As a youth tournament organizer you need to think of your sponsors as your most important customer. The problem most organizers find is that they get busy. They forget to check in with their sponsors, they don’t deliver what they said they would and eventually, the sponsor moves on.
But that doesn’t have to happen. When you foster a relationship with your sponsor you build trust and loyalty. So, how do you do that?
It all starts with planning. Creating and implementing a Sponsor Support Plan before you sign your first sponsor can help you build a relationship that last for years to come.
Create Your Plan
Once you sign your first sponsor you will find the wheels begin to really turn on your tournament and it is almost impossible to go back and plan. Starting with a plan puts you ahead of the game and helps you stand out with your new sponsor. Better than a plan is a way to implement it easily. Write your plan out, share it with your staff and assign steps to your team. Create a process that works for each and every sponsor.
First Things First
How will you acknowledge how happy you are to have the new sponsor as part of your team? Will you send a thank you card, a small gift or a “What Happens Now” email? We suggest all three. The thank you card and the small gift can go together and should be from the person who closed the deal. The “What Happens Now” email should come from the person who will have the most contact with this particular sponsor throughout. This is the part where you lay out everything you will need from your sponsor and everything you will be providing. Make it clear and concise. How often should they expect to hear from you? What will you expect them to provide and when? How are you going to help them get the exposure they are hoping for? What should they expect before, during and after the tournament?
Create A “Day of Checklist”
Have a checklist for each of your sponsors for the day of the event. Make sure you have delivered everything you promised. There should be a person from your team at the very bottom of your list whose assignment is to take care of any promises that have not been met. Too often, as organizers we like to take on all of the roles. On the day of the tournament, you will not have time to stop and take care of the small details. Creating assignments now will ensure that your sponsor is taken care of even if everything falls apart on event day.
Get To Know Your Sponsor
Set up a phone call with your sponsors in which you get to know them better. Find out who they are hoping to meet, what they are hoping to gain, and how you and your team can go that extra mile to help them. Chances are this conversation will lead to you being able to give your sponsor added value. Put your notes from this meeting at the very front of their file and make sure your team has read it. If you are able to make connections either before, during or after the event, you will stand out as someone who truly cares about making this the best experience possible for your sponsors.
Make Sure Your Team Knows The Sponsors
Make sure every member of your team has been briefed on your sponsors. Avoid giving negative details. Don’t tell them which sponsor has been especially difficult to work with. This will only taint their view ahead of time. Giving them a heads up to treat the difficult ones special is a good way to avoid that. Whenever possible assign one person to be in charge of each specific sponsor. Make them your representative for the day and make it clear that your hope is to retain each and every sponsor for next year’s big event.
Create A Monthly Sponsor Email
Creating a monthly sponsorship email will help your sponsors stay up to date with the tournament and keep you top of mind. Use this email to welcome new sponsors and link back to their product or service, share news about registration numbers, and let them know any big improvements you have made to your plans.
Remember That “Nice To Haves” Are As Better Than Must Haves
Your sponsor will expect the things they have been promised. Having your Sponsor Support Plan will ensure that you meet these expectations. But what can you deliver that is a step beyond that? Can you have breakfast at their booth on registration morning, provide a case of water, or better yet, a sponsor cocktail hour the day before the event? Going above and beyond will make you stand out. It will make your sponsor remember you. And will get you one step closer to having them return next year.
Show Them The Results
Assign one person on your team the job of gathering details throughout your tournament. How many people attended your event? How many news agencies ran stories about your event? How many sponsors attended your event? How many times was your event Tweeted about or shared on other social media outlets. Immediately after the event create a personalized email for your sponsors. Show them the numbers and show them your checklist and how you delivered everything you promised. Remind them how you actually delivered more than you promised by making those connections. And go a step further, by being humble. Give them a survey so they can tell you how you did. Let them know your goal is to create the best experience possible for your sponsors and that their feedback is important.
Fostering a relationship with your sponsors is work. Don’t let that work die in the off season. Two weeks after the event your should send them a final handwritten thank you card. Handwritten cards are rare these days so you are sure to stand out. A month after your event send them the results of the survey and an action plan on how you will implement changes. In the following months continue your newsletter. Even if they don’t open it, you will remain top of mind for your sponsors. This is important because it’s only a few months before you will need to get a new commitment.
The key to keeping sponsors is customer service. The key to customer service is strong relationships. If you treat your sponsors well, go above and beyond the promised deliverables, chances are you will have made a friend and a customer for life.