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Sponsorship marketing. Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’ve definitely seen it. From sponsoring local community events to internationally known sports events, brands are always looking for ways to get their product, message, or service in front of their target consumer.
But how do these events and brands connect? Look no further than Larry Weil, TheSponsorshipGuy, the expert on all things sponsorship marketing. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores what event producers need to know to get started and how to appeal to sponsorship brands.
Larry is a sponsorship engagement strategist and customer acquisition specialist for some of the nation’s most recognized brands. His mission is to increase the value and effectiveness of sponsorship for event producers, sponsors, and attendees.
Larry has bought and sold sponsorships for over 20 years ranging from the Super Bowl to Monster Trucks, and Tech Conferences to BBQ Festivals –and he’s likely seen every kind of sponsorship tactic and activation that events and brands use. His skills as an expert seller, negotiator, presenter, and strategist have connected him to many of the nation’s most recognized brands and properties –leading him to over $200M in sponsorship transactions and building a database of over 4,000 brand and industry contacts across trade shows and conventions, visitors bureaus, entertainment, and sports properties, financial services and tech –and fully digital properties.
Larry is considered an expert resource for media and has been quoted or featured on ABC News, SB Nation Radio, Sports Business Journal, Fox Business News, Eventbrite, and DIGIDAY. He is also a sought-after speaker and panelist and has presented at the International Congress and Convention Association World Congress (ICCA), City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA), and The Association of Fund-Raising Professionals, amongst others.
Question: You have a long and storied career of successes. How did you get here today?
Answer: Wow, that's a long story, but I'll chop it down. I kind of backed into it by accident. I had sold a company that I owned in Northern California about twenty-five years ago, and I was a trailing spouse, following my wife to AT&T in San Antonio. I started working on my MBA, and I got a call one day from a fellow who used to work for me, who is now the president of an event activation company, and he said, "Hey, can you do me a favor? I need somebody to go shop. My contractors up at the Texas Rangers." Not knowing his Texas geography very well that it wasn't very close, and I went up, and it was pretty easy to tell that they weren't doing what was hoped for. So, you know, if you're not there on time, that's a pretty easy check, and before you know it, he's like, "Please come work with us, you know, really help us out." And so I started about a seven-year career with passage events and promotions in which I initially took over operations and then kind of flipped into sales.
Question: When you're working with a sponsor company, how should they be actually setting up themselves for success? How should they? Does it start with the proposal? Does it start with the ideation? Does it start with figuring out how much money they need? Where do they actually start?
Answer: Well, even the big agencies make mistakes. Their materials may be more professional, but sometimes their activation isn't as strong as it could be. So where I always start, and this is really the core of what I do is, a company that has a property that, in my opinion, could provide substantial value for, I want to say, a segment, you know, of types of companies in terms of their marketing, and so on. Then I sort of dig in and find out what they have and how they've been presenting it. And you're right most of the time, the problem is how they're telling their story. A lot of these properties, you know, do have something, but it's not completely there yet. So what I always start with is, I say, if I was an attorney, we would call it discovery, right? And surprisingly, a lot of these properties have not really done discovery on themselves, and very often, they think they're unique. "Oh, we've got this special way of doing a virtual conference that sponsors are going to flock to us." You're competing, and this is really important for them to understand. You're not just competing with other people who do exactly what you do, You're competing with anything the sponsor thinks will advance their business, and if they think going out and getting a bunch of billboards is going to be better than doing your event, that's what they're going to do.
Question: What is the better approach? What should these companies be doing who are looking for dollars because they're never going to be able to actually do their event without having them?
Answer: The approach I like, and it is the downside of it is it's not fast, but because a lot of people come to me and I automatically have to decline working with them because it's, you know, six weeks until their event. It's just that, you know, there's a timeline for big brands to work with, and that's not it. It might be next year, but I like to try to create inbound inquiries. That's how my business works. So if you can, you know, if you've got a good media team, a good PR team, you know, good blog access, that kind of thing, I've always found that brands anybody would rather buy than be sold. They love ideas that are their own. They're reading a trade magazine, and they go, "Oh, look at that. This looks awesome. This is Giant Food Festival is happening, and we got to be there," and then they call you. I always say the best call from me always starts with, "Hello," you know, rather than trying to get through the gatekeeper, who more and more is just their voicemail now because nobody answers the phone. It's very rare for anybody to answer the phone.
Question: Larry, what advice do you have for those who are really hoping to sell their property to brands?
Answer: Get out of your own head. It's the old can't see the forest through the trees so often. That's the most common issue people have. They're working so hard on their own property, and if you have an event, it's a lot of work to put together an event, and then sponsorship gets treated as a little bit of an afterthought. Of course, you know everybody goes. "Oh, we can sell on tickets, but we could get sponsors." That's a whole other stream of revenue, but they kind of throw it together like, "Oh, yeah, here you go. You'll get banners, you'll get this," and yeah, sure, you can sell, you know, booths or ten by tens to vendors and things, but the big money, you know, is going to require more thoughtful consideration about how you do that outreach. And so I say, don't treat it as an afterthought. It could be, you know, an extreme, a big difference maker. Sponsorship can make the difference between whether you break even or you're fabulously successful. So give it the time it deserves. I think that and whether that's studying, whether it's hiring somebody on the outside, there are people who have training about sponsorship, hiring your own internal person, just, you know, educate. If you're not educated, find to find a way to learn more. If you don't have time to do that, hire somebody who knows how to do it. Whatever those things are, but treat it as a serious part of your business as you do your own market.
Larry has so much great information from his experience as The SponsorshipGuy. Check out the podcast below to learn more about sponsorships and events!
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