The Importance of Clarity in Partnership Sales

Often when our commercial team are in the process of taking a sponsorship property to market we will, as most of our counterparts do, lead with the term ‘partnership opportunity’. Of course, ultimately the brand will be assigned the designation of ‘Official x Partner’ but is leading with partnerships often slightly misleading and does it make the work of ‘sponsorship sales’ that much harder?

True Partnerships

There are many occasions where a partnership is an accurate description of the relationship between a sports rightsholder and a brand. There may be collaboration to produce new products in a certain field, cooperation to use owned channels and marketing reach to promote each other, a degree of reciprocity in terms of the exchange of value (whereby the brand provides the rightsholder with goods or a service), or they may simply be working together towards a specific goal or target. Regardless, the term ‘partnership’ is much more palatable and won’t be going anywhere, but it can be a salesman’s worst enemy when trying to generate meaningful sponsorship/ partnership conversations.

Time is Precious

As much as certain sponsorship professionals would like to claim otherwise, there are occasions where we are taking opportunities to the market that are essentially for the most part sponsorship opportunities. They involve an exchange of marketing rights from the rightsholder for investment from the brand. Calling it anything else can be slightly misleading. 

In a world of back-to-back Teams meetings, any time is precious and filtering those who have a serious interest in your proposition is of the utmost importance. Similarly, the time of senior decision makers at any brand is finite and they will remember those who were unclear about the proposition that they wanted to discuss. They will also be less likely to be receptive to future approaches if they feel that the first one led them a merry dance.

Pitfalls in Assumptions

There’s too often an assumption in the way many of us use the term in initial communication that the decision maker in question has a degree of familiarity with the sponsorship world, and therefore will know what we speak of and the direction the conversation is going in. This is not always the case and people who have moved from other career paths or are in a CEO/ Managing Director position are not necessarily au fait with this. 

It is these people who will often appreciate the people who they see as talking straight, and are more likely to treat with suspicion those that bring to them a partnership opportunity and then baulk when a degree of reciprocity is expected.

Clarity is Key

Partnerships are commonplace within the commercial sphere of sports, and even when the relationship is more akin to a sponsorship, the term ‘partner’ offers a more elegant way of labelling what can be a quite transactional, if mutually committed, relationship. 

There’s no doubt though that a little more honesty about when we are bringing forward a sponsorship opportunity (which may be able to be developed and tailored into a partnership) and when we are truly bringing forward a ready-made partnership opportunity could be a sponsorship sales team’s best friend, and may make a few more friends in marketing departments at the same time. 

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Tel: 0208 629 5000