How can properties add value for sponsors? What do they need to do to retain partners amid the increasingly competitive sponsorship landscape?

Below, sponsorship sales vets share eight tips on adding value.

Michael Forde, senior vice president, corporate partnerships and premium sales, Orlando Magic

#1: Adopt to sponsors’ changing objectives
With contracts increasingly spanning three years or more, a sponsor’s marketing objectives can change over the length of a partnership. Properties need to be prepared to accommodate evolving objectives, which may include offering inventory not included in the original contract. 

“Sponsorships need to evolve regardless of what a contract says. I can’t tell you any clients that know their marketing objectives three years from now.”

To accommodate changing needs, the Magic meets with clients every few weeks to determine what’s working, what’s not working, and what changes need to be made. One hypothetical: more digital content to support a sponsor’s need for engagement over impressions.

“We stay in the same church, but we may move a pew or two. We don’t redo the contract, it’s more an evolution of what the partnership needs to accomplish.”

#2: Facilitate business relationships
The Orlando Magic looks to add value by facilitating business between sponsors.

“Everyone talks about it, but not everyone does it. Who are sponsors trying to do business with? Our job is to bring people together and meet each other’s needs.”

The Magic looks to accomplish that task by hosting events where sponsors can mingle, get to know each other and build relationships. The team last week hosted a casino-themed event for roughly 150 people and athletes at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The team goes out of its way to put players in an atmosphere where they are comfortable engaging sponsors, said Forde, noting that a 23-year-old athlete may not have much to say to a 45-year-old banker in a more formal setting.

“It’s less awkward if they strike up a conversation playing craps.”

The strategy has paid off: The Magic facilitated a partnership between Walt Disney World and Walgreens, around which the drug store chain sells Disney tickets and annual passes at roughly 120 outlets in Florida. 

Scott Massey, senior vice president of corporate partnerships, Jacksonville Jaguars
 
#3: Offer money can’t buy experiences
The NFL Jacksonville Jaguars add value by offering money can’t buy experiences that sponsors can share with customers and prospects.

The experiences include access to the Jaguar’s “War Room” on Draft Day, lunch with the team’s general manager and hospitality at historic venues in London as part of its participation in NFL International Series games.

“We’re always looking for ways to deliver value above and beyond traditional sponsorship elements, as often these intangible things drive our partners’ business as much as the traditional elements themselves.”

Matt McInnis, vice president of business development & partnership marketing, FC Dallas

#4: Employ “less is more” sponsorship strategy
The MLS FC Dallas has found success with a packaging strategy that moves away from a large number of small sponsors in favor of a small number of large sponsors.

The strategy has allowed the team to allocate more activation resources for partners and increase their chance for success.

“Our sponsors know beer, soft drinks and autos. Our business is soccer, and we can help them understand our business and how to leverage our assets.”

The strategy has paid off. FC Dallas has grown sponsorship revenue 83 percent since launching the strategy in 2011.

#5: Understand measurement metrics
To ensure it can help sponsors achieve success, FC Dallas makes sure it has a clear understanding of how each sponsor will determine success at the beginning of each relationship.

“The first question we ask when we sign a deal is ‘how do you measure success?’ If we don’t know that, it’s difficult to help.”

Sean Clottu, vice president, partnership marketing, The Competitor Group  

#6 Offer ownable platforms
The producer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series adds value by carving out inventory that offers “ownable” marketing platforms.

Competitor aligns sponsors with platforms that support their core marketing objectives. For example, TransAmerica sponsors the series’ Registration Refund Program to promote its insurance products while Michelob Ultra sponsors concerts and post-race celebrations.

#7: Provide content for social and digital campaigns
Competitor Group leverages editorial staff from VeloNews, Women’s Running and other publications that it owns to develop content for sponsors.

For example, Women’s Running editor-in-chief Jessie Sebor created content for TransAmerica around the company’s title sponsorship of the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. The video offered tips on running hills and was distributed by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series on behalf of TransAmerica.

“We lead with content that runners want to know with a secondary message that weaved in TransAmerica’s sponsorship.”

#8: Help sponsors measure success
Competitor Group helps measure success by including sponsor-related questions in post-event surveys. The company uses the surveys to measure sponsor awareness, purchase intent, interaction and engagement.

The race producer leads the survey with questions on race experience and satisfaction as to not overwhelm race participants with sponsor-related questions.

In addition to post-race surveys, Competitor leverages its internal research department to share information on trends and other topics in the endurance sports space that sponsors can use to develop activation programs. Key trends include social media usage among runners and the use of wearable technology.