In the second year of running my athlete sponsorship education business, I was at a busy Sydney café, sitting across from the organiser of a very prestigious conference that I desperately wanted to speak at.
So, I thought I’d go all out and share my thoughts on how my presentation would really wow the audience. Well, it certainly got his attention, but not in the way I had hoped.
The topic I wanted to speak on was sponsorship, and I explained to him that “Sponsorship is just about love”. I think it was at that precise moment that I lost him. I tried to explain my concept, that if you apply all the principles and elements of love to sponsorship, that’s when you find success.
I think he just thought I was a bit loopy and didn’t really listen to much else I said, or ask me to speak at his event.
And fair enough.
Is sponsorship really about love?
I still absolutely believe that the elements of love such as honest communication, understanding and supporting each others needs and ambitions, a genuine desire to see each other succeed. Developing a relationship based on shared values, are so fundamental for successful athlete-sponsor relationships.
However, I tend to frame it a little differently these days.
Talking about sponsorship is something I do most days, and I now use the concept of friendship as a way of helping athletes and businesses understand and unpack what healthy, mutually valuable, and successful sponsorship can look like for them.
It’s more palatable, and it gives a familiar parallel for people to draw on and refer back to when starting out or looking at how they can improve existing sponsorships they have in place.
Learning from our mistakes and awkward moments
I think it was a really good, albeit cringy, experience for me because it showed me that it’s not always what you say but how you say it. Since then, I’ve been able to help clients with the insights I gained from that clunky conversation I had years ago.
A few years later, a client was seeking sponsorship for his fitness education platform, and none of the deals were working out. All we did was switch out the word sponsorship, for advertising, and within weeks he had all the advertising (aka sponsorship) that he’d been seeking.
So, I’m grateful for that guys reaction to my declaration of ‘sponsorship is love’, because it taught me a valuable lesson about delivering the message in the right way.
And as the founder of a pretty unique business where there doesn’t seem to be any roadmap to follow, it’s these learnings and lessons that I lean into these days more and more. I've realised that they saying of ‘learning from our failures’ doesn’t always need to be to the extreme. It can be these little faux pas that push us in the right direction.
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Our Athlete Sponsorship and Ambassador education and consultancy is delivered to businesses of all types and sizes. We're based in Brisbane, Australia but work all over the globe.
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