Grassroots sports sponsorship can be a win-win solution for both business and clubs or organisations but it invariably takes perseverance, an understanding of how sponsorship actually works and a willingness to be flexible.
Here’s our own guide to cricket club sponsorship, hopefully it fires up the grey cells, inspires and motivates in some small way. Whatever size of organisation you are, the possibilities are endless…
What is sponsorship?
In a nutshell, it’s support whether financial or by giving goods or services for an activity, event, individual etc.
Most people will have an inkling of what sponsorship is in its broadest terms but getting to grips of what’s expected, what to steer clear of and tips to succeed are all outlined below.
Type of sponsorship: cash or in-kind?
Not all sponsors will want to give financial assistance but could be happy to offer in-kind sponsorship: i.e.) goods or services instead. Your cricket team or club will need a blend of both ideally; your local community is a ready-made assortment of skills and expertise crying out to be tapped into.
It makes little sense to accept money with a view to spending that on say mending a pavilion roof if a roofing company in your town is on hand and willing to be a sponsor and offer their expertise at reduced cost or perhaps entirely free.
In-kind sponsorship often appeals more from a commercial aspect given the assistance can be done ‘at cost’ – namely what the seller paid.
Remember, local is often best. That’s not to say that sponsors from further afield have any less merit or value but supporting your local community and working with them should always be part of what grassroots sponsorship is all about.
It’s also a logical starting place but don’t be afraid to think big, you never know where it might lead if you’re ambitious and professional.
When to begin? Timing isn’t just important out in the middle…
A forethought first around timing with cricket sponsorship at grassroots level. A cricket club ostensibly is operated by committee and will have its particular mode when it comes to decision-making around matters such as commercial considerations.
Just because a club might be quiet during the winter months and only perhaps start thinking about cricket in January or February (this is a general point; many will be active and plugged into their communities all year round), don’t expect businesses to act the same way.
If you’re hoping a company will part with their hard-earned money to support your grassroots endeavours – whether a new mower or a new pavilion – start the process early.
Companies have budgets sometimes planned many months or years in advance so get your planning kickstarted for the next season during and just after the current one.
First things first: Start from scratch
A canny starting point might be to find out the ten most expensive outlays for your cricket club and make a commitment to reduce those costs or gain monetary or in-kind sponsorship in the following year.
1. Start from scratch. Whether you have established sponsors on board or are just setting out on this particular journey; re-evaluating annually could throw up some questions or perhaps opportunities.
Don’t just do what you did last year. Aim higher, brainstorm and come up with new ideas and just as importantly, pick apart existing sponsorships: what went well, is the sponsor happy, what would work better?
2. The worst thing a cricket club or grassroots organisation can do is to go to businesses, cap in hand, and ask for money with no plan on how that partnership will work. Some companies will give money with little or no expectation in return; this is patronage really rather than sponsorship.
Instead, begin by thinking carefully how you might benefit a potential sponsor. Yes, I did get that the right way round. In order to do this, assess your own club’s assets. Think like a business.
It’s staggering sometimes how a collection of professionals of all walks of life will come together with a shared love, weekend cricket perhaps in this case, but then park that collective knowledge, expertise and contacts at the pavilion door.
Who are possible sponsors?
When thinking about a potential sponsor, draw up an initial shortlist of 10-20 companies. Walk your local High Street, assess businesses with a critical eye – are they a good fit with your cricket club and can you envisage being to offer something tangible in return?
Grassroots sponsorship remains, despite economic woes in recent years across the UK, of real potential benefit to companies. Being seen to support local sporting, community-based, initiatives, teams and projects is excellent PR.
With larger companies, they may well have a very specific corporate social responsibility policy; find out what that is currently. Think of it as a start of hopefully a long-term business relationship. Cricket clubs are run almost exclusively by unpaid volunteers with a passion for the game.
That means putting in extra legwork, often around existing work commitments and busy lives but it’s worth it.
A cricket club has any number of assets; partly dependent (but not exclusively so) on its size, budget and facilities. The greatest asset any cricket club has is its people. If you thinking of attracting a sponsor like a pub or brewery, there’s obvious benefit to them if all those club members use it socially.
4. Groundwork before even talking to a sponsor is essential. Whether it’s a new company or an existing sponsor you’re hoping will renew, take the time to find out what they’re up to; look through social media, news online and their website. Forewarned is forearmed, after all.
Knowing what the company is up to in their own business shows the sponsor you’ve been pro-active and offers that initial conversation.
Assuming you have an idea of possible sponsors; drawing up a professional sponsorship proposal is next. Again, think like a business. The company may only scan this, given typical time pressure. That’s no reason not to prepare it meticulously.
Sponsorship proposal: How to sell yourself…
A sponsorship proposal is a sales document of a kind and should include:
– Brief background on the club; its teams, facilities, location (think of how this will be read and interpreted; cast yourself as the sponsor – how impressed would you be?)
– Sponsorship assets and costs (from team kit sponsor to ground sponsor and Club handbook)
– Benefits: not the same as the asset. So, a shirt sponsorship is the ‘asset’ but the fact that your team plays ECB Yorkshire League cricket, has a ground attendance of 500 and features weekly in the Cricket Paper are the benefits for a sponsor.
Defining what your sponsor’s expectations are both in terms of budget, time and cost means a cricket club can think about how best to achieve that.
Meet; talk, understand…
Sending a proposal by post and email isn’t pushy; it’s smart. Think of it as a job application. You wouldn’t send a CV then wait for the job offers to come flooding in. The reality is you’ll have to work harder for that end result and sponsorship is no different.
Offer to meet at the sponsor’s offices or business premises. You’re making the effort. This is easier said than done given most involved in recreational cricket work but that’s how the cookie crumbles.
Don’t try and fit a square pen in a round hole. Shoehorning a sponsor into something that works only for the club isn’t a great start. Though while acknowledging that, there’s always room for negotiation.
Discuss, compromise and again understand your sponsor’s business needs.
An inevitable part of the process, don’t be downhearted. Be flexible. It might be the timing isn’t right for that company but they might be open to doing something in six months.
Perhaps they can’t afford your top-level sponsorship package but are happy to go into your Club Handbook. Make a note to keep in touch and nudge them later.
Right. You’ve got the confirmation you wanted that your club has secured a new shirt sponsorship for 2014. Excellent. Job done, eh? Er, no, actually the hard work starts now….
- Deliver what you promised
- Do something extra and unexpected: a signed shirt; organise a Sponsors Day or try and get your sponsor some press coverage
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Building relationships with your sponsors will be appreciated and improve the chances of renewal.
The most common and most damning criticism of those seeking sponsorship is any assumption that getting the money or goods/services from the sponsor is ‘job done’.
Don’t drop off the radar the moment that cheque arrives, it is absolutely the worse thing you can do.
Invite your sponsor to matches; do they want to play or perhaps someone at the company might be interested?
Organise a Press Day; involve your sponsor as much as their time allows and you will reap the benefits.
Hat Trick of Extra Resources…
- The England & Wales Cricket Board have a comprehensive Club Support area online with sponsorship and marketing guidance.
- Talk to your County Cricket Board – the Yorkshire Cricket Board (YCB) has experience in helping clubs and through their Cricket Development Officers in North, South, East and West Yorkshire, there’s a localised contact too.
- Sponsorship research and expertise externally – that might be additional research online or approaching a sponsorship agency.