By Tom Perry, Director of Business Development, IEG
Two and half years ago, my role at IEG expanded beyond marketing services and operations to include a wider range of business development duties. Although intimately familiar with the products and services we provide, I struggled a bit to find my personal sales strategy and style. When the pandemic hit, everyone needed to adapt. I did with a shift in mindset from selling “things” to giving clients the means to transform their organizations for the better.
Valuations were no longer a check the box exercise to provide objective pricing to a sponsorship package, but rather an opportunity to for a client to understand their worth and articulate how aligning with them can help a brand reach their marketing goals. A commercial strategy was not just a three-part process to build and value a new sponsorship program but a way for a property to revitalize itself and its sales efforts through an alignment of understanding about what makes them unique to potential partners. Once I could tell these stories about what we do, success followed.
I cannot help but see a similar path forward for the many prospects and eventual clients I have talked to over this time. Too often, a property gets stuck looking at sponsorship as a way to fill-in event budget gaps or as inventory that needs to be unloaded as quickly and efficiently as possible year-over-year. BUT properties are much, much more than a banner on a wall at conference. They are more than list of assets to be bundled together and sold to a brand. Every organization has a mission, an audience and a platform that differentiates themselves from others and provides distinctive value to its partners.
Two examples come to mind when I see a property willing to embrace who they are and find their own voice. First is when an organization that had been focusing on selling event sponsorships now wants to understand what a true organization-wide sponsorship platform entails. By shifting this mindset, they can embrace their own identity and IP, which goes beyond their marks and logos straight to the property’s DNA. A membership organization that has the highest levels of income and ethical-based standards to join in their field must learn to embrace their “high performance” essence and show to brands that partnering with them means tapping into the best of the best in what they do. Another niche association wants to expand their impact by evolving from a vertical passion point to becoming an organization that represents a specific demographic and lifestyle interest with which millions of people identify.
This type of thinking changes the perspective of an organization not only internally but externally as well, which leads to my second example of how changing the mindset works. It leads to having better, more substantial conversations with potential brand partners, especially non-endemics. Categories that did not make sense to align with previously are now viable options. For the membership organization mentioned above, a luxury automotive brand (e.g., Jaguar and “The Art of Performance”) now becomes a high priority target, which would never have been considered before.
When a property and a brand can find that common ground to tell stories and positively impact the people which make the organization great, that is when the magic of sponsorship happens. Through a new mindset, the road ahead is less daunting.