Sponsors want to find you. Not the other way around.

Think about the last time one of your colleagues and friends boasted about a time they were sold something.

“The sales guy was amazing and convinced me to spend more than I had planned. A great decision”.

“I really didn’t want what the guy was selling, but he convinced me.”

“I’ve a really good relationship with Sally since she talked me into spending a lot of money on something I didn’t really need”.

Let’s face it, no one boasts about being sold to. In reality, everyone wants to take responsibility and credit for great ideas and great purchasing decisions. Sponsoring brands are the exact same. The brands know their customers, they know their business, and they want to take the credit for identifying and acquiring the most suitable sponsorship opportunity.

So if brands don’t want to be sold to, what is the best use of your time and resources as the person responsible for ‘selling’ sponsorship?

Our advice, stop hard-selling for a minute and start planning for brands to find you.

Thankfully, this is not new ground, it’s how B2B and professional services marketers the world-over approach the task of selling to corporate buyers. And we believe there is a lot we can adapt from their world into ours.

Here are four building blocks to put in place so that the right brands can find their way to your door.

1. Position Yourself.

What do you and your partnership team believe in? How do you view the business of partnership marketing? What makes you different from competitors? (‘You’, not your club or your organisation, ‘you’ as a leader in partnership marketing). 

People you are selling sponsorship to will most likely know about your club or your event, but you, your marketing team and your approach to partnership marketing can be the differentiating factor when it comes to them choosing to work with you.

State your mission publicly via thought pieces, the commercial page on your website, or better still a dedicated partnership marketing portal full of content produced specifically for your target audience. 

2. Publish, Promote, Be There.

Share with the world (and your corporate audience) the beliefs and practices that make you and your organisation different. 

• Insist on getting some social media real estate from your club, a monthly post about the business of sponsorship or your partnership marketing successes.

• Find speaking opportunities at the countless trade events that happen throughout the year, but when you speak, don’t treat it as a sales pitch, treat it as an opportunity to share your thinking on successful sponsorship and successful partnership marketing. Set yourself the challenge of not talking about your sponsorship property, talk about the challenges that face your clients, the future, your personal story… anything except another hard sell to a disinterested audience.

• Your target audience cares about marketing, promoting and advertising their brands, so write articles for marketing trade press…but keep in mind the previous point, don’t waste your time hard-selling to a disinterested audience, write content designed to exercise the minds of high-level marketers. 

• If a sponsoring brand sees that you can promote yourself and your team, they will have more faith that you can promote their brand.

3. Opportunity to Engage

Give potential sponsors an opportunity to engage with you that doesn’t involve being sold to. 

Create a non-selling environment (i.e an event or initiative that a brand can come to and where they won’t be sold to). Use your club or your event as a platform for brands and people to connect with each other.

• A corporate 5-a-side tournament.

• A leadership and teamwork breakfast event led by the clubs coaching staff.

• A corporate bike ride or golf day with a charity element.

• A party!

Use events like these to develop relationships and an understanding of people’s level of motivation around sponsorship or sport in general. What you learn about the people who can make decisions for major brands you can translate into sales.

4. Get to ‘No’ quickly

We all know that feeling of trying to push a sales lead into a decision that they are never going to make. Most of the people you sell to will not be ready to buy, if you push them too much you will only push them away. Get to ’no’ quickly, and consider how they can connect you to another sales opportunity.

“I don’t think this is the right fit for you and your brand, is there anyone in your personal network who we should talk to?”

Start Planning Now

We’ve seen the best rights holders from the UK and the US take this customer-centric approach to building a sponsorship community, and delivering bigger, better sponsorship deals.

Those rights holders have considered the purchasing experience of the buyer and taken a mid-to-long term view on influencing the right people.

Sponsors want to find you…. 

1. Make sure you are present when they are looking. 

2. Make them believe that you are an expert.

3. Make sure there is an easy ‘in’ for them to make personal contact.

4. Let them take the credit for finding you.

Take a step back today and start thinking about how you put the above initiatives into a simple 6-month plan, it will deliver better relationships and more leads for your team.


The Rights Holder Manifesto’ outlines a new way forward for rights holders when it comes to positioning themselves for, planning for, and acquiring major sponsorship deals.

Available to download and read here – The Rights Holder Manifesto