Mike LaRosa founder of Coworkaholic is taking the sesion on Sponsorships & Partnerships

CUAsia Thailand 2017: Sponsorships & Partnerships

Mike LaRosa, the founder of Coworkaholic, shared tips on how to secure sponsorships and partnerships without selling your space’s soul, in CUAsia 2017. Sponsorship is a unique type of advertising marketing campaign. It could be an opportunity for your space as it could minimize hard costs of product and services, or you could just get some hard cash.

The experiences he accumulated as a prior seller of sponsorships revealed four criteria for a successful sponsorship. The sponsor needs some degree of relevance to the service or product you provide. Think of the products and services that would be relevant to your members such as Red Bull, coffee, QuickBooks, accounting software, legal services. You want to make sure that the company/ organization you are partnering with has relevance to your actual members – brand fit. If you are a  workspace that focuses on health and wellness, you will not consider a sponsorship with Coca-Cola, but you could go for Evian water a division of Coca-Cola. It is critical to ensure mission alignment;  the interest of the property is in alliance with the prospective sponsor. Lastly, do not forget about business results, your sponsor should have a reasonable basis to believe that the sponsorship is going to create value.

Advertising has evolved from the traditional print to digital to social. Advertisers are spending more on digital advertising overall since they are looking for opportunities to interact with your members. Experiential marketing is a brand new type of sponsorship. For example; Redbull approached WeWork and said they want to give their members free Red Bull, but they wanted their Red Bull girls to hand them out. To be respectful of the community and to please the sponsors, WeWork suggested red bull to buy an office in the space, which was turned into a red bull lounge. That is what experiential marketing is, it is a combination of the audio, the aroma, the sight, the flavor and the feel. It is an opportunity for the brand to engage with your members. “I am here to  show you how to capture some of those marketing dollars or the products and services that can benefit customers, but doing so in a respectful manner to prevent opening the community to lack of trust,” said Mike.

At the conference, Mike mentioned some of the top challenges that one might face when securing sponsorships. Everyone is a stakeholder –  sponsorship is still new compared to other forms of advertising. It is not just the marketing manager, the CEO, the sponsorship manager; multiple people have their finger in the pie, and they all have different goals and objective regarding the funds. Selling a sponsorship is a full time job, you need to be aware of turnover. If you work with contacts that are not your own, more often than not half of them will be obsolete. You need to know enough about the business to offer a value proposition, figure out what their goals and what their prior experience is in marketing and sponsorship. In the words of Mike LaRosa, “It’s all about the widgets!” . Anyone can say their sponsorships are winners, but lack of proof makes it harder to secure it. You must have had those kinds of partnerships that you can present to others as a case study, just to show what you did and how well it worked out for you. These are all concepts you need to keep in mind when you are putting together a strategy on how to engage a potential sponsor or partner.

Primarily related to coworking, he mentioned two fundamental questions you should ask yourself; first, does this offer add value to your members? – There is a reason why they are looking for coworking spaces. They are looking for places where the can be safe and productive. It is on you to make sure you are able to offer value to your member. Second, does this offer a measurable return on investment for your sponsor? The way to answer this is actually to ask the sponsors the right questions is to figure out what they want and what do they consider a ‘success.’ The answers will aid you in securing sponsors and even renewing them.

Next Mike shared a couple of tips that could help set you up for success, starting with realizing that it’s not about you, it is all about the sponsors. Rather than mass sending identical proposals to a broad list of contacts, you need to provide the sponsors with a custom-made proposal. They need to feel as if the plan was tailored to their needs.  You are selling against anything and everything else that can improve their business. You need to know your competition and be able to tell your sponsors what makes you unique or different compared to your competitors. Third, you should track everything. CRM is customer relationship management program, it is a software that monitors who you talk to when you talk to them, and any other types of interaction that they have with your brand. The best CRM is the one that your team uses. You should track your emails, web visitors, followers, and likes. It is important to know because a sponsor will check you out the minute you reach out to them. A prospective sponsor will first go to your website, so you want to make sure that you are on your A game and can present a professional front. Mike suggested, Don’t be a salesperson, position yourself as a problem solver.” If you want to sell sponsorship, then you must aim to be someone that the marketer can turn to, a trusted advisor. The idea is to provide them with the solution than a simple advertising opportunity. The last tip Mike had to offer was, do your research. He urges you to master the use of LinkedIn, where you could quickly search for sponsorship manager or if its a more prominent company, a sales director. Other resources like directories and marketing conferences can be useful to you too.

Mike was not done being impressive; he went on to give the audience at the conference a walk through a sponsorship deck and an exit report.  A sponsorship project with FedEx, helped Max to deduce four core elements that should be available in a proposal – activation, media and marketing, interaction and hospitality. Your partner may be interested in branding activation, in the case of FedEx they wanted visibility since they had an impressive five-story building, Mike was able to put up a huge billboard. It is also necessary to include some social media love, such as a minimum of two dedicated facebook post per month and minimum twitter mentions. You need to figure out ways to facilitate interaction between your sponsors and members, one way to do this is to give your partners the use of the event space for free one time a year. It gives you a unique opportunity to increase the engagement.

   It is one thing to get the contract signed; you need to give your sponsor a review or recap on where the money was spent, and it is your job to help them track how efficient or successful it was. The way to do this is to create an exit report that showcases the value that was generated during the partnership. A good exit report can help you secure the renewal of the sponsorship.

Mike ended what was possibly one of the most informative sessions of CUAsia 2017, answering several questions prompted by his revealing presentation such as,

“How do you get sponsors that are competitors to play well together?”

To this Mike answered that it is all about ‘ managing expectations,’ although it is not an appropriate situation for a coworking space, in the sponsorship world industry exclusivity is a factor. As a sponsor, if you don’t want your competition to be in that space then you have to pay more for that. As a coworking space, if you don’t want to offer exclusivity because there are other good service providers out there. The sponsors will mostly respond positively to this, and if not then you know for sure that they are not a good fit for you.

“What kind of access do the sponsors have to the members?”

There may be times when the sponsors send emails to your members or invite your members to participate in an event. The way to tackle this situation is to let the sponsors know that it is a privilege for them to interact with the members, draw the line saying that this is how we are going to do it. Take it one step further and specify that you will do the email blast or you will send the invite to your members, but they will not get the email addresses of the members.

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