Finding sponsors is an intimidating prospect for any recreational cricket club. Most clubs are run by volunteers whose skills lie in other areas. Raising money for a club or club colts/youth section through sponsorship is crucial to the survival of teams but most clubs have no idea how to do it.
That's a big barrier to success.
Jon Dixon, organiser of the first International Beach Cricket Festival in Weymouth, has experienced the challenges first hand and has come up with some major name involvement: Sky, Red Bull, New Look, Flicx Pitches and cricket magazine All Out Cricket. That's an impressive line up.
Especially considering Jon is not a professional fund raiser.
While he used to be a Commercial Manager for a living, everything he is doing for the festival is in his own time: A similar situation to most cricket clubs and their colt sections.
I asked Jon how he did, hopefully you can get some tips to take back to your club and raise much needed funds. While stressing he is not an expert and can only speak from experience, he agreed.
Cricket Club Sponsorship
A sponsor is a person or business willing to donate money for various reasons. Knowing these reasons will help you understand the motivation behind sponsorship. This is important as it is very rare to get sponsorship or donations for no reason. If you know what your potential sponsors are looking for you will be in a better position to offer what they want and get what you need:
- No Strings Attached Donation. Rarely seen, these types of sponsors will donate money for a project will no reciprocal arrangement required. As you can imagine, this is very rare and not usually worth chasing.
- Community Driven. This sponsor has strong links to the local community and wants to be involved in what is happening in his area. They may be interested in a number of projects ranging from kit sponsorship to assisting in improving facilities around the club. Instead of money, these sponsors will probably donate materials or cash for very little return.
- Interest in the Sport. These are individual or businesses that love cricket and wants to assist in its development at your level. Typically these sponsorships come from people already involved with the club in some way.
- Commercial Enterprise. These are the easiest sponsors to target. Deals will almost certainly involve some form of reciprocity in return for their investment. Finding a sponsor like this needs good research and no fear of rejection. The chance of success is small, but the rewards are the greatest.
What Can You Offer?
The question most sponsors will ask themselves is a simple one: "What's in it for me?"
This is perhaps the most crucial question in getting sponsorship. If you get this wrong, sponsors will be very unlikely to do business with you, even in the smallest amounts. If you get it right, they will be biting your hand off.
Most sponsors respond best to a professional approach when answering this question.
The secret to this is to create a business plan.
How To Write a Simple Business Plan for Sponsors
A good business plan does not have to be complicated. Most people can write one, as long as you cover the details potential sponsors will be interested in. You can structure the plan by answering these series of questions:
- Who is asking?
- What is the purpose of raising money?
- Who will benefit?
- How much are you trying to raise?
- When do you need the money by?
- What benefits are there for the club by being sponsored?
Once you have answered these questions you can move onto the big one: What can you offer in return for sponsors money and/or resources? There are 2 main ways; all the applicable ones should appear in your business plan:
- Advertising. This might be names on shirts, programmes, boundary boards, newspaper/radio coverage, calling your pavilion or team after the sponsor, or specific sponsors events. The latter a great way for sponsors to feel they are part of a professional organisation that is going somewhere.
- Corporate Hospitality. This could be tickets to special events, your end of season presentation dinner or even the chance to present trophies at these functions.
You may think of more ideas than are listed above such as brand awareness or some other participation in the club or club project. The key point is this: It is vital that you have something to offer and that it is listed in writing. If you get this part right then half of your job is done!
How To Find Sponsors
Once you have your shiny business plan in hand it's time to find people to send it to. This is called finding your market.
This can be split into:
All clubs have a large pool or potential sponsors waiting: the companies your members work for. Speak to your members even if they don't hold the purse strings but don't expect them to do the work. Get the information and telephone the organisations yourself to discuss your idea. If they are interested, email them your plan.
Businesses can also refer you to other interested companies who supply them. Try to find out who they use. For example, Jim works for an engineering company. Discussing a project with Jim's boss not only got his interest, but he also gave me the contacts for two of his suppliers.
You can also do this in places you frequent. Where do your members drink regularly? What brewery do these pubs use? Where do you shop?
Be prepared to ask and pass on your business plan. If you think about it you know more people than you probably are aware of. However, most people don't ask. Why? Because most people are frightened of being told 'no' or are worried that asking may affect their relationship.
Half of the art of obtaining sponsorship is to believe in what you are doing. If you have good news you want to tell people about it. And having a strong proposal to back you up means you are not going into a negotiation unarmed Remember that many businesses get approached by hundreds of people a year for this kind of thing. You have to have something that is attractive, catches the eye, and has most importantly some attraction for the businesses you are approaching.
You can use similar tactics for bigger companies too. Where you don't have a contact you can still make a shortlist.
- Look for companies that sponsor cricket now.
- Search online for contact details.
- Work out how your project can tie in with their business.
- Make contact and offer your proposal.
Negotiating With Potential Sponsors
Remember the biggest hurdle to negotiation is not even trying. Sponsors rarely come to clubs with ideas. The onus is on you to approach as many people as you can think of. Don't fear the rejection, it is a natural part of the process. For every acceptance you are going to get rejected many times over. This is not a personal rejection but could be down to anything:
- Business not going well
- Budget already allocated
- Had a row with the wife before coming to work
- Traffic bad on roads
- Doesn't like cricket
I am sure you can think of loads more, but I want to give you a case study: For the beach cricket festival, we quickly realised that we would need an artificial wicket, stumps, balls and kit for the teams. Our club had tentative links with a number of manufacturers. I telephoned RAM International and discussed the idea with Mark Ilott (Essex/England). Mark is supplying all of our banners, kit and will make money from us via the sales. In return, Mark is going to play in the tournament for one of the amateur teams, we are giving RAM International a full page advertisement in our match brochure, which Mark is writing an article for. We are also putting Mark and a colleague into a hotel for the duration of the tournament and feeding him at a local Indian Restaurant (built into sponsorship agreement with the Indian Restaurant).
In addition to our dealings, Mark has put me in direct contact with Flicx UK and we are now exploring more marketing opportunities there. Mark has also been down to Weymouth for a site visit and donated a Nasser Hussain signed bat and shirt for us to use as we wish.
What is so important about the above?
- Negotiations have a give and take element for both parties
- We both get what we want out of the deal
- Trust is built up between both parties
- We get further referrals for business
Contact and communication is vital.
To prove this I asked Mark's permission to write this case study before doing so. The take home message is simple: be prepared to work hard to get sponsor s and face rejection on the way. When you start getting success, work with your sponsors so both sides get what they want, even if it is in an unconventional way.
Sponsors are hard to get. Do not lose them by failing to look after them. Honour your side of the agreement. Keep them informed on a regular basis. Give them credit for what they have done for you. Get them involved in what you are doing. Remember if you lose a sponsor you have to find another one. A good sponsor can help a club/project for many years to come if you treat them right. If in doubt ask yourself this: How would I like to be treated if I was a sponsor?