OFF THE PITCH: Sponsorships – Follow the Money to Find the Money

What are the six steps to identifying sponsors for your organization?

This week’s “Off the Pitch” column by Ruth Nicholson outlines the steps to identifying prospective sponsors from the founders of X! PROMOS, the marketing and sponsorship experts from GO!. Ruth is an internationally-certified facilitator and the founder of GO!, the go-to expert resource for youth sports governance, operations, and coaching survival.


by Ruth Nicholson

Sponsorships are a business tool that clubs can use to create incremental revenue to support their programs. For sponsorship relationships to be successful, sports organizations need to identify businesses that can directly benefit from their membership. Sometimes this benefit is in direct sales of products or services. In other cases, it can be value in terms of influence or community presence. After you have developed a list of prospective business sponsors for your organization, you can build a contact list and create presentation pitches for specific sponsors.


So how do you develop a list of prospective sponsors?

  1. Designate a person to work on sponsorships

It doesn’t matter if this is a staff person or a volunteer. However, the efforts of your organization will be more effective if you designate a lead person for this work. A central point of coordination enables tracking of activities and progress with specific sponsorship prospects in a coordinated fashion, as well as ensuring that the key messages and marketing points are consistent across presentations and communications.

Since work on sponsorships can be a time-consuming job, it will go much faster if you designate a lead person who has experience or currently works in marketing or sales. They are more likely to have the skills and access to tools and networks to make the process go smoother.

  1. Know your membership

Gather information on your members using your registration process, developing new participant forms, or creating a membership survey. Develop a profile that identifies the characteristics of your player families. Where are their favorite places to shop? Eat? Be entertained? What are their hobbies outside of your sport? How many children are in your families? What suggestions do they have for businesses they frequent that would make good sponsors for your organization?

  1. Examine your community and geographic area

Examine where your player families live. Where are team training, games, and special events held? Within that geographic area, what are the likely places your members visit regularly? Are there favorite spots to stop before or after games? What other places and businesses are within the community that attract your members?


  1. Where does your organization spend its money?

Think of all the business services that your club or organization already uses, such as banking, office leasing, insurance, utilities, and Internet services. Consider leveraging your existing business relationships for sponsorships. If your existing vendors are not interested in becoming a sponsor, their competition might be!

  1. Remember the equipment

Vendors provide your club with uniforms, coaching and fan gear, bags and backpacks, training equipment, and field equipment. You may already have a sponsorship agreement in place for some of these items.

Before you sign off on the next sponsorship deal or renewal, take a closer look at the agreement and negotiate added value for your organization. Consider requesting additional gear to use for tournament prizes or gifts for “people of the month” awards for players, coaches, or volunteers. Expand sponsorship access, such as sending a special offer to your entire membership, as a way to negotiate for additional sponsor dollars or discounted goods. Many vendors have more leverage in value adds than in incremental discounts, so use this to your advantage when working with sport-specific suppliers.

  1. Think Business-to-Business (B2B)

Expand your circle of prospective sponsors to include larger partners who may want to reach your membership for business purposes. For example, if you have a major company in your community, and many of your parents work there, consider what businesses would want to be engaged with their families. It could be the company itself or a supplier who wants to protect their interests with that major company.


Once you have identified a list of prospective sponsors, evaluate them by asking key questions to identify the best to approach first.

  • Is a company or business that we are comfortable promoting?
  • Does this company already do youth sports sponsorships?
  • How strong is the connection between our members and this business?
  • Does this business have a personal connection to our organization? Is the business a fan of our sport?
  • Can our organization do direct business with this company?

Ruth Nicholson is the founder of GO!, a 24/7 Resource and Training Library offering youth sports organizations proven leadership and administrative tools. It includes resources for financial health, including a unique sponsorship series of documents and training webinars from the founders of X! PROMOS whose track record of successful experience spans youth clubs up to and including Major League Soccer (MLS). To hear a replay of a sample sponsorship webinar that a participant described as “pure gold”, click here: Secrets to Finding Your Perfect Sponsor.

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