Staffing: Getting Your Sponsorship House In Order 

By Julie Kimball Sep 6, 2013

Staffing: Getting Your Sponsorship House In Order 

When discussing sponsorship, people tend to talk about the fun, “sexy” side, like Nike’s latest activation or how SXSW or Bonnaroo are utilizing sponsors to enhance the audience experience. But I want to talk about something that isn’t sexy, but is critically important to sponsorship’s success and that’s the staffing that a property needs to be successful.

IEG’s philosophy (as well as mine) is that sponsorship needs dedicated staff to sell and service relationships. My most successful clients are those with 100% dedicated staff to sales and servicing, and who don’t just tag sponsorship onto multiple other roles that a person might have. You may not always be able to start out with a full-time person dedicated to sales and a full-time person dedicated to servicing, but if you can at least have one person dedicated to sales you’re headed in the right direction.

Particularly working in the nonprofit space—with associations, museums, causes, etc.—when clients decide to hire a dedicated sponsorship sales person, I often get the following questions: “What should we look for in a candidate?” and “Where should we look for qualified candidates?” Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re searching for a new hire and a few questions to consider for the interview process.


  • At least five to seven years of sales experience. It doesn’t have to be in sponsorship sales, but experience in selling and creating partnerships is crucial.
  • Experience selling partnerships, not just transactions. You want to hire someone who can strategically bundle assets and leverage your organization as a whole, not someone who is used to selling 100 little deals. If that’s the case, the person is more than likely used to selling one-off, transactional deals and sees sponsors as nothing more than a check with a dollar amount on it.
  • Experience selling the same size deals that you’re seeking. If your highest level sponsorship package is six-figures, you need to be looking at candidates used to selling at that level.

Where To Look For Candidates

  • As a nonprofit, don’t be afraid to look for candidates outside the nonprofit world. There are a lot of smart folks in the sports/events/entertainment world and they can bring a new way of thinking to your sponsorship program. There are also a lot of great candidates who come from the TV/media side as well.
  • Utilize your connections. If you’re an association, post the job with your local/state ASAE chapter, post it on LinkedIn, and depending on your audience, post it on social media.

Questions To Ask Of Candidates

  • Describe your sales philosophy and how you work with clients/customers.
  • Take me through the way you approach cultivating new business.
  • Describe a time when you had to maintain a relationship through a change in the market and/or sales strategy (e.g., new pricing structure, a long standing product that the client was used to buying is no longer available, etc.). How did you maintain the relationship and meet the client’s needs?
  • Share a couple of examples of interesting sponsorship deals you have been able to put together and what obstacles you had to overcome in closing them.
  • If you came on board to execute our new sponsorship marketing plan, what would your first 100 days look like?

Last but not least, salary is another big piece of this equation. Every year, IEG conducts a salary survey of the sponsorship industry and you can find the results of that survey here.

You are now prepared to hire the right candidate to take your sponsorship program to the next level!


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