Subscribe to the SMA Newsletter

Aligning Sponsors and Properties Behind Partnerships with Purpose

As an industry, we spend a great deal of time being concerned with the rights and benefits properties can provide to their corporate partners. Certainly, those assets and how brands use and derive value from them form the core of the sponsor/rights holder relationship.

But in the age of “purpose” sponsors need to shift from exploiting and leveraging the assets of their partnerships merely for their own needs to using them to serve others.

While it is true that the audience has always been the third side of the sponsorship triangle, ensuring that fans, participants, members, etc., also derive value from sponsorship has become increasingly important. The beauty of this from the brand perspective is that by meeting the needs of their consumers and communities, marketers will continue to meet their own needs as well.

As was made clear in the Sponsorship Mastery Summit panel discussion featuring three Seattle-based properties, sponsorship value has a new definition. Partnerships that improve the lives of individuals and communities are partnerships that people care about, and partnerships that people care about are sustainable over the long term versus short-run promotional opportunities that come and go.

Attracting Sponsors That Share Your Purpose
The Summit panelists represented the WNBA Seattle Storm, Seattle Pride, and Seattle Center, organizations that each have a demonstrable commitment to social responsibility and tangible programs and initiatives that put those commitments into action addressing critical issues at the heart of the community.

All three agreed that connecting sponsors with a property’s CSR efforts requires more than demonstrating fit with the property’s audience and brand attributes. Sponsorship sellers must have a deep understanding of their organizations’ values and be able to articulate them, as well as to conduct due diligence regarding a prospective partner’s values and the actions that back up those values.

Finding and reading a company’s statement of values on its website is not enough, said Nate Silverman, Senior Vice President of Corporate Sponsorships for the Storm. “We are not just looking at what is written down, but how does the company show up in the community? We dive into their social media presence, their marketing campaigns and what causes and organizations they support.”

That research not only gives a property reassurance it is speaking with a brand that will be supportive of its efforts but can help jump-start a conversation about how the two organizations could work together as part of a potential partnership.

Seattle Pride takes things a step further and includes a statement of values that sponsors must agree to in its sponsorship contracts. A step the organization deemed necessary to allay the LGBTQ+ community’s concern that corporations would use Pride sponsorship as a way to project support without committing to action in their hiring practices, employee benefits programs, etc.

Determine Who Is Driving the Bus
Every organization has social responsibility initiatives, even if they vary widely in terms of size, scope and the specific issues they address. A first step in aligning sponsors and properties is to determine whether a partnership will tie into an existing property program. One example isStorm Cares—the team’s platform for promoting women’s empowerment and youth health and fitness. Alternatively, will the partnership act as a channel to communicate a sponsor’s CSR efforts.

Either strategy can be effective, provided the roadmap is developed and clear at the beginning of the journey. Discussion points properties can raise during the sponsorship solicitation process like:

  • “Tell us more about your support for food banks nationally. Are you looking to grow its reach? We have some ideas about how you can use sponsorship to gain awareness and support among our audience.
  • “We see you recently launched a program to support small businesses in underserved communities in your hometown. We have a program to increase the percentage of minority-owned businesses that are vendors and suppliers to our organization, so that could be a relevant way for you to activate a partnership with us.”
  • “Some of our other sponsors are working to address the same issues you are focused on. We also see you have teamed up with some of your business partners in a comparable way. We would be happy to work on collaborating with some of those other marketers if it would help you achieve your objectives.

Overall, properties must dig deeper into understanding how partners can make an impact. At their core, both property and brand must have shared values that can be turned into actional programs and initiatives through a partnership. It is going to involve intentionality and a strategic approach to how you build relationships.

At the 2022 Sponsorship Mastery Summit, we will dive into more partnerships with purpose at a special session featuring representatives from Oakview Group and Amazon, whose partnership brought to life the landmark Climate Pledge Arena. Registration is limited to 300, reserve your spot today!