As one of the premier sports leagues worldwide, Major League Baseball has developed partnerships with some of the most recognizable businesses around the globe. Through innovative thinking and effective branding techniques, MLB has consistently proven its ability to build successful relationships with corporate sponsors. Recently, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund spoke with the experts regarding the importance of local sponsorship opportunities and how even the smallest youth programs can utilize them.
Below are some helpful tips and hints on securing and maintaining corporate sponsorships for your youth baseball or softball organization.
1. Why is it helpful for an organization to secure corporate sponsors? What are the main advantages?
There are many rewards to securing corporate partners, but the primary advantages center on revenue generation and marketing power. Many organizations solicit corporate partnerships to fund platforms they otherwise could not execute. The revenue generated provides the organization with the means to implement the programs and connect to their fan base via the sponsor. In turn, the sponsor gets the ability to leverage the relationship and engage consumers in ways they otherwise could not. In addition to the revenue opportunities, corporate sponsorships allow leagues/properties to market their game through their partners – a goal which otherwise may be unattainable due to budget and logistical constraints.
2. Is there a basic step-by-step process to follow when approaching a potential sponsor?
For local youth organizations, a full list of local businesses should be developed. Once complete, several categories should be established: Prime, secondary and tertiary candidates. Prime candidates would be considered natural fits for baseball as well as the facility (soda, foods, lawn care...). Secondary candidates have less of a natural fit but upside in advertising around the league (real estate, bank). Tertiary candidates are long-shots but worth the outreach as any organization may have a reason to tie to baseball.
Once the lists are established, calls and meetings should be organized. The most important piece to the outreach is follow-up – people have their everyday job to do and just because you did not get a call back doesn't necessarily mean that there's no interest. Follow up until you speak with someone and are able to gauge interest levels.
3. What are your top five "tricks of the trade" for attracting and securing sponsorships?
4. What specific information (i.e. demographics, goals, statistics, financial statements) should an organization be prepared to provide regarding its program to a potential sponsor?
Demographics, mission, attendance, cost of admission, number of participants and any other information requested by the potential client within reason. Information as basic as what's listed above should be presented initially as opposed to waiting for it to be requested.
5. From your experience, what benefits are the most enticing to sponsors? What could a small organization offer a local business as part of a sponsorship package?
Things like signage (outfield wall), the right to sample product, the right to set up a kiosk to interact with fans, sponsorship of an event (the Company X Softball Challenge), sponsorship of a clinic (secure local ballplayer from MLB team to teach the kids) and other similar concepts. Most companies will partner if they perceive that they will be able to sell more product and/or they have a chance to improve their company's image/connection to the community in the process.
6. After a sponsor is committed, how can an organization ensure that the sponsor is satisfied and will make the same commitment the next year?
Client service is just as important as completing the sale. Treat every client as if they are the most important business relationship you have. Listen to their suggestions, complaints, praises and address every single one of them. Reach out for no particular reason just to make sure they are happy. Getting a sponsor to return is just as important as securing them in the first place.
7. What are some of the biggest obstacles that you encounter when trying to obtain corporate sponsorships? How do you handle them?
There are certain issues that simply can't be solved – budget issues, corporate culture issues or simply bad fits for the property. The biggest hurdle is securing the type if investment you are hoping to attain. This is where the creative aspect comes into play – if the money isn't all there, what else can the company provide? If Joe's Supermarkets only has half of the cash a property is looking for in return for a sponsorship, can the rest be made up in meals for the kids after their games? Snacks for the fans? Can Joe's save the organization money and make up for the cash shortage? Figure out solutions to problems as opposed to getting hung up in them.
8. What is your key piece of advice for an organization seeking corporate sponsorships for the first time?
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