Securing a sports sponsorship that brings value to your brand can be elusive. It can also be an absolute homerun. What you have to keep in mind is that it’s not a game.
This is not a beginner’s game or one for the faint of heart. The major (and minor) leagues and their front office negotiators are pros; often lifers in their jobs and certainly motivated to sell you the inventory they have for the highest price they can get, without regard to your marketing and brand goals. Don't get me wrong, they are really fun to be around, they have great seats to offer and entertainment to tease you with, that gets your emotional responses salivating. Sitting courtside at an NBA game or in a suite at the finest baseball stadiums with your VIP ticket is intoxicating with overflowing testosterone and endorphins. One day you’re sitting in your office and next thing you know, bang, they've got you where they want you...on their court, in their dugout, or on their field.
You can beat them at this game. Better yet, become the better player that seeks to build a strong, mutually-beneficial program while making sure the assets in the plan can deliver the bottom line sales you need to justify this deal. But you have to know the playing field, understand what you want to get out of the relationship and analyze the sponsorship with an eye toward your goal. Having someone on your team that has experience in this negotiation can save you hundreds of thousands or even millions for some of the big naming rights deals. Having successfully worked with major national and legacy local brands selling sponsorships for the NBA Spurs for 7 seasons I learned how to activate a sponsorship in order to build the sponsor brand value. It can be done, but you should have representation.
Teams also actually prefer working with an agency, but only if that agency has experience in sports and one that understands how to activate a client to solve the business needs.
The goal of the team or the league is to get as much of your money as they can over as many years as possible. Let that sink in for a minute.
Because they don’t understand your goals and you don’t know what they have that can help you achieve those goals the first proposals are always to the team’s benefit. Don’t let this happen.
Always start with your goals:
- Why are we considering this?
- What do we want to achieve?
- What is the current situation?
- What do they have that we want?
- What can we measure?
- How do we own it?
Once you have built your brand sports sponsorship brief you must stay focused on the deal points that will help you win. Because, if you win, the team wins. This is the apex of the negotiation and the one area you are both aligned. When I help clients negotiate their sports marketing and sponsorship deals, this is how we get the deal done. We leave the egos at the door, we press on, we find the common ground and we secure well-built, thoughtful, creative promotionally-based agreements that stand out.
There is not a team in the world that can win without a good coach. You need someone who has been in the trenches, who knows how the other team plays in order to best prepare you to win this game and one that sits on your side of the table protecting you from the pros. Hiring the Coach will save you money, get you a better deal and often cover the fees of that coach ten-fold. It’s been proven time and time again. As coach Gregg Popovich says, “a great offense wins games but a great defense wins championships”.
Jamie Allen, Texas Creative owner, and Chief Operating Officer, worked for the San Antonio Spurs as a sponsorship sales manager for seven seasons. She recently negotiated a multi-year stadium naming rights deal for a client. She has done multi-team, minor league and major league deals for regional brands and one of the TOP 5 Brand Activations in the NBA in the first year of Papa John’s sponsorship with the “Spurs50” Promotion. Our Spurs Pizza Box Launch Promotion also won the Marketing Campaign of the Year from the San Antonio chapter of the American Marketing Association.