From Sponsorship to Super-Sponsor: How to Build a Partnership that Delivers Extraordinary Value

From Sponsorship to Super-Sponsor: How to Build a Partnership that Delivers Extraordinary Value

We all know what sponsorships are about. Sponsorships are about leveraging money from those with an interest in supporting our association’s mission. Sponsorships certainly have their place, but many of them could be so much more. Consider the super-sponsorship! A super-sponsorship is about moving from a sponsorship to a partnership that can offer much more than money.

A super-sponsorship or partnership can do the following:

  • Attract new members, retain existing members, and attract
    non-members to events
  • Save money, make money, and attract more resources in general
  • Gain visibility via enhanced marketing and promotion
  • Get your organization closer to whatever goals you’ve set… as long
    as you find the “right” super-sponsor

An association chapter in Sacramento, The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) provides a perfect example of the value of developing a super-partnership. They went from sponsor to super-sponsor with a local college. The association chapter partnered with the College of Continuing Education (CCE), a division of California State University, Sacramento. The ASTD Chapter had a $500 sponsorship from this college’s continuing education division for their annual conference but had a feeling that the partnership could be much more. ASTD felt they had found a good partner in the college division and the CCE expressed some interest in building something more. The ASTD Chapter put together a small team to approach CCE and explore what they described to this potential partner as a super-sponsorship.

The way they chose to approach the college was unique. Many times when associations go to a potential partner they do so with a well-developed plan that they have written without any input from the partner. They go loaded with all the benefits they believe the partner can expect from the pending relationship. They often start the partnership meeting by describing, in great detail, how advantageous the agreement will be for the partner. Instead of taking this approach, this association chapter went to the potential college partner with some well-chosen questions.

They began the meeting not by telling the partner what benefits to expect or what a great deal the association had created for the partner. Instead, they said to the college, “If this were the ideal partnership for you, what would the partnership look like? What would you get from the association? What potential benefits would you want to receive?” They even asked the college what they would be willing to give to the association in return. The ASTD association chapter was surprised by the response.

One of the first things the college asked for was to make a single payment per year, at the beginning of the year, for all services they would receive. The college wanted to save time and effort by avoiding payment every time they sent people to an event. The association already had a corporate membership, but the college found this too restrictive. The association discovered that colleges, like many large organizations, have bureaucracies that often make simple transactions difficult. The college said, “It is a tremendous hassle for us to process payments for two to five people for 14 or more events every year. We would love to pay some amount at the beginning of the year, have you keep a running total of our attendance expenditures, and at the end of the year we pay you the balance, or you refund us any excess we’ve paid or roll it over to the new year.”

The association’s response was positive as well. They were happy to take a check for $1,500 at the beginning of the year, in exchange for minimum bookkeeping and the knowledge that they were creating a closer relationship with this sponsor/partner.

The approach taken by the association comes from Brendon Burchard, a noted speaker and builder of partnerships. Burchard says, “People support with they create.” He suggests that you should always seek to co-create with a partner. He believes that organizations will support an effort or a partnership if they are truly part of co-creating the partnership. Instead of presenting a well-developed partnership plan, or even a draft plan, Burchard suggests you go into a partnership with lots of questions, an open mind, and a co-creation mindset.

What else did the college or partner want? I won’t go into all the details of the partnership request, but it included a featured spot on the association website for the college, a few mailings to members every year, and an ability to speak to participants at any event for which the college provided a venue. Oh yes, the college hated the term “super-sponsor!” They asked for a more refined title, and became ASTD Sacramento’s “Educational Partner for 2013.”

But what did the association get in return? The association chapter signed a partnership agreement that they estimated was worth $15,000 a year to the chapter. Only $1,500 in cash was given to the chapter, but the association received a venue for their annual conference, another large annual event venue, and smaller rooms for events held an additional six to twelve times per year. The college also provided marketing and promotional assistance, as well as conference planning resources to the association.

Some of the items provided to the association were in response to their requests, but remember, the association asked for nothing before asking the “question” and listening to the college’s response. Do you remember the question? The question was, “If we created the “ideal” partnership, a relationship that gave you everything you wanted in a partnership, what would that partnership look like?”

Before closing, let’s take another look at what the “Super-Sponsorship” provided for the association and the sponsor/partner?

Association Sponsor/Partner
An incredible venue that would have cost them several thousand dollars at a local hotel A way to inexpensively reach out to many of the professionals to whom they wish to sell college programs
Loads of expertise and assistance with conference planning A “soft” means to market and promote programs
Increased visibility with a new audience and other marketing and promotion assistance An easy way to pay for professional development for their stable of trainers, training managers, and developers

Both the association and the college have been happy with partnership and have decided to sign another agreement in 2014.

The next time you sense an opportunity to take a sponsorship to the next level, remember that people support what they create; so do your utmost to co-create!

Programs Get Results
Bruce Winner

Bruce Winner

Bruce Winner, MBA, has been a trainer, program developer, business owner, training manager, and active participant and consultant in the association industry during his professional career.

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