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Swipe Right: Sports Properties Should Sharpen Their Matchmaking Skills

Multiple recent conversations with brand-side marketers have reinforced the idea that one of the most valuable benefits rights holders can offer their corporate partners is making introductions and helping them forge relationships with potential business customers, clients, etc.


This entails more than merely providing them with suites, tickets and other hospitality assets so that they can entertain customers and prospects. It means actively reaching out to businesses within the property’s sphere of influence—other sponsors, vendors, investors, community members, etc.—and directly connecting them with your brand partners.


As Chris Mead, CMO of global insurance broker and risk manager Gallagher, said during a panel discussion I hosted, “If the property can’t quantify for us the other companies they know that would benefit from having us as their broker—and how they could facilitate that—then we can’t do that deal.”


Beyond simply sending introductory emails, best practices in opening doors for your partners with other businesses include:


Showcasing experience as a customer. In those cases where the property is also a customer of the sponsor, the rights holder can promote the company’s products and services through testimonials, providing information for case studies and, when applicable, inviting a prospect to see the partner’s services in action at your venue, office, etc.


“When we are thrilled with the work a company does for us, it’s authentic for us to recommend them to others,” said Alex Seyferth, the Cubs’ vice president of corporate partnerships. “Our partners doing business with other partners is great from our perspective.”


Hosting a sponsor summit. Although many rights holders regularly bring their partners together to hear the latest developments at the property, networking among sponsors should be at least as high a priority as delivering updates and showing off facilities.


Summit organizers should be proactive in setting up meetings between partners. As part of the registration process, share the list of attendees with the group and ask each delegate to identify, in priority order, who they would like to meet with on site. Once you have facilitated the pairings, reserve time during the event for individual meetings to occur.


An additional way to encourage networking among your sponsors is to designate time for "speed dating” sessions during a summit so that each partner gets to meet face-to-face with all the other partners, even if just for a few minutes.


Creating a vendor program. Once a standard model for partnerships involving retail partners and the products that sell through them (or want to), these programs are seeing a resurgence, most notably on various pro golf circuits.


The simple premise is that brands are always seeking ways to build relationships with retailers to gain distribution for additional SKUs, obtain better positioning and displays in store, earn greater placement in retail media, etc. One way to do that is by paying for a retailer’s sponsorship.


The property can broker deals between a supermarket or other retailer and some of the chain’s vendor brands. The retailer gets a free sponsorship in return for creating promotions featuring the property and the vendor partners; the participating brands receive a boost from the promotions and stronger ties to the retailer; and the rights holder earns partner revenue from the brands and is the beneficiary of the retailer’s in-store and other activation efforts.


Regardless of the mechanism used to facilitate connections between partners, or to encourage other companies to do business with the property’s partners, rights holders can make themselves invaluable to their sponsors and ensure long-term relationships with them by playing matchmaker.

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