Sponsorship procurement by Dr. Gordon Murray

Posted on June 24, 2013 by


One of the traditional ‘no go’ areas for procurement is buying events and venue sponsorship – it ranges from a firm paying your organisation money to have their name associated with you or even provide something you may otherwise have had to pay for, for example, delegate bags for a conference. My experience suggests you only get access to this area of procurement after you’ve proved you can add value and be trusted with other areas of marketing spend. Procurement’s role is to get the investment mix and formalise the terms and conditions. The journey to procuring sponsorship seems to be a progression from buying the ‘feedbies’ and ‘give-aways’, then the marketing and promotional literature and resources, then ‘above the line’ advertising’, then the events, and then the holy grail of sponsorship procurement.

PI EU naep_am2013_sponsors

Sponsorship procurement is high-risk so you really must get the ‘budget holder’ on board, which can take some time. You need clarity of what’s important strategically and also what is deemed strategically inappropriate.  Specifically, sign a sponsorship deal with the right partner and there’s the benefit of the halo effect. Conversely, the consequences of one of the partners falling from grace are potentially high and must also be considered.

An equally precarious factor of which you must be cognizant, is trying to predict social trends and social disapprobation.  For example consider the negative fallout of a sponsor who is associated with tax avoidance.  Their “brand” may not be that helpful under such dubious circumstances. So you really need to think very carefully about risks and exit strategies, and the time to do that is before you enter into the sponsorship relationship.

You then need to think about scope and bundling. There are trade-offs between single and multiple sponsorship both for the buyer and the sponsors.  While plenty of small sponsors may bring in the money and be easier to get, the potential for compromising the big joint branding deals cannot be ignored.

Taking sponsorship from a group of sponsors and then discovering that the mix is incompatible and unacceptable to some of the sponsors will also cause short and long term problems for all concerned. Think about that risk early and protect against it.

As opposed to assuming you will have a keen band of sponsors beating a path to your door, expect to have to market your organisation.

Of course some of your traditional evaluation techniques can be used so think ahead about evaluation criteria and weighting.

I would also like to share with you a final word of caution based on experience. At one time I wanted to go to the market for something that an existing strategic sponsor provided. The strategic sponsor contacted the CEO claiming that I was wasting money in not re-awarding the contract to them as the incumbent.  They based their claim on the premise that their bid would prove to be the best deal, and that they would withdraw sponsorship if I went ahead with the procurement. My answer was comparatively simple, we shouldn’t be held hostage to the sponsor.  We should I proposed, take a strategic view to the market and extend the contract scope to more sites.  If the sponsor was so confident in their ability to deliver the better deal, then that would ultimately be proved in the market.  Beyond the above points, our present contract for the existing sponsorship deal had no guarantee it would be extended.

Thankfully the CEO placed his trust in me, and as a result I was able to deliver a 50% saving on the contract through an alternative provider.  As an interesting aside, and despite their protestations to the contrary, the incumbent sponsor did not withdraw their sponsorship!

The moral of the story; be conscious of the fact that big sponsorship deals also open the door to the strategic leadership of your organization.  This means that if they feel it is warranted, the sponsor can be expected to use that access when they think your procurement strategy could be disadvantageous to them.


Posted in: Guest Columnist