Sponsorship sales is a hard concept to grasp. The benefits tend to be ambiguous and intangible, and too often become something that’s just hard to explain. Just like most marketing teams, sports sales pros are left selling a vision. They’re painting a picture of what could happen this season, based on a probably-accurate forecast of their key-players.

On a theoretical level, most everyone buys into the importance of the intangibles. It’s a sponsor’s ability to borrow a property’s image and tap into a team’s audience loyalty that gives them a way to differentiate themselves. And it creates an avenue to actually influence attitudes and change consumer behavior.

But it’s hard to translate the understanding of the benefits into real dollars and cents. And sure, having a team on the rise can help conversations, and sometimes make it easier to get a prospective partner on the phone. But it doesn’t lock in a sale.

No longer can properties use a one-size-fits-all approach to sales. Sponsors need more. We need to create long-lasting (and renewable) partnerships. 

The Corporate Pie is Increasingly Small

Despite what people think, the phones aren’t ringing off the hook with companies begging sports teams to take their money. Even the most successful teams struggle to lock in renewable partnerships.

Partnering logos are starting to pay close attention to fan data. They care more about social reach and how a property’s business strategy grows an audience than ever before. Sponsors want to engage fans and find out how they can report data to justify a spend. So properties have to create unique experiences while proving value.

Michael Lake, who heads up corporate partnership sales for the Indiana Pacers, said the real struggle is finding unique value to add into every partnership. “It’s understanding the right mix of elements and benefits to drive the impact each individual partner is looking for,” he explained. “With an individualized approach, the success rate is higher and we’re able to offer our partner a tailored path to own.”

Every deal has its own formula for success. Plans need to be malleable. And we need to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes to see what success looks like through their eyes – no matter what happens with the team’s record.

Lake has redesigned the Pacers’ sponsorship strategy to focus on hyper-customized plans that don’t hinge on the team’s performance, but rather measure the sponsor’s impact. By finding new ways to put concrete metrics to otherwise intangible benefits the NBA team can nurture each partnership. 

Using Email Signature Marketing to Create New Value

Partnerships are motivated. The proposal is offered and an investment is made. But then what? What are the mutual expectations? How are you going to create ownership for the sponsor? How can you over deliver on expectations?

Lake took a page from hundreds of other successful marketers and implemented email signature marketing to create new value for corporate partners. He’s used the channel to promote ticket sales for nearly a year, but in the fall of 2016, he worked with designers at Sigstr, an email signature marketing application, to put his Opening Night game sponsor, Kroger, into their clickable call-to-action banner for the October tip-off. 

In six days, the Pacers + Kroger campaign was seen on every 1:1 human email sent from the 175 implemented employees from the sports property. Because of the subtle exposure in every email, they raked in 53,000 views and 228 clicks from an audience hand-picked by the NBA team. Fifty-three thousand views, in six days.

And that’s not even the best part (although I think we can all agree it’s pretty great). What’s more, though, is the campaign was measurable. The Pacers were able to tag the link between the investment and corporate KPIs for Kroger and bring back concrete returns. They were able to see, in real time, when their campaigns were viewed and interacted with, which gives properties – and sponsors – more visibility and control through the entire engagement.

Numbers Matter

Having the metrics available immediately prompted Kroger to sign an agreement, on the spot, to retain sponsorship for Opening Night in the 2017-18 season.

“We were able to show them the exact number of impressions on each email, and to use these metrics in tandem with the various other places we were highlighting their game night sponsorship,” Lake said. “It was a huge, quantifiable value for us – and for them!”   

You might not be an NBA franchise holder or sales director, but there are lessons to learn from their story. What the team did in opening a new distribution channel that created a tangible benefit for their partner can be applied in almost every industry.

3 (Other) Ways to use Email Signature Marketing in Corporate Partnerships

With more and more (and more) digital channels introduced into the market, it’s hard to make sure your team’s most important initiatives are conveyed broadly to your audience. And then once your messages are out, what are you doing to make sure they’re noticed and actionable? How can you surprise and delight your partners to build trust – and ultimately increase ticket sales?

Employee email has been a pillar in the marketer’s toolbox for ages, and it’s really no wonder. 

Employees at any given company send, on average, around 10,000 emails a year. That’s 2 million 1:1 human emails for a company of 200. And what do all of those emails include? An email signature.Click To Tweet

Here are a few ways to use your employee email signature as your next value-add for corporate partnerships:

1. Direct Audiences to a Micro-Site

Modern marketers must build a process to offer help and information to attract buyers, said my friend Jay Baer in Youtility. One way to do so is by creating a microsite for your sponsorships. And then direct clickable CTA banners to the site.

The goal of any microsite is to segregate itself from your main corporate page. It’s looking to provide a separate experience for visitors. And it removes unnecessary distractions so you can focus on the sponsor, the visitor and your ticket sales.

Bonus: You’ll be able to provide real analytics with tangible benefits for your ticket sales and for your sponsors.

2. Promote Ticket (or Event) Sales

Does your property host other sponsored events, maybe concerts or even conferences? Use your email signature to promote ticket sales. This slice of digital real estate is delivered to a hand-picked audience in every email sent. It’s a painless way to engage recipients. And it’s actionable, so recipients know what to do and how to do it because you made it easy.

3. Check in on Social Media

Customer attention is so fragmented and online channel proliferation is too real. So instead of directing your audience to your own team site, point them into engaging on social media instead.

If you have a game sponsor, they’re likely all over your social accounts anyway. So inject a clickable banner that makes it easy for your audience to reach a sponsor-filled Twitter or Facebook page. Then you can track the metrics and use the exposure to increase conversations. Plus, it creates targeted brand awareness for the partner to tap into your team’s loyal audience.   

About the Author: Dan Hanrahan is the Founder & CEO of Sigstr