With the 2013 planning season well underway, now is the time for rightsholders to double down on their sponsorship sales efforts.

According to the most recent IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey, 43 percent of decision-makers will determine budgets in the fourth quarter of 2012.

With the 4Q sales season in full throttle, IEG SR asked sponsorship sales vets for tips and tactics on making the most of proposals. 

Below, IEG SR breaks down the three primary steps in the “put it in writing” process.

Step #1: The Proposal Brief. Once a prospect has been identified, sellers should approach the company with an executive brief that highlights the opportunity and how a partnership can help move the marketing needle. 

The goal of the proposal: to secure a meeting.

The reason: With the growing number of sponsorship decision-makers doing double duty, most do not have time, interest or energy in reading multi-page documents.  

“More and more employees are multi-tasking and handling duties beyond the scope of their work, so a one-page summary makes it easier for the reader,” said Armand Milanesi, president of Precision Sports Entertainment, a sponsorship sales agency.

“Our experience suggests one will be hard pressed to have a decision-maker read a 20-page overview. And if they do, they will likely skim through it and miss key points.”  

Instead, PSE uses a one-page summary that includes an overview of the event, demographic and psychographic information, general sponsorship opportunities, pre-event media exposure and other information. 

And just as importantly, the brief should explain how a partnership can help move the marketing needle.

“We always come up with one or two ideas to show we’re thinking about their brand and set the stage that we’re about big ideas. We never start a call by saying ‘one of our clients has an opening in the auto category,’” said Josh Kritzler, founding partner with Property Consulting Group, a sponsorship sales agency.

Prior to contacting a prospect, Kritzler conducts front-end research to learn about the company, its marketing challenges and other information that can be used to secure interest in a sponsorship.

Kritzler then uses that information to develop targeted activation programs. That may include programs that can be executed by the property.

“Proposals that have the best chance of success are those with built-in activation ideas that can be fulfilled by the property. You want to make it as easy as possible for overworked marketing execs to get value out of the sponsorship,” said Howard Freeman, president of Promo One, the producer of the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in association with PNC and other events.

Rightsholders also are finding success by including a photo or image with the sponsorship brief. That can range from a photo of a sponsor’s on-site activation to a mock-up of the prospect’s involvement in a promotion. 

For example, PCG earlier this year sent Miller Brewing Co. a mock-up of Miller High Life’s title of the South Atlantic League’s Home Run Derby. Miller ended up taking the sponsorship.

“We sent a lot of creative to paint the picture of what the partnership would look like. It helped them sell the deal through,” said Kritzler, who sold the deal on behalf of the SAL and the Charleston Riverdogs, the event’s host team. The June 18 event took place on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C.

The creative was accompanied with a proposal brief targeted to Miller High Life’s military and grassroots marketing platforms, he added.

“We had an understanding of their brand prior to picking up the phone.”

Click here for a proposal brief prototype

Step #2: Securing The Meeting. The focus of the meeting should be to gather information, not make a sale. That includes learning about the company’s marketing objectives with the goal of creating a tailored package.

PSE uses the meeting to provide more comprehensive material on the sponsorship opportunity. That includes audience demographics, sponsorship opportunities, case studies and partner testimonials.

The sales agency uses a PowerPoint deck ranging from 8 to 15 slides, said Milanesi. Videos should be less than two minutes, he added.

Sellers should commit roughly 30 percent of the meeting to explaining the sponsorship opportunity and roughly 70 percent to listening to the needs of the sponsor. That includes asking questions about the prospect’s marketing priorities, marketing challenges and what has and hasn’t worked in previous deals.

Properties also should use the meeting to identify the ultimate decision-maker and the company’s approval timeline.

“The goal of the meeting is to get clear goals and objectives and their decision-making timeline,” said Milanesi.

Step #3: The Full Proposal. The seller uses information from the meeting to create a proposal targeted to the prospect’s specific marketing needs.  

The multi-page document should be comprised of two parts: a one- or two-page offer letter and a separate document that contains supporting information.

The offer letter is essentially a more detailed version of the proposal brief. The document should include a summary of the sponsorship opportunity, four or five tailored benefits, customized promotional overlays, the rights fee and a call to action.

Click here for a primary proposal prototype

The addendum should include information that supports the sponsorship opportunity. That includes additional selling points, a summary of rights and benefits, audience research data, a property fact sheet and other relevant information.

The addendum should also include sponsor testimonials and case studies. Where possible, properties should highlight partners that have activated with integrated marketing programs and have seen measurable results.