A revamped sales strategy has helped the Atlanta Track Club post a low double-digit percentage increase in sponsorship revenue.

The ATC—which produces the AJC Peachtree Road Race, Atlanta Marathon and Atlanta Half Marathon—has recently brought on a several new partners including The Sports Authority, Inc. and AGL Resources Inc.’s Georgia Natural Gas.

The running organization also has expanded an existing tie with Publix Super Markets, Inc., around which the retailer will present the AJC Peachtree Road Race’s training program and cosponsor the Atlanta Marathon.

The ATC kick started its sponsorship program in January 2011 with the hiring of Kevin Kimbell as director of business development and strategic partnerships, a new position.

“Before I came on there wasn’t anyone focused on business development. We were fielding inquiries from interested parties, but those requests were drying up as a result of the economy.”

Below, three steps Kimbell has taken to achieve sponsorship success.

Listen to sponsors’ needs. One of the first steps Kimbell took to revive ATC’s sponsorship program was to listen to sponsors’ needs and offer tailored packages based on their objectives.  

“We had a take it or leave it approach to sponsorship. It was ‘here is the package, and this is what you get,’” said Kimbell, noting that the ATC did not have the necessary resources to develop custom packages.

“In today’s economy you can’t take that approach. You have to sit down with potential sponsors and ask them about their business objectives and what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Create new assets. In addition to offering tailored packages, Kimbell also has put more focus on creating new assets.

Case in point:  The ATC this year created a sponsorship package that included presenting status of the AJC Peachtree Road Race’s awards ceremony, an asset the marathon had not previously sold.

“The company wanted broad exposure, but some of our assets were already taken. They wanted significant exposure on the day of the event, so we gave them some latitude around the award ceremony.”

Provide activation ideas. Realizing the importance of activation to a sponsor’s success, the ATC now takes a proactive approach to pitching ideas.

Kimbell brainstorms activation platforms at the beginning of the sales process and tweaks the programs as he learns more about the prospect’s objectives.

“We go to them with ideas, and once we get a better understanding of their business objectives we can tweak the ones that don’t make sense.”

The strategy can require flexibility. Such was the case with ATC’s new partnership with The Sports Authority.

“Sports Authority was fairly adamant about driving traffic to their stores, but we didn’t have a mechanism for that,” said Kimbell, noting that it would be logistically challenging for the retailer to host packet pick-ups for the AJC Peachtree Road Race’s 60,000 participants.  

To overcome that challenge, ATC developed an activation program around which local Sports Authority stores will distribute awards for the marathon’s top 1,000 finishers.

ATC will promote Sports Authority in marketing collateral, email blasts and other outreach efforts, said Kimbell.