While every property defines “adding value” differently, every definition largely boils down to one common theme: going the extra mile to give sponsors—and potential partners—something extra.

That can include everything from giving sponsors additional inventory at no cost to making sure an activation program resonates with a sponsor’s target audience and taking an active role in the measurement process.

ESP SR asked a handful of veteran sponsorship sellers how they go down the adding value road. Below, the sales vets share tips, tactics and best practices on securing new partners and maintaining long-term relationships using added value as the hook.

Bruce Erley, president, Creative Strategies Group
Include social media-worthy moments and other activation ideas in proposals

Recognizing that it often takes more than Facebook posts, on-site display and other sponsorship assets to set an opportunity apart, Creative Strategies Group is placing more focus on including activation ideas in sponsorship proposals.

“The more you can come up with ways to combine the character of an event and a connection between the audience and brand, the more likely you are to be selling,” said Erley.

Erley points to Public Service Credit Union’s presenting sponsorship of Denver Comic Con 2017 as an example.

CSG sold the sponsorship based on an on-site activation program that was designed to help the credit union break through the noise at the pop-culture confab. The idea centered on an Instagrammable moment that leveraged the buzz around the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The sponsorship agency brought the idea to life with a branded space that featured a mock-up skyline where attendees could have their photo taken climbing a building. (The building was set on its side à la the Batman TV series). The agency hired a Spiderman character from Marvel to add further excitement to the space.

“It’s not easy to get the attention of Comic Con attendees. There’s a lot of eye candy and noise going on,” said Erley.

Below, three other examples of how CSG has included activation ideas in proposals to sell and renew sponsors on behalf of its clients.

Colorado Lottery and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Looking to connect the Colorado Lottery with art, CSG developed an activation program at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival that featured art made from scratch tickets. The artwork featured a mosaic of the Colorado outdoors, the lottery’s beneficiary.

Toyota and the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championship
Going one step further than product display—an activation tactic used by all automobile manufacturers—CSG had artists carve a Toyota Tundra out of snow.

Furniture Row and the Denver Auto show
Furniture Row will activate its sponsorship of the 2018 Denver Auto Show with an on-site “man cave” outfitted with the retailer’s products. The retailer plans to add excitement to the display with an appearance by the No. 78 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car and driver Martin Truex, Jr., both of whom it sponsors.

Stephen King, executive director, Des Moines Arts Festival
Provide turnkey activation ideas and non-contractual inventory.

For the Des Moines Arts Festival, adding value means developing—and sometimes executing—activation programs that drive consumer interaction.

“Handing out a brochure doesn’t cut it. We require all of our sponsors to do interactive arts-related activities, and we help them get there.”

King points to Hy-Vee as an example. The festival developed an activation program that gives children the opportunity to create art on the retailer’s bags.

“Instead of handing out grocery bags, we encouraged them to hand out branded bags that people can draw on. Mom has a piece of art from her child, and Hy-Vee can engage potential customers for 10 to 15 minutes.”

“We won’t say ‘do an interactive activity or don’t come on-site.’ We’re here for them.”

Like other events, the Des Moines Arts Festival includes sponsor mention in its social media outreach. Unlike most other properties, the festival promotes sponsor “news” that has nothing to do with the sponsorships. That can include coverage of employee recognition programs and local volunteer efforts.

“If an employee from Nationwide (a large festival sponsor) does something outstanding, we’ll create or add to a post. We’re all part of the same family, and we’re using social media to recognize sponsors outside of the norm.”

Terri Lenahan-Downs, sponsorship director, Louisville Zoo
Offer additional exposure free of charge and provide one-of-a-kind experiences

Using the mantra of under-promise and over-deliver, the Louisville Zoo looks to provide sponsors with benefits not included in contracts.

That includes giving Great Clips a buy-one, get-one free coupon in roughly 350,000 take-one cards distributed at welcome centers, hotels and other locations throughout Kentucky.

While Lenahan-Downs does not promise exposure on the cards—a decision that is ultimately made by the zoo’s marketing director—the sponsorship vet keeps the asset in her back pocket as inventory that can potentially be brought to the table.

“I like to have a list of things that I can’t always promise. But if I can do it, I will try to bonus it. It makes them feel like they’re getting added value.”

The strategy can be particularly helpful for larger sponsors and partners whose contracts are coming up for renewal, she added.

“It makes them feel like I’m giving them something extra.”

Taking a page out of the sponsorship playbook of pro sports teams, the zoo also looks to add value by providing sponsors one-of-a-kind experiences. That includes the opportunity to see animals up close, meet zoo keepers or go on a tour with the zoo director or curator.

“I won’t include those experiences as a sponsor benefit, but I may call them up and say “We’re doing a medical examination with a guerilla next week. Would you like to bring some people out and experience that?”

The Louisville Zoo also adds value by supporting sponsors’ philanthropic endeavors. That includes aligning Ford with Zoo Kids, a program that gives disadvantaged children the opportunity to spend the day at the zoo.

Ford used the program to support its partnership with Home of the Innocent, a local nonprofit that helps medically fragile and at-risk children. Ford leveraged its partnership with the zoo to give the children the opportunity to feed giraffes, attend polar bear training and participate in other activities.

The zoo gave the benefit to Ford for free, said Lenahan-Downs, noting that the event happened prior to the zoo’s normal business hours and did not incur any hard expenses.

“It not only solidified our relationship with Ford, but it made them look good to the charity and feel good about what they are doing.”

Chip Baker, executive director, Riverbend Festival
Leverage military recognition programs to provide additional reach

The June 8-16 music festival in Chattanooga, Tenn. has found success leveraging military appreciation programs to reward sponsors.

Those efforts are spearheaded by Mickey McCamish, the festival’s head of sponsorship and a retired captain in the U.S. Navy. McCamish leverages his contacts at local military branches to support sponsors who hire and/or support military veterans.

Case in point: The Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy have leveraged their databases to promote Chevy promotions to service members living in Southeast Tennessee.

“It has nothing to do with the festival, but everything to do with our relationship with Chevrolet,” said Baker.