When Good Sponsorships Go Wrong…

I would like to say every sponsorship partnership I’ve sold has been executed flawlessly, but that would not be the truth!

I could tell you about the time I left the McDonald’s logo off the promotion cup we were selling in their stores (just a mere 30,000 printed). 

Image: flickr, modified with permission

​Or the time a group of sponsor VIPs showed up to the sold out event and it became apparent we forgot to make their hotel reservations.

One memory particularly stands out related to benefits and the importance of agreements. When I was at Livestrong- back when it was The Lance Armstrong Foundation-we always had a VIP tent for a select group of cyclists. A long-time sponsor decided this particular year to reduce their support. This also included a loss of benefits- like the access to the VIP tent. Apparently, this was not communicated to their CEO. He valiantly rode his 100 miles and had invited a few fellow CEO’s to join him in the VIP celebration. Our check-in volunteer scanned the guest list and saw they weren’t on it.

Image: flickr, GPS

As the volunteer started to explain this to Jim (the CEO), I started to make my way to the gate as fast as I could to mollify the situation. I said hello, greeted his friends, and ushered them into the tent. I spent the next 20 minutes asking about the highlights of the century ride and their overall experience. Jim mentioned dreaming about the VIP tent during the most difficult climbs of the ride. Before we departed, I put my hand on Jim’s shoulder, thanked him and said ‘I’ll see you next year at the tent!’ He smiled, nodded and went on with his celebration.

My first call Monday was to the Marketing Director. I politely informed her of the situation and that I accommodated the wishes of Jim and his guests, even though the VIP tent area wasn’t included in their sponsorship. She thanked me and promptly sent her renewal agreement- back to the original level.

My key takeaways from that experience were:

1. Thoroughly document the list of benefits with each partnership (Borrow our tested Sponsorship Agreement Template to save yourself precious time).

2. Understand what your partner values and leverage your key assets.

3. Look for moments to over deliver.

4. Always make your sponsor contact look like an all-star.

5. Make yourself available to be in the right place at the right time to prevent embarrassing sponsor missteps.

When dealing with corporate sponsors, you’re bound to experience some mishaps aligning the priorities and desires of two separate entities. It’s up to you to find those opportunities that truly bring value to everyone and clearly define their execution.