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Sponsorship survival tips

The following article was written in partnership by Tara D. Coomans, Akamai Marketing, and edited by Brian Levine, Sponsorship Insights Group and originally appeared on the Sponsorship Insights Group blog

Economies are like gardens, the seeds you plant today will reap rewards in the future. With the right seeds, the right amount of light (your positive attitude) and some TLC (creativity) your garden can do more than survive, it can thrive.

Even in the current economic downturn, the wide variety of sponsorships and the trend toward better activations makes it a good industry in which to be. Although the current economic drought presents a challenging environment, with these six tools under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to creating a thriving sponsorship garden in 2009 and beyond:

The Seeds:

1) New Clients

Although it may not feel like it, now is a great time to attract new clients. Yes, marketers will be doing a lot of reevaluation on how/where they’re investing their budgets over the next 24 months. However, because properties have the potential to provide sponsors with significant value (i.e. the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts) spending on ROI driven sponsorships could in fact increase. Savvy marketers will be more open to reviewing your proposals than ever before. Now is the best time to start building new relationships with potential clients as they are reevaluating their options and considering alternatives. The seeds you plant now may grow into stronger or more lucrative partnerships down the road.

For sponsors looking for opportunities to do more with less, smaller properties may offer the best potential . Smaller properties often have the flexibility to be more creative with their sponsors and will be very excited to work with you in creating a partnership that works for you. Your business will likely stand out more with a smaller property than with properties overcrowded with other sponsors.

2) Trade

It’s not enough to know you have something to offer, you need to know what and how much. If there was ever a time to know the value of your property, it is now. The next 24 months should see a spike in requests for “trade sponsorships” as firms try to minimize cash outflow. By knowing the value of your property and its segments you can ensure that you receive full value in any sponsorship agreement, which increases the possibility that you can negotiate a trade and cash component. It will also help to be proactive in developing a compensation plan for these types of programs now so that you are prepared for this growing trend. Note that contra benefits are often valued at between 50% and 75% of cash.

If you are a sponsor looking for trade opportunities, on the other hand, you should be prepared to negotiate trade/cash opportunities. But remember that unless you are offering something the property cannot live without (i.e. alleviating a budgeted line item), noncash sponsorships may be overlooked because properties still need cold hard cash to stage and market their event.

The TLC:

3) Your Homework

Before you approach a potential sponsor, make sure you know their business objectives and that your proposal provides solutions to those strategic objectives. You should be reading everything you can find about your client before you ever present them with a proposal, then customize it to fit their specific needs. Sponsors need to know that you ‘get it’, that you are offering them solutions instead of a generic sales pitch.

As sponsors in this business environment, you need to find out what unearthed gems may exist within every property. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so do your homework first so you don’t miss out on valuable sponsorship opportunities.

4) Be Creative

Properties and sponsors alike, challenge yourselves to create excitement and energy around your product. How can you make the good, great? How can you do more with what you have? One reason event marketing works so well is because of the potential for creating memorable experiences. This recession may just provide a catalyst for great ideas as everyone starts to reevaluate and try different ways to weather the economic downturn. Come up with something ground breaking that will be poised for explosive growth once the economy begins to recover from the market correction.

The Sunshine:

5) Free Community Events

Events, such as nonprofit ‘walks’ or large art fairs, that are free to the public will be hot over the next 24 months. This is great news for sponsors and mobile marketers, as these types of events are often very open to creating additional energy and excitement through activation of a product. Sponsors, seriously consider community events that align with your needs. Although it may not be any less costly than traditional sponsorships, more people will be in attendance that are open to experiencing interesting new products out of curiosity.

Community event properties, you should capitalize on the fact that your attendance is likely to be strong and actively look for creative ways for your sponsors to engage and excite your attendees. If you have never courted mobile marketers before, this recession is the time to see if you’ve been missing an incredible opportunity.

6) Be the Partner

It’s always important to approach your relationships as partnerships, but it is more important than ever in these tough economic conditions. Property and sponsors alike look for people who are willing to brainstorm, willing to work with together, willing to help the relationship grow. If you are a sponsor that has treated your properties with respect and professionalism, they are much more likely to work harder with you to stretch your marketing dollar. As properties that go above and beyond to create solutions for sponsors, you will find more loyal sponsors that will work with you to find innovative ways to create more value together.

Although the market is undeniably difficult right now, with a little creativity and flexibility, you can still grow through the recession in new and exciting ways.