TicketManager | Who Are You Talking To? The Four Types of Brand Partners

During a recent meeting with a rights holder executive regarding her property’s sponsorship sales organization and strategy, the discussion turned to ways the partnership marketing team could be most efficient in preparing for initial meetings with prospects.

When the team possessed solid intelligence on a brand—insight into its goals, objectives, decision-making process, etc.—the process of compiling the right information to present regarding sponsorship packages, activation ideas and other partnership elements was straightforward and not overly time- and resource-consuming.

But in the many instances where the team felt it lacked quality intel, the exec was searching for a workaround that could reduce the chances of wasting time and effort presenting information that would be irrelevant to the prospective partner.

Based on my recent work with both properties and brands, I would argue that sponsors tend to fit one of the four characterizations below. In the absence of quality information on a prospect, if a property can identify which bucket a prospect falls in it will have some direction on what to address in that first meeting.

Perhaps more importantly, the four archetypes can be used as a way to prioritize brand prospects based not only on how much work it will take to secure a deal, but also on their potential to be long-term renewing partners versus one-offs.

With apologies to Mitch Albom, here are the four sponsors you meet not in heaven but on the partnership sales trail.

The Butterfly. This can be an inexperienced sponsor or simply a brand that spends money on numerous sponsorships without many long-term commitments. Despite the improbability of multiple, if any, renewals, The Butterfly can be an attractive target given that the budget and an appetite for sponsoring are there.

The key factor in determining how much effort to put into pursuing The Butterfly is discerning how many property resources it is likely to consume. If it is content with standard sponsorship assets and/or has the ability to activate on its own, it may be a viable prospect to pursue. But if it will require significant creative and other support, the relationship will likely not be profitable.

The Pretender. This sponsor type buys partnership packages when it actually needs something else. Typically that something else is a package element such as tickets, signage or digital content.

When short-term revenue goals are prioritized, a prospect that overspends may seem ideal, but a partner that doesn’t use all of its assets will inevitably course correct, delivering no long-term value and locking up inventory that could have been better activated by another partner.

The Big Spender. I wrote about one aspect of this sponsor type in a post a few months ago. Big companies with big budgets are the most likely to dabble in sponsorship, as they can afford to buy a bunch of assets and see if any of them stick with consumers.

From a seller’s perspective, a brand with deep marketing pockets that doesn’t require much in the way of assistance with activation or care too much about performance evaluation naturally rises to the top of the prospect list, but a similar downside to the first two sponsor types exists with The Big Spender as well: the likelihood they will quickly move on and not provide lifetime value.

The Professional. This is the sponsor that best understands what marketing partnerships are and how they can deliver bona fide business results. The brands in this category “get” sponsorship and know how to do it correctly.

More than any of the other sponsor types, The Professional is going to require a potential property partner to do more work and come prepared to discuss how assets can be leveraged, how valuations were determined and how the rights holder will service the relationship and assist with results measurement.

Despite that higher initial barrier, The Professional—and especially one that has the budget level of a Big Spender—should be a rights holder’s highest priority target based on its potential to be a successful long-term partner that will spin off benefits to the property beyond its cash commitments in the form of successful activations, not to mention saving the property the expense of seeking to replace it.