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Golf Tournament Marketing...Greed is Good

Tom Pasha

There was a young boy who decided one day to open a lemonade stand. Like sot kids, he had h mother mix the leonade, he buil the stand, bought out a chair pitcher, cups and l the equipment he'd need to sell lemonade. When he made the sign, he wrote...


“Lemonade… $50!”


His mother asked him, “ Junior, are your sure your want to sell lemonade for that much?  I don’t think you’ll sell much at all.


The boy replied, “But all I have to sell is one!”


Selling Sponsorships can be very similar to selling lemonade.  You can either sell lots of minor sponsorships at reduced rates and make a small amount of money, or go for a large group or company that can spend significant money to become the Super Sponsor.  The Super Sponsor can be the name sponsor, or one of several companies who want particular attention paid to them by your golfers or the public.


If you are currently filling your sponsorship sales of tee-signs, pin-flags and the basics, it may be time to consider selling the tournament to a Super Sponsor.  A Super Sponsor is a company or organization who would be able to commit to and write a check for at least 50% of what you currently make on your golf tournaments in sponsorships.


The numbers work like this.  Typically, your expenses for a tournament should be no more than one-third of your budget.  (If you are spending more than a third of your income on expenses, you have to increase your fees or become a better negotiator.)  With that in mind, if your tournament currently clears $10,000, a Super Sponsor is that company or group that for an additional $5,000 net, or $7500 gross will want to have their name as the Title Sponsor or co-sponsor of the event.  Signing one title sponsor grows your net from $10,000 to $15,000, a huge increase for your charity.


Signing the sponsor is the single most important task you have as a planner.  A key strategy in getting the support needed is selecting the right Sponsorship Committee.  To make the $10,000  discussed above, you need to gross $15,000; if you have 5 members on the Sponsorship Committee, each member should be able to generate $3000 in sponsorship sales.  That becomes your baseline budget and goal. 


In addition to the Sponsorship Committee, the high-priced sales should be left to the Sponosrship Committee Chairman.  In sales, the ability of selling to the president is a developed attribute, either by a salesperson with no reluctance to call a top executive, or by a committee chair who is a top executive.  Either way, the Committee chairman should approach the Super Sponsor the way a high-ticket sale would be conducted in the corporate world.


Now that you have recruited a Sponsorship Committee and a chairman, it’s time to design the Super Sponsor program.   For each level of pricing, your sponsors should receive a corresponding amount of access to your golfers.  Some items might include a display booth at the tournament, their name on arrival signs, a brief speech at the awards presentation, a list of the golfers to receive thank-you cards, an invitation for the following year and other items.  Be sure to add the “Super Sponsor” items and costs on a clearly-written sponsorship agreement that the sponsoring company can sign.


A good first step for a Super Sponsor effort, if you are running a fund-raising tournament, is to check to see if you can qualify as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit charity.  If you prefer, you might join forces with a national fund-raising effort that already has exempt status to increase sponsorships overall, save on sales taxes in many states and offer a tax-deduction to your sponsors.  Be sure to check with an accountant for the tax rules in your state.


The best part of a Super Sponsor sale is that many times, you can double your money by asking two companies to share top billing over the name of the tournament.  As long as the two companies are comparable in size and non-competitive in the market, you can sometimes sell the name sponsorship twice.  A regular stop on the southeast fundraising schedule is the Hyatt/ Delta Invitational in Greenville, and the Westin/ Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.  Many times, a Super Sponsor will even ask you to book another company as a co-sponsor and may have a contact at that company.


Now that you have a committee, a chairman and a sponsor program underway, selling the Super Sponsor is easy, and you might organize it similar to the parts of a golf swing:  The Grip, The Stance, The Swing and The Follow-through.


1) The Grip: The Grip, as in golf, is the foundation for a good swing.  In sponsorship sales, this step is how you locate companies or groups who can sponsor your event.  The best place to start is by asking your current sponsors if they’d like to increase their sponsorship.  To find good sponsoring companies, you might ask the pro at the golf course for a recommendation.  Try calling a local non-competitive charity to see who they’ve had success with.  Also, a good source of area contacts is on www.bizjournals.com, in the Book of Lists section, that lists the top companies, with the name of their executives, in every industry in your market.


2) The Stance: The stance is how you approach the sponsor.  It’s important to treat the meeting like your most important client, because it is! 


Call to set an in-person office appointment with the Sponsor. In all likelihood, you won’t get through on the first try and you will be intercepted by The Gatekeeper, whose job it is to prevent you from getting through.  Be sure to get his or her name, and set a time when you might have a call or personal appointment with the executive.  Sometimes they will ask for an introduction letter—be sure to send that out immediately, and you’ll be far ahead of other groups looking for support from this executive.


3) The Swing: This part of the sale occurs when you actually speak with the executive about sponsoring your event.  This part can be done over the phone, or ideally in person, and rarely over e-mail or letters.  The Sponsor sales person should focus on the features and benefits of sponsoring a tournament, and be sure to ask for a commitment. 


4) The Follow-Through: Again, as in golf, good follow-through is critical.   Make sure you deliver everything you promise to your sponsors.  From the tee-signs, to presenting a check to a representative of the charity, be sure to under-promise and over-deliver value to your sponsors.  You want other companies to vie for the Super Sponsorship and for your current sponsor to value their sponsorship and return for a multi-year commitment.


Selling the Super Sponsor is very similar to any high-ticket, relationship-building sale.  For the Super Sponsor, you’re asking for a major financial and corporate commitment, ideally one that benefits both the sponsor and your charity.  Adding a Super Sponsor sales program might be the next step to taking your tournament to the next level.

Tel: 407-891-2252 | Fax: 407-891-6428 | E-mail: tpasha@contactplan.com | www.contactplan.com

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