Does anyone have any experience of attracting a sponsor?

(Robert Maaye) #1

Hi All

I’m new to the community so forgive me if this question has been asked already!

I manage an online community for sports coach UK called ConnectedCoaches that’s for coaches of all sports and backgrounds. We’ve been going for about a year now (released to public August 2015 but invite only 3
months before) and I’m just in the process of submitting a 4 year plan to secure funding for the community to continue past the project review point.

Central to that plan is securing a long term sponsor by the end of the four years… so I’m interested to see if anyone has any experience of attracting sponsorship for their community and if you would be willing to share
your experience?

I’ve got a fairly comprehensive list of things we could offer a sponsor (without compromising the community) but I would also be interested to hear what kind of things you offered outside of the standard web banner adverts?

Given the potential and the vision we have for the community my hope is it would be a yearly 6 figure sponsorship…so if you know what kind of monthly website visitor stats I would need for that please do share! (BTW fully aware I could be deluded about this aspiration! J)

Look forward to reading any replies!



Introduction - New Member & Support Questions
Does anyone know of (or run) a successful community that charges for membership?
(Sarah Hawk) #2

Welcome @robertkmaaye – it’s a great question and it definitely hasn’t been asked before.

I’m also really interested to hear what experience others have in this area. It’s not something that I’ve done before.

(Richard Millington) #3

Hey @robertkmaaye we haven’t ever attracted a six-figure sponsor. That number seems REALLY high on an annual basis. I hope you get it but I’d be surprised if you do :slight_smile:

I’d also be very worried about being so reliant on a single sponsor. A bad year, bankruptcy or plenty of other things could sink the entire project.

More realistic is putting together a small group of sponsors at the $10k to $15k level each. We’ve done this for some of our projects in the past. You can see our event sponsorship proposals for example. FeverBee_Sponsorship_July-2015-hires.pdf (5.9 MB)
hey create.

The key thing (as you note) is to create a broader package beyond just advertising placements. So we have the packages listed above but we rarely use them as they are. Usually we reach out to a group of prospective sponsors to find out what their goals are. We want to be REALLY specific about this. For example, it might be awareness. Some vendors have recently moved into the online community space and need to be among the ‘considered set’ of platforms when organisations begin their process. That terminology is quite important. We’re not trying to persuade anyone that they should buy the platform, but instead contact the platform so they can do their selling. Or it might be pure reach…just increasing familiarity among as many people as possible. It might be depth. They have a new feature and they want to make as many people aware of that feature as possible. Sometimes it’s leads. They want to collect as many email addresses as possible. Sometimes it’s specific people they want to target etc…

This lets us laser focus our final proposal upon the exact needs of the sponsor. So don’t blanket approach people. Find out exactly what their goals are and cater to that.

Couple of tips here:

  1. Go to other organisations in your field that sell sponsorships to the same group. Download their advertising and sponsorship packages. Pretend to be a sponsor and request as much information as possible. Learn their sales process.

  2. Package up as many things as possible. For example, we let sponsors have a stand at our events, host a mini-session during lunch, give a short talk, host a join webinar, speak at their event etc…but you might also let them run a focus group, have sponsored articles, run surveys/polls etc…You have to draw your own line here. For example, event attendance is only around 200 or so people, but thousands more might want to watch the videos of the event or access online information for free. So we agreed a deal with Salesforce to sponsor our event videos which were downloaded by more people than attended our live event. Live streaming would also have been another option.

  3. Be obsessive about getting them results. In my earliest communities, I used to think I was doing the sponsors a favour by letting them access to my communities. That was dumb. Now I’m a strong believer in being obsessive about getting them results. Nothing builds a relationship quite like mutual success here.

(Jennifer Zowada) #4

Hi Robert,
I have worked on sponsored communities in the past at the $25k range and typically had 5-6 of them. “Without compromising the community” is key. Sponsors can take up a lot of your time as a community manager and you really need to monitor their interaction with the members, content (making sure it’s not too salesy) and if you plan to provide leads you need strict rules on contacting them. Remember, although they are a sponsor, the members are your first priority. Some of what we offered (and it varied by sponsor) logo placement, quarterly webinars, monthly blog, group sponsorship, directory placement and table top at events. As far as stats, I think it depends on the community and the perceived value to the sponsor. Set the expectation up front based on actuals and as always, under promise and over deliver.


(Darren Gough) #5

Really good advice from @Jennifer_Zowada.

The other thing to mention leading on from that is that members can be VERY prickly and sensitive about sponsors that aren’t seen to play fair or by the rules. It’s important to have some sort of house rules for sponsors up front, almost like a code of conduct, to adhere to but also make the point that members (in my experience) generally respond much better to sponsors who answer questions, spend time, build relationships and actually will end up defending them to others and buy services or products because they trust them. This takes longer, which a lot of sponsors don’t like / try and force, but the long term results are almost always better for all concerned.

Sponsors who come on to shout about how great they are usually get a negative reaction.

(Robert Maaye) #6

Thanks for all this @richard_millington …an awesome reply!

Yes I did think it was high! It was partly based on a senior figure within the organisation with sponsorship experience believing this would be doable and the perceived potential attraction of a sports coaching based community with massive potential (at least ‘massive potential’ is what the Mumsnet representative said at our table at the FeverBee conference a year or so ago!) to a sponsor. Granted they would seriously have to buy into the vision we have for the community as the stats don’t add up at the moment!

Completely take your point on being reliant on a single sponsor though. We wouldn’t ever tie in the community’s future to just one more contributing a percentage of the yearly annual budget to run it and us contributing the remainder. My problem with splitting it up is I don’t think we would be able to provide enough value to more than one but it’s given me something to think about how we could go about it as we grow where that might be easier. More sponsors for
smaller amounts certainly feels more realistic as well! I 100% intend to tailor the offer specific to organisations goals/needs and plan to consult a few prospects at the appropriate time.

Thanks for sharing your pdf and some great tips (I will 100% live by 3!) they’ve given me some great ideas to add to our package!

Really appreciate you taking the time to reply in such
depth…it could prove very hand when showing people what they had in mind might not be realistic!



(Robert Maaye) #7

Thanks for sharing your experience @Jennifer_Zowada …some great advice!

100% agree the “without compromising the community” is the crucial thing. The time aspect has definitely been on mine (and my directors) mind. I’m hopeful if we were successful getting the kind of sponsorship we want then we might be able to hire someone else to ease the load!

Thanks again


(Robert Maaye) #8

Really like the idea of this ‘house rules’ @Darren_Gough and of sponsors spending the time and building relationships with members. Hopefully we are able to attract some willing to invest the time!