The gifts every sponsorship seller could use this holiday season–short of a new sponsorship tied up with a bow–are some practical ideas for securing new or increased partner revenue.

To that end, IEG SR presents the following tactics and strategies–some tied specifically to the current economic situation, others that would work in good times as well–used by some of the industry’s smartest properties to identify and sign new deals.

Add value with distressed media. The growing number of companies cutting back advertising expenditures has created an opportunity for properties: the ability to purchase media at bargain prices for inclusion in sponsorship packages.

LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau has employed the tactic to enhance its sponsorship offers by bundling in low-cost newspaper, radio and TV ads.

“If a media outlet has advertisers pulling out, we tell them we want to buy their distressed media. Nine times out of ten they will jump at the chance,” said Vicki Higgins, LA INC.’s senior director of business development and strategic partnerships.

The CVB recently followed that path to secure media for a sweepstakes dangling an LA shopping excursion. It used the inventory to promote partner American Airlines, which provided tickets for the promo.

“Distressed inventory creates opportunities for smaller organizations that have never been able to buy media, and opportunities for other organizations to buy four pages instead of one,” Higgins said.

“The economy does provide opportunities for those willing to make phone calls and make things happen,” she added.

Establish informal alliances with other properties. West Palm Beach, Fla.’s SunFest music festival has teamed with 11 other properties to create what they call a “sponsorship network,” a group that shares best practices, ideas, leads and other information.

“It’s a way to brainstorm ideas for dealing with the economy,” said Dianna Craven, SunFest’s sales director, who spearheaded the initiative with Paul Jamieson, the event’s executive director. “We wanted to reach out to other individuals in the same situation, so we called on our friends in the industry.”

Properties in the network include a mix of festival producers and sports events across the U.S., including ArtsQuest, producer of Bethlehem, Pa.’s Musikfest; Kentucky Derby Festival; Memphis in May; The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Promo 1, producer of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning; Seattle’s Seafair; and the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The effort already has paid off. Since hosting its first monthly conference call in October, SunFest has gained two leads. “They were hot leads that I would not otherwise have had,” Craven said.

Participants in the network also have reached out to their sponsor contacts on other members’ behalf. For example, Craven recommended several properties in the network to a SunFest sponsor after learning the company will focus its marketing strategy on four states in ’09.

Craven views that aspect of the group as a benefit not only to the other members, but as a way to strengthen her property’s relationship with its sponsors.

“When I have the ability to offer SunFest partners those kinds of opportunities and advice, I’m helping my clients do some due diligence,” she said. “Everyone’s resources are tight right now, and many companies that we work with have significantly cut back their staffs. We want to help them do their job.”

Another goal for the group: share insights and success stories in working with particular sponsors. “If I’m going into a meeting with company XYZ, I can ask other properties that have worked with them what their deal looked like, what the sponsor’s key objectives are, and what has and hasn’t worked,” Craven said. “It makes me better prepared.”

The group also has discussed the implications of the recent consolidation in the banking and beer categories, Craven said.

“In our market, Wachovia has been gobbled up by Wells Fargo. I’m talking to properties on the West Coast that have worked with Wells Fargo to find out what they’re interested in so I can help them meet their objectives.”

Take advantage of couponing trends. According to a recent study from research firm Packaged Facts, 89 percent of consumers say they are more likely to use coupons during a recession.

Some properties are tapping into that trend–and the fact that more consumers are bargain hunting in general thanks to tough times–by offering coupons for cut-price tickets and other event-themed discounts to sponsors for use as part of their activation programs.

At San Francisco’s Pier 39, “2009 will be the year of the coupon,” said Beth Schnitzer, the property’s vice president of strategic alliances, referring to offering sponsors more discount coupons for Pier 39’s RocketBoat and other attractions.

The destination also is tapping into another related trend: offering discounts through wireless communications marketing campaigns.

A deal with mobile marketing firm Intera Group, Inc. to send $5 RocketBoat discount offers to Pier 39 visitors through their Bluetooth-enabled devices generated an 18 percent redemption rate among those who downloaded the offer, Schnitzer said.

Pier 39 also has used Intera’s technology to promote sponsor products. For example, it teamed with Coke early this year on a promotion that offered a discount on bottles that touted the venue’s 30th anniversary.

Pier 39 has run other mobile device promotions to drive traffic to restaurants and other tenants, Schnitzer added, noting the paperless coupons also support the venue’s green positioning.

Enlist media partners as sponsorship sales agents. With advertisers looking to maximize every dollar, now is an opportune time for properties to work with media partners who can bundle sponsorship benefits in with their pitches for ad buys.

In exchange for providing sponsorship benefits to advertisers, properties can either share in the revenue or receive advertising inventory they need to promote themselves and their sponsors.

Event producer Festivals, Inc. struck such a deal this summer, working with the sales director for Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO–a media sponsor of Comcast Bite of Seattle presented by Emerald Queen Hotel & Casinos–to secure a new deal with Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

“I provided my TV partner with all of the details for an alternative malt beverage sponsorship at the Bite of Seattle and I gave him permission to add in a TV media package to what I was offering on site,” said Brett Gorrell, Festival, Inc.’s vice president of sponsorship & marketing.

Recognizing that media partners are facing similar challenges in securing revenue–and wanting to do what they can to assist those partners and sustain the relationship–many properties are working to identify opportunities for media companies to pass through benefits to advertisers without charge.

For example, Pier 39 is working with media partner Telemundo to scout pass-through benefits for advertisers.

“We’re trying to help our partners retain their partners,” Schnitzer said. “We’re in the same boat, so we want to combine our efforts.”

Use existing relationships to source new sponsors. Sunrise Sports & Entertainment–owner of the NHL Florida Panthers–uses its relationships with current partners to solicit new sales leads.

“We’re using our existing partners as a source for referrals,” said Pedro Goncalves, SSE’s senior vice president of corporate partnerships. “We need to quantify why companies should spend money with us, and we can do that by leveraging the success of our existing sponsors.”

SSE’s relationship with an existing sponsor led to a multiyear deal with Saveology.com LLC, a Web site that aggregates discounts on telephone and television service and other household products and services.

“They were looking to make some noise in the South Florida market and one of our sponsors referred us to them,” Goncalves said.

Having sponsors willing to recommend the property is one of the goals of SSE’s relationship-building efforts. In addition to overdelivering on contracts and hosting an annual sponsor summit, SSE hosts a series of other social events for its partners, including dinners at highly desirable South Beach restaurants.

“It’s another way of making sure we maintain our relationship so that we can go back to them and have them help us grow our business,” Goncalves said.

SSE also has leveraged its partnership with movie theater chain Muvico Entertainment LLC to access tickets to local movie premieres, which it passes on to sponsor representatives. For example, SSE recently shared tickets for the premiere of High School Musical 3: Senior Year with a handful of partners.

“It gave our contacts who are parents an opportunity to take their kids to the movie without fighting a crowd. They were very grateful,” Goncalves said.

Focus on categories spending money. While some major players in the automotive, financial services and other categories have scaled back sponsorship expenditures, other industries are increasing their use of sponsorship.

For example, the technology category continues to invest heavily in sponsorship as a platform to demonstrate their latest products in a one-on-one marketing environment.

For example, Hewlett-Packard Co. in October announced a multiyear deal with the NBA, while Maxell Corp. of America, Inc. signed with ASA Entertainment’s Action Sports World Tour on behalf of its flagship brand of digital media products.

Last month, magicJack Inc.–a company that markets a product that lets consumers use their computer to make free telephone calls–signed title of the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl.