Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making first Contact

Who to Contact
Finding out who is the best person to contact is hard. The best route is to get a personal introduction from someone you know. Failing that, you should try one or more of the following people:
Marketing DirectorSponsorship budgets and sponsorship activity is almost always handled by a company’s Marketing department. Smaller companies will not have these positions and so it might be best to approach the CEO directly
Corporate Affairs Director
Community Affairs ManagerThis is particularly relevant to local sponsorships where there may be a direct benefit to the local community
Sponsorship ManagerMany small companies will not have a Sponsorship Manager, the Marketing Director will handle all sponsorship activity
Brand ManagerParticularly relevant for larger companies and those in the FMCG sector. (FMCG's - or fast moving consumer goods - include every day products such as confectionary, soft drinks, washing powders etc)
Chief ExecutiveIf you know that he or she has a keen interest in sport – or, more importantly, in your sport – then a Chief Exec is well worth approaching. In this case it is often best to get a referral from a third party
It is vital that you contact the right person to ensure your approach is properly considered, so research here is essential.
Sports Marketing Agencies and Sponsorship Consultancies
Specialist Sports Marketing Agencies and Sponsorship Consultancies are also well worth approaching. These companies represent the interests of businesses and brands that are actively engaged in sports sponsorship. They are often responsible for advising their clients on where to commit their sponsorship spend. Indeed in many cases – particularly when approaching larger sized companies – your letter will be passed on directly to these agencies as they will be responsible for handling and assessing all sponsorship requests on behalf of their clients.
You can find a detailed listing of these agencies on websites such as
Once you have identified your target agencies, visit their websites to find out which brands they represent, and then tailor your approach accordingly.
From time to time these agencies actively seek well-known sporting personalities and celebrities to attend functions on behalf of clients. These functions include everything from photoshoots and press conferences, to premieres, evening receptions and corporate golf days, so it is worth putting yourself in the shop window for this alone. The more you put yourself in the public eye, the more you build your profile and the more chance you’ll have of attracting interest from sponsors. These types of event should also be viewed as valuable networking opportunities.
How do I make the approach?
The options:
In Person
Phone Call
In Person Any of the above can be used depending on the level of introduction you have, but by far the best route is to meet in person. Letters can get lost, e-mails deleted and phone calls are just too easy to ignore – a face-to-face meeting therefore, is your golden chance to make a lasting impression.
If the opportunity presents itself you must be prepared. Have a clear idea of what you want to get out of the meeting and, ideally, have a short presentation prepared.
Prepare and plan the meeting. Jot down your objectives so you don’t get sidetracked
Be professional - write and confirm the time and date of your appointment
Be knowledgeable - do your homework about the company and people you will meet
Make a good first impression – be pleasant to the receptionist!
Dress smartly. If you have a team blazer wear this to create maximum impact
Show your personality
Be honest, confident and believe in yourself
Be enthusiastic, show you are dedicated
Make sure you have all the information to hand
Leave a business card at the end of the meeting
After the meeting, follow-up with an e-mail or letter thanking them for their time and saying how much you enjoyed meeting them
Make it short and to the point. If possible, enclose a proposal with more details.
Key points to remember:-
An obvious starting point but ensure you have the correct, up-to-date address
Personalise the letter to the individual. Never write “Dear Sir/Madam”
Use a spell check before printing to make sure there are no mistakes
Include a brief introduction about what you are writing about
Don’t waffle. List key points that will attract the recipients attention
Enclose information: a proposal, CV and a business card
You might consider sending it in a coloured envelope so that it stands out
If applicable, why not include an formal invitation for them to come and watch/meet you the next time you are competing in the area
Above all, remember to BE CREATIVE, as first impressions count. Remember that the recipient may receive countless similar requests, so anything you can do to make your approach stand out will give you a better chance (using colour, images etc)
This is the sales hook. A good proposal will make the reader want to ring you to find out more. It can be a proposal or a CV style document.
Make it eye catching
Use action photographs or colour photocopies of you competing. If possible, try to get hold of professional quality shots. Speak to your Governing Body who should have a library of pics from major events or try contacting your local paper if in the past they have published shots of you in action.
Make it informative
Make it exciting and show your potential
Talk about your training regime. Perhaps detail what you will do on an average day and list how many hours you put in per week/month. Make sure they appreciate what it takes to get to the top of your sport.
Detail your successes / results
List your Major Championships appearances and medals won
List the teams you have represented, from county level to national selections
Include some example press cuttings - neatly done, putting each on a separate page with details of the publication it came from
List the benefits that you can offer a sponsor
Make it clear and easy to read - use bullet points
Include a list of upcoming major events
Highlight your goals/aspirations. Sponsors will want to see that you have a long-term commitment to the sport and that you hold high expectations of yourself
Do not state how much money or product you want from the sponsor, leave that for the face-to-face meeting.
Follow UpOnce you have sent a letter and/or proposal it is crucial that you follow-up with a phone call to make sure that it was received and to see if the company is interested.
Plan when you are going to do this, put a date in your diary about 2 weeks after you send the letter.
This also gives you an excuse to make direct contact with the company.
One of the hardest parts is the dreaded “sales phone call”. You may find it difficult at first but it is something that can be mastered. See it as an opportunity to make a new friend, not as a major task.
Rehearse and plan the call - write down the key points
Be polite, but convincing
Keep a smile on your face as you speak it comes across in the conversation.
Be persistent - getting through the secretary is hard work; lunchtime and evening is often a solution
Remember, you have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
With new media this is now an option, but be aware it can be a little impersonal or too personal sometimes, and many people get a lot of ‘junk’ mail or spam. Unless you know the person well, it is best to send a letter. With an email a mixture of principles of a letter and phone call will apply.
If sending a presentation by e-mail, be careful not to include too many high-resolution images and this may prevent the message getting through to companies with restrictions on the size of e-mail attachments they can receive.
The Presentation
This can take any format, either a PC if you have one, or just a flip chart of A4 sheets in a folder. Most companies will understand that athletes cannot always have access to presentation materials. But if you can put something together, it will show initiative and professionalism.
A basic PowerPoint presentation is probably the best solution. Where ever possible, make sure that you include images of yourself in competition, this will bring the presentation to life and make it much more emotive for the potential sponsor.
You may choose to ask a friend who is experienced to assist you putting together the presentation. Just make sure they understand what you are offering and that they have some experience of writing presentations of this nature.

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