or for a few new events? It’s your job to find them, establish a relationship and build on that to get the most from the agreement. Remember, it’s easier to keep a sponsor than it is to find a new one.

Now I am not going to say I always get it right and sponsors are like friendships, some are there for a reason, others a season and some a lifetime – you need to know and understand which is which. Here are my three top tips for seeking out and maintaining a sponsor. Listen up sailors I need your help here!

1. Look after your existing sponsors.

Have a clear agreement in place and as a class (organisation and competitor) you need to give back and yes, some of that is at no cost to your sponsor.

Yes, they are (hopefully) getting in return what was in the initial agreement. In the events reports, they should be mentioned at every opportunity relevant to their sponsorship package. In your social media posts, they should be tagged across all channels with their relevant hashtags. Have you got their branding up at the event in the most visible place, so not just the competitors can see but those passing by too? All the above should be a given, but easy to forget and they can be a costly error of judgement in the long term if not done well.

Now it’s time to think outside the box… What more can you offer them?

  • A feature educational article on the website or in your class magazine – free to them, no cost to you.
  • Create content for your social media channels with them – top tips for boat care, looking after your boat, sailing kit and so on. Free to them, no cost to you.
  • Participants, please don’t just take take take. Thank the sponsors too, as the more connection your class has with them, the likelihood is they will stay.
  • Participants, when you are next upgrading your kit, doing boat maintenance or insuring your boat, rather than just sticking with what you have got, consider using a company that has already been supportive and generous to you. Sponsors should be accessible on your class websites or just ask the committee and fellow sailors.
  • At shows, this is your time to shine. Give a nod to your sponsors on your stand. Create live content at the show with them that is timely, relevant and on message. Participants – go and visit your class sponsor’s stand, see the latest technology, find out what they are up to and even purchase some kit for the season ahead. Tell them what class you sail!
  • Classes, encourage your membership to follow and support the sponsors on their social media channels.

2. Shop local

Each year the venue for our national championship changes, and I know we are not alone, this is quite common. As well as the title sponsors and the industry-specific sponsors, have you considered supporting a local company?

The class I sail in is rather fond of a tipple (alcoholic and 0%) so I often try to find a local distillery and we come to an arrangement with them for some prizes and off-the-water activities.

Check out what Mounts Bay Distillery did for us in 2022 – our own Rum label on 500ml bottles of Rum.

This year (2024) we have found In The Welsh Wind, a local distillery to our championship venue in Tenby. They are sponsoring our Hero of the Day award, with a bottle of spirit, yet the relationship doesn’t stop there. Competitors and their families will be encouraged to purchase Gin Tasting tickets for an evening social and as we did for Mounts Bay, approach the sailing club to stock their products, so competitors can enjoy them throughout the week. The relationship is always two-way.

3. Finding a new sponsor

There is no quick answer, if there was all the series I look after would be maxed on sponsorship and, well, guess what – they are not!

As a starting point, know what you can offer, know your audience, and find companies both industry and non-industry who complement one another and the values you represent.

So, if you are keen to get involved with a class that cares, who gives back and has some wonderful long-standing sponsorship agreements in place, we must be doing something right, so please get in touch! publicity@merlinrocket.co.uk

You can find out the current brands we work with on the Merlin Rocket Class website here – merlinrocket.co.uk/index.asp?cp=sponsors

The proof is in the pudding and references available on request 😊

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