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Sponsorship Success Requires Authenticity

Have you ever wondered what it takes to break barriers, create a legacy and drive change? Being your authentic self, then building and fostering authentic relationships with your partners is paramount. 

That was the message that resonated throughout the remarks of Charece Williams Gee when she joined us for a Sponsorship Mastery Summit conversation with Gail Lowney Alofsin, Director of Corporate Partnerships & Community Relations for the Newport International Boat Show. 

Charece, previously at PepsiCo and now Head of Sports Marketing & Partnerships at Under Armour, has spent the past 17-plus years building a successful career in sports and entertainment marketing. She has an extensive sports background and has played a huge role in strengthening female representation in the industry. Her diverse experience has enabled her to breathe new life into many of the partnerships she has worked. Through the example she has set, the programs she has championed, and her mentorship of young people just starting their careers, Charece’s embodies the positive direction in which our industry is moving and reinforces that the future of our field is very bright indeed. 

Charece is an all-around rockstar who is 100% her authentic self and applies those principles in her work. She has proven that authenticity can be a catalyst for change – it leads to broken barriers and powerful sponsorship legacies. We are sharing a few simple principles that can help you embed authenticity in your work. 

Create Personal Connections

Forging genuine relationships with the people you are selling sponsorship to or buying sponsorship from, not to mention with the people on your team, your agencies, suppliers, etc., can be challenging. However, it is imperative to being successful.

Striking the balance between personal and too personal can sometimes be tricky, but the effort will be worth it. If you have common interests, professional or personal experiences that create a connection, share them! Especially in a post-pandemic world where we are inviting the world into our homes, there is an opportunity to get personal and learn from each other. 

Bring your passions and interests to the forefront of your partnership efforts. We are all influenced by our past experiences and, at times, they can be a way to develop meaningful partnership programs and ideas. 

In a different context, your personal network—family, friends, acquaintances, etc.—can be one of your strongest assets. Leverage those relationships to find out the right people to talk to at a prospective partner or gain unique insights into a company or organization you want to do business with.

Keep Up the Collaboration

Sponsorship is a team sport. One of the most important jobs of a sponsorship seller is to ensure that collaboration is taking place within their brand partners’ companies, as well as between their internal team and that brand. By collaborating, you can build trust and transparency throughout your partnership. When all parties are involved, it provides equal participation in identifying needs and creating solutions and ideas.  

On the property side, building packages with meaningful benefits requires working across the organization to secure all of the necessary assets and to make sure you are not working at cross purposes with other areas that may have corporate alliances.

Those who work on the sponsor side also need to reach out internally to earn buy-in, secure funding, and ensure the partnership is activated against multiple audiences and objectives.

While smart sponsors understand the importance of building internal support, the reality of busy schedules and complex organizations means critical elements can sometimes be overlooked. It is essential that properties stay on top of and nudge their prospects and partners to build internal support structures that will propel partnerships to succeed.

Derive New Partnership Value

When authenticity is brought to the partnership table, it paves the way for powerful partnership opportunities. It allows diverse voices and interests to be heard. It brings fresh perspectives to the forefront. It highlights important commitments to DEI, sustainability and social good. It can, and will, unlock innovative and authentic ideas that drive success throughout all aspects of a business. 

For example, at PepsiCo, the company’s sponsorship of the WNBA sat underutilized until Charece recognized the opportunity to leverage it to build a new consumer base for the MTN DEW brand, activated through the company’s first WNBA player endorsement deal with A’ja Wilson.

As the partnership with the league blossomed, a new opportunity presented itself that might have gone untapped had there not been a former female college athlete who was able to greenlight it.

The WNBA’s 2020 season was played in a bubble to limit exposure to COVID. The league approached MTN DEW about sponsoring a salon so that the players and others could look and feel their best, and practice some self-care, while in this isolated environment. 

Despite not being an obvious fit for a soft drink brand, Charece recognized both the importance of a salon to the women in the bubble and the chance for PepsiCo to earn back some of the lost sponsorship value from a season played behind closed doors. The partnership successfully delivered an authentic and meaningful experience for the players while elevating MTN DEW’s commitment to DEI. 

Ultimately, authenticity plays a huge role in the success of your sponsorship efforts. Whether you are building a relationship with a partner, collaborating to develop meaningful assets, or creating powerful partnerships that change the fiber of our culture, let authenticity be your guide.