Having worked in the sponsorship game for the last 15 years or so, I had a conversation with a colleague the other day who, as per anyone looking for the perfect commercial parter, had a proposal for a music festival ready to send off to 100 of his closest contacts.

He was sure he was onto a winner, and just needed the sponsor to cover the costs, defer the risk and pay for the marketing of the “next-big-music-event” to hit the scene.

Except, thats not how sponsorships work, at all.



Sponsorship stopped being about slapping logos on things decades ago, yet the primary driver for most sponsors proposals I see is “media return”.

Newsflash. Big brands sponsor for a variety of reasons, almost all of which culminate in being able to form passionate connections with their own potential and existing customers! 

I quickly realised that much like my own inbox, brands must be inundated with these one sided “too-good-to-miss”proposals that are poorly conceived and even more poorly constructed.

Also – by definition a sponsorship at heart should be a symbiotic relationship between allied and aligned brands. I cringe when I see “sponsorship” proposals relying on incidental media value of Street Pole Ads to justify the spend.

So, in the interests of my own sanity, I present my own Top 5 list of things every sponsor proposal, from high-school track meet to sponsored Kilamanjaro climb to Music Festival to Soccer Team should take into consideration BEFORE bombarding unsuspecting corporate in-boxes with generic proposals.



  • What is in it for the Sponsor?
    • I make this point first for a reason. It’s probably the single biggest omission I see in proposals. Take the time to write your proposal in reverse, unpack anything unique you can offer to make a sponsor sit up and take notice. Do some thinking into how as a brand your potential suitor could leverage and exploit their relationship with you. Cool add-ons are great, but Street Pole Ads, and Radio Campaigns do not justify the reason to sponsor your event! Neither does access to xxxx number of people. Be clever, think laterally and above all understand the reason a sponsor would WANT to sponsor you. Only when you have done all of that tell them about the artist line-up, catering concessions  and branding on the arm-bands. That’s a given, obvious and not going to swing a decision.
  • Why me?
    • A biggy! What makes you differentto the other 100 proposalsevery bank, insurance company, mobile phone operator and oil co has seen in the past 10 years? Can you back up your idea with a proven track record, have you great experience in delivering value back to sponsors? Create an elevator pitch for your own credentials and relevant experience to inspire confidence, do not just profile your event!
  • Be relevant!
    • As great as your idea surely is (no-one ever has bad ideas, right?) ensure you understand the type of sponsorships brands are involved in, BEFORE you send the mail. Large brands have highly refined sponsorship strategies that are created to serve their own needs first. As noble as your attempt to be the first person to climb Kilamanjaro nude may be, if a brand historically has not sponsored such endeavours its’ probably not their strategy to do so. No amount of pictures of orphan puppies in need of funds to re-house them is going to materially change that strategic intent. It really is a case of less is more. Spend more time refining less proposals to people that will be interested.
  • Keep it Simple!
    • Seasoned marketers are quite clever people. The understand a great deal of the industry, and will often within around 5 slides be able to assess the top level viability of your proposal, based on strategic, financial and business criteria. Take the time to craft your presentation to get straight to the point, quality is way better than quantity – you want to get a meeting from your document, not a cheque. Outline the mutual benefits, potential return, a rights matrix if other possible sponsors are involved – all the things that can make the evaluation process easier. Do this up front. Quickly. Well explained. And objectively evaluated. It can really be the difference between next round evaluation and polite rejection!
  • Brace yourself for rejection!
    • Finding a suitor for your requirements is neither quick nor easy. Aligning the largely pre-defined needs of large corporate sponsorship departments with potential suitors is time consuming and highly strategic. Deals are often signed  8 – 12 months in advance to allow for adequate planning on how best to leverage the association. Sending mails 5 weeks before your big event is neither constructive nor a productive use of your time. Understand that you will often receive rejection notices with no real explanation, and prepare yourself for the hustle to find a great parter. It happens. Often. Offers from people who “know people” or who will work on “commission” are dangerous. Sponsorship consulting is a specialised field, not a sales job.You want to align with real partners that can add value to your event, not chequebooks.

      Even mighty national teams such as the Sprinboks have been through phases with no major commercial partnership, so don’t feel alone!


So the road may be long, but the right partnership with the correct brand can genuinely create significant additional value to all parties.

Whilst this post covers corporate sponsorships exactly the same hints and tips can be applied to personal sponsorships, athletic or celebrity endorsements or even school and fund raising activities.

Finally, in any sponsored relationship always remember the golden rule:

“He who has the gold, makes the rules! “


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