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For Sale

Last week I had the honour of moderating the SMCC Toronto breakfast panel on Sponsorship Sales Do’s & Dont’s.

Our All-Star panel featured Marsha Gaye Knight(CBC), Sharolyn Kenworthy (Bell), Julie Garcia Sjogrim (Canadian Olympic Committee), and Rob Balsom (Nielsen). This fearless foursome dropped some excellent advice for our audience, including:

  • Be passionate about what you are offering.

  • Get to know the person you are dealing with

  • Get to know the company you are dealing with

  • Use different data at different times in the sales process

  • When negotiating, leave all your cards on the table.

After the panel, someone asked me to share my advice if I was on the forum and my top three lessons for business development in the sponsorship sphere. (Or I am using this cheap segue to write a blog because I can’t help but drop my opinion on any topic). Either way, here goes.


Lesson # 1 – Build Your Brand

The first hurdle for any prospective sponsor is whether they trust you as an individual. Your brand is as essential as the organization’s brand you represent. The buyer is assessing whether they can put you as the seller forward to her boss and whether you are worthy of their endorsement. Is the seller investing in a partnership with the property or a partnership with you? Ultimately it is both, but if the buyer doesn’t believe you can deliver, they will not think your party can provide.



Lesson # 2- Understand Your Value

Often, smaller properties, amateur sports, not-for-profit, and charities do not understand their true worth to a corporate sponsor. Again, there is an issue with an inferiority complex and a lack of effort to mine their value. If you will not do the work, why should someone else? Smaller properties will never compete with large properties on impressions or eyeballs. Yet they often position themselves as a cost-effective niche alternative to mass. Instead, they should emphasize and validate their worth based on their impact, intellectual property, subject matter expertise, and emotional appeal. While it is more complicated than sharing reach data to validate, the effort is worth the return. Sponsorship can be at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy, and your property can be the central nervous system that powers it.


Lesson # 3 – Solve Problems

A potential sponsor, both the individual and the enterprise, has as many or more problems as you and your organization have. Yes, you need money to tackle many of your concerns, and ostensibly, our industry depends on your securing funding from a partner. The best way to persuade that partner to part with their cash is to demonstrate how you will solve their problems. Pain is a universally more powerful motivator than pleasure. You can understand a prospect’s pain by diving deep to understand their business and asses where you can help solve their issues.


Selling, business development, and revenue growth is a challenging tasks. It is not for the faint of heart. However, the lesson I left out is the most important. It would be best to sell yourself to yourself every day before you could sell to anyone else.

Start there, and thank me later!

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