Last month SponsorPitch conducted a survey of sponsorship
sales professionals in an effort to understand how sellers
research brands before they consider them prospects, and
their thoughts on doing the task. We received 50 responses to
our initial survey and though the research was exploratory in
nature it provided some fascinating results. Here we provide
our overall conclusions, as well as analysis of each question
posed on the survey and the responses they generated.
Doing qualifying research to determine who and how to pitch
sponsorship opportunities is a significant portion of the
sponsorship sales job, in some cases 50% of it. This is likely in
large part due to the fact brands don’t share a lot of
information about what they do, there are no standard
reference resources to use, and none that do exist are
specifically tailored to the needs of sponsorship professionals
in an age where real time data is critical. Perhaps not
surprisingly, few sponsorship pros are satisfied with the depth
of information that is currently available or the time it currently
takes to find it. Sponsorship sales pros seem to know
intuitively that with the tools at their disposal today, they are
missing many opportunities, spending a lot of time chasing
dead ends and worst of all, paying a lot of money for
information that is still updated on an annual or bi-annual basis.
While other industries have adopted more real-time research
methods, it seems that the pain and inefficiency of sponsor
prospecting’s current toolset may have finally created the call
to action whereby it now can evolve.
Questions We Asked
1. What best describes the average amount of time you must spend researching a brand before you
feel you have enough information to know if it is a fit for your sponsorship opportunity, and you
can talk to the brand intelligently about how the sponsorship fits its business?
Analysis: It takes at least two hours to research a brand thoroughly enough
to understand if it should be considered a legitimate prospect. When you
consider how many brands have to be researched, that’s a whole lot of
time to spend, considering how few legit prospects will come out of all that
research. Everyone understands the “more doors you knock on the more
sales you’ll make.” When it takes two hours plus to knock on a door
however, it seems there is a need to find ways to make fewer knocks or
less time intensive ones.
2. What best describes the percentage of your job you must spend collecting the information you
need to determine if and how to approach a brand with a sponsorship opportunity? This is all the
work put in before a proposal is written or a phone call is made.
Analysis: It is not uncommon for sponsorship sales people to spend at least
one quarter of their job researching for prospects. This isn’t outrageous,
but when considering how much time must be spent on each brand, there
simply is not a lot of time to do prospect research, given the other
responsibilities one might have (following up on prospects in the sales
funnel, servicing existing sponsors, internal meetings, other duties beyond
sales, etc.) more efficiency is needed for sure.
3. Which best describes on average how many proposals you send or submit to would be sponsors
in a week?
Analysis: Most people send out no more than two or three proposals a week.
This is kind of a shockingly low number considering how many are needed
to find a prospect that leads to a sale. This shows the impact two hours to
research a brand has in real terms. Long gone are the days of “shot-
gunning” cookie cutter proposals. These days it’s all about customized,
informed proposals, which take a great deal of time to prepare. Based on
our preliminary findings, with rough estimates, one sales person can
realistically assess no more than about 200 brands in a year. As part of a
large sales organization with many reps, this may not be a big deal.
Smaller properties with less sales staff need much greater efficiency.
4. How much do you spend annually on sponsorship prospect research resources (sourcebooks,
conferences, memberships, subscriptions)?
Analysis: It seems folks with few resources spend little if anything on
sourcebooks and contact lists, thinking the Internet is free and any
information one needs, can be found on it eventually. Sale pros with more
resources at their disposal (or more savvy ones in general) can’t afford to
spend so much time researching, so they purchase what they hope to be
short cuts to the data they need. Keep in mind this question only sheds
some light on what people spend on dedicated information resources. If
one quarter of a sponsorship sales pro’s job is researching, assuming a
median income of about $50,000/year, the rough numbers work out the
cost (in man hours) of doing brand research to about a quarter of sales
pro’s compensation, or $12,500/year per FTE.
5. Which of the following lead generation and brand intelligence sources do you use? (check all
Write-in responses: Hoovers, Networking Events, Newswire.ca, Marketing
Magazine, Ad Age, personal database, advertising database, trade journals,
personal contacts and references, BrandWeek, AdWeek, ad data express,
IEG newsletter, personal connections, word of mouth, sponsorship
websites (sponsorpitch.com), referrals, The World Sponsorship Monitor,
networking events, Redbooks, addataexpress, marketing magazines,
Advertising Database, other sponsors, radio, television, regional business
Analysis: Clearly the world has changed. Where once annually published
sourcebooks and CD-ROMs dominated the market of information resources
serving the sponsorship sales force, like pretty much everything involving
sharing information, the Internet now dominates. What is fascinating is we
received over 15 different answers to this question when factoring in the
“other” sources respondents gave. This paints a picture of staggeringly
fragmented and disorganized information and the need for standardizing
how this data is captured and collected. The myriad answers to this
question provide great insight into why researching a brand takes so
painfully much time.
6. When researching a brand, what information do you spend the most time trying to learn?
Other: Business challenges, decision-makers and target audience equally.
Analysis: The answers here were both expected and surprising at the same
time. On the one hand it seems obvious that figuring out who and how to
contact people in companies (especially large ones) would take a lot of
time. What is surprising is that not even 50% of respondents said finding
decision makers takes the most time. It seems most people are spending
the most time trying to figure out what the business is, what it does, and
how a given sponsorship might fit in. This provides great evidence that
contrary to what brand side people might think, most sponsorship sales
pros don’t want to pester brands with their own sales pitches. The reality
is they want to know what they are all about and how they operate in an
effort to present valuable sponsorship activation platforms.
7. Would you share data you collect about brands with sponsorship sales peers if doing so gave you
immediate access to more accurate data than you can collect on your own?
• Yes, but not with direct competitors
• Yes, but with caveats (both ways)
• Absolutely. Wholesaling the information acquisition process makes
• Maybe, as long as we were geographically far enough apart not to be
Analysis: No data from this survey demonstrated how frustrating the brand
research and prospecting function is for sponsorship sales people than the
answers given to this question. Over half of respondents said they would
share brand intelligence with peers if doing so meant they could get more
information faster, without even knowing exactly what it meant, and over
90% said they would at least consider it. Less than 10% said they wouldn’t
share data with peers. There were some competitive concerns raised, but
not to the degree we expected. It seems evident the market is ready for a
dramatically new paradigm to define the future of how brands are
researched and qualified for sponsorship sales opportunities.
8. What best describes your experience with online sponsorship
proposal submission systems?
• Best time of year to submit proposals
• Listing of dollar amounts and in kind sponsorships
• There is no bad information about a prospect
Analysis: When you look at the answers to this question, combined with the
answers and conclusions from #6, it makes a great deal of sense. We
don’t expect brands to be forthcoming about all the data sponsorship
sales people want to know about their brands, but they should. If they did
proactively make available the information sales pros spend so much time
trying to find and piece together, they might be surprised at how many
better proposals they would get. Less time researching would mean (at
least in theory) better activation ideas as a result of understanding the
brand’s business better, and probably, ironically enough, fewer proposals
for brands. Cutting off dialogue and forcing properties to read a brand’s
mind does nothing to improve the sponsorship platforms available and
fosters the conditions for more misguided solicitations.
9. Please check all the kinds of information you would like to be able to access faster and more
often when researching brands.
Analysis: What a perfect way to sum it all up! No matter the information, the
sponsorship sales force wants to be able to get the information it needs to
do its job much faster than it can with any and all resources and tools
available today. SponsorPitch has heard this message loud and clear and is
hard at work developing a better solution that will help you to capture,
share and ultimately act on the vast amount of brand intelligence that today
goes unaccounted for.
It seems a vast majority of sponsorship professionals are
willing to collaborate with each other to share the bits of brand
information respectively at their disposal in order to benefit
from the broader collective of more timely, relevant and cost-
efficient leads supplied by their industry peers. Sponsor
prospecting afterall is not a zero sum game; when one
property wins another one doesn’t necessary lose. Quite to
the contrary, one property’s trash is very likely another’s
To learn how you can join a network of sponsorship pros
already collaborating to create a better brand intelligence
resource, please review this white paper on the topic and
submit your work email.