Sponsorships

Komen, Planned Parenthood and Sponsorship

by Susan Zweibaum on February 8, 2012

Boy, did Susan G. Komen blow it last week.  When news spread of its decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, support for this decision and positive feelings about Komen dropped like a stone.  Every female friend of mine and many male friends lambasted them on Facebook and Twitter.  ABC’s The View had a raucous debate with only Elizabeth Hasselbeck showing any support for Komen.  Donations for Planned Parenthood went way up and Komen board members threatened to quit if they don’t reverse the decision.  Apparently, they did reverse the decision, or so it seems.  They are letting Planned Parenthood apply to funding, but that doesn’t mean they are going to give it to them.  Even more telling was that the person behind the decision and the new policy that resulted in the decision resigned due to considerable pressure from inside and outside of Komen.

Why, you wonder, other than personal feelings about the decision, is driving my writing a blog on this?  My reasons are simple.  If you are a sponsor of Komen, how do you react and what impact on your sponsorship decisions does this huge news story have?  Furthermore, from a crisis management standpoint, what would I have done if I was Komen?

Let’s look at the sponsors first.  My first reaction is that I am sure that most sponsors are not looking at all of the recipients of the Komen grants.  They are looking at the overall reputation of Komen and how the sponsorship can further their relationships with the consumer and the retailer.  They want to be a part of breast cancer awareness month because their target audience is women, 35-54.  They want to sponsor an organization that has strong relationships with retailers.  If they did pay attention to who the grants went to they would focus on the largest ones and apparently Planned Parenthood is not one of the largest.  Breast cancer awareness and breast cancer screening is not seen as a politically charged issue so it wouldn’t draw general concern from a corporate group.  Moreover, even if a company knew that Planned Parenthood was a recipient, they would most likely not see this as an issue as the funds are going to cancer screening, not politically charged issues such as abortion.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, how do these sponsors respond?  The answer is that it all depends on how conservative the company is and how they feel overall about the Komen sponsorship.  It comes down to two basic elements – how successful is the Komen sponsorship for the company and does the company feel that being a part of Komen will damage them with consumers in support of Planned Parenthood.  Most companies will stay away from the political mess.  They have multi-year deals with Komen and programs already planned for next year during breast cancer awareness month.  They can’t cancel the deals because of Komen’s decision.  So, not surprisingly most big sponsors have come out in support of Komen specifically, but avoiding any comments about Komen’s decision about Planned Parenthood.  They have made veiled comments about supporting all efforts regarding cancer screening that will not anger the supporters of Planned Parenthood.  Bottom line, the sponsors are going to sit tight as the negative publicity isn’t impacting them directly and continue on with their marketing plans.  Furthermore, I would guess that most consumers can’t name the key Komen sponsors as it isn’t apparent unless they are at a race or paying attention in store during Breast Cancer awareness month.  Since Komen has seemingly reversed their decision the sponsors have little to worry in the short term.  However, when it comes time for them to renew their sponsorship, they will have to assess if the Komen organization still gives them what they need.

 In terms of Komen and how they managed the crisis.  I would say their response was a mixed bag.  On a positive note, they did respond quickly and decisively.  However, their initial response did nothing to assuage the critics of the decision since it still appeared that it was politically motivated, at least as far as the media was concerned.  The resignation of the Vice President in charge of the decision spoke volumes on the political aspects of the decision.  Since the country is so polarized with anything to do with Planned Parenthood, they had to know they were playing with a political hot button.   Critics kept saying that something as basic as breast cancer screening shouldn’t be politicized regardless of what organization is doing the screening.  Komen was caught between a rock and a hard place.  To continue to hold ground would continue to greatly damage their reputation and standing and they were in danger of losing a number of key members of their board.  A reversal of the decision would also give them a black eye, but at least they would be perceived as listening to the critics.  The overall foundation of the Komen organization is to promote breast cancer awareness and screening and in the end they found a way to get back to those tenets.  Hopefully, most supporters of the organization will forget about this black eye and focus on the good things Komen does.

What is most interesting about this is the overall impact that social media had on the whole issue.  I highly doubt that Komen would have changed their minds if the social media blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter weren’t so virulent against them and the decision.  Social opinion changed their minds and they did it quickly.  Before the advent of social media I highly doubt this would have happened or happened so quickly.  It will be interesting to see how social media and public opinion changes other decisions organizations make in the future. 

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 This is Part Two of a two-part post.

Last week I issued the first half of this post where I spoke to how best to position your property with a potential sponsor and how to identify your prospective sponsor targets.  This second part addresses the actual sponsorship presentation and ways to make your presentation and initial introduction to the potential sponsor more productive.   If you haven’t read Part 1 or would like a refresher click here.

Take a Multipronged Approach to Selling

The obvious targets for selling properties are the brands themselves, but there are many other important influencers that you should consider talking to.  It all comes down to who is helping the brand teams make their plans.  These other constituents include the promotions or integrated marketing team and the brand’s promotion agency.  More often than not, the brand team provides the integrated marketing agency team with the creative brief to develop the big idea and execution elements.  If they have fallen in love with a sponsorship opportunity for some reason, they will then direct the agency towards that opportunity.  However, the more likely scenario is for the agency to present a sponsorship as part of a fully integrated plan.  If you haven’t spoken to the agency, then you’ll never be included.  Additionally, the alternative scenario is that you contact the brand manager and he passes you over to the internal promotions manager or the agency to filter and evaluate the opportunity.  In this case, be prepared to follow up with additional phone calls, especially with the agency as you are not their priority.  Persistence does pay off.

 Generic Presentations Are a Turnoff

This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves, second only to receiving sponsorship packages that have no relevance to my target audience.  As I mentioned previously, you must do your research and have an awareness of what the brand is doing in the marketplace.  Your sponsorship presentation should reflect that research.  Why is this sponsorship a good match for my target audience?  How could we activate it at retail?  Did you look at the website, and if so, how could it be integrated into the website activity?  Similar to resumes, you need something that is going to get my attention and help me connect how the property is going to resonate with my audience and help me sell product.  I have had people representing properties tell me they don’t want to waste their time doing this until they know the brand might be interested.  I totally get that, but a little personalization goes a long way to a brand considering your property.  Don’t forget to use my logo and spell my brand name correctly.   Managers don’t want to receive a proposal as part of a mass mailing.  It says you aren’t doing your homework and that just doesn’t sit right when most of the time the brand manager is spending a lot of money on the potential sponsorship.

 Don’t Ask What Our Plans Are or Who Our Target Audience Is

The phone conversation goes something like this:  “Hi, I am Joe Brown and I represent the “fill in the blank” tour.  Do you have a few minutes to discuss this opportunity?  So, could you tell me who you are targeting and the kinds of plans you have for this year?”  The answer will be that we don’t share our plans unless you are a partner.  I might tell them our target audience, but he/she has already lost me.  It’s a perfect example of a property not doing its research and being a weak salesperson.  One could argue that the salesperson is looking to engage me in conversation, but with limited time to talk, the conversation has to be a productive one, and this type of conversation will be more productive for the salesperson than me.

A Professional-looking Proposal is Important

You would think this is a no-brainer, but it isn’t.  For big properties and the agencies who represent them, this is second nature.  Then there are the others.  I have received two-page printed documents selling a car-racing team.  I have received emails with basic attachments for a beach volleyball tournament and a presentation that was nothing but a bunch of photos and some basic descriptions, but very little that told me what the benefits of the sponsorship were.  In truth, many of these small properties would benefit from a seasoned marketer to provide them with some guidance.  At times, I have provided them with feedback when they actually got me on the phone. Most of the time, these poor proposals end up in the circular file.  These smaller guys are really appreciative of the feedback as I get the feeling they are not experienced in getting national sponsors.

 No matter what you are selling, it takes perseverance and professionalism.  Selling sponsorships isn’t any different.  The reality is that those selling these properties have rarely, if ever, been on the other side of the desk and don’t have a real idea of what motivates the client.  Hopefully, this post provides some much needed insights that will result in a higher success rate.  Don’t throw the spaghetti at the wall because it really won’t stick.  Use a methodical and researched approach, and you will have a higher success rate with the results reflecting the effort exerted for each sponsor target.

If you are a property looking for some help or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact me at szweibaum@marketing-smith.com.

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Stop Throwing Spaghetti at the Wall: Strategies for Approaching Brands With Sponsorship Opportunities

June 16, 2011

This is Part One of a two-part post. The phone rings.  You look at the number and don’t recognize it.  You are desperately trying to finish a presentation your boss wants by tomorrow.  You decide to let the call go to voicemail.  At 5:35 p.m., you finally find time to listen to all 12 messages, […]

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