A structured approach to partnerships

A structured approach to partnerships

Sponsor partnerships are an interesting relationship: both parties are looking to maximise their benefits out of it, unlike most other relationships that are supposed to be selfless acts of giving on both parts. However, when it comes to great sponsor partnerships, it can feel like that if it is well considered and a natural fit. When individuals are seeking sponsorships that are entirely self-serving, the relationship can quickly become strained and untenable.

When I am looking at sponsors, whether it is for myself athletically, for my club to benefit my athletes or in business to benefit our members, there are a number of steps I take.


Firstly, I need to know a lot about the company that I am potentially going to be working closely with. What is their focus, are they actively engaged in innovation within their industry, what other partnerships do they have, what are they looking to achieve?

I find this though annual reports, marketing presentations, their social media channels and other desktop research. It is important that I know that they are a responsible, reputable company that will be unlikely to cause any damage to any of the brands I am representing (including my own!).


Once I have these insights, I look at my available assets; after all, we’re talking partnerships here, which involved both parties. This includes the obvious things like, how and where can I provide brand placement and visibility for them. But sponsors want, and deserve, so much more than that these days. They are looking for a true partnership that they can be invested in not just in financial terms. That means it is a two-way street. A good partnership should see each party leave that situation better off than when they commenced. For me that means in return for goods, cash or other assistance, I often provide my sponsors with contributions to their communications such as blog entries, presentations to their staff on topics such as behavioural change, motivating staff and creating high performing teams, or even working with them on developing their triathlon skills! It is about becoming part of each other’s business, and in turn sharing the success that comes from it.


Finally, no matter how big or small the relationship might be in comparison to other elements of your business, there needs to be a dedication to managing it. No sponsor has ever told me that I have given them too much! That means consistent communication, being early to let them know of an upcoming issue, sharing ideas to improve products or services, market intelligence and generally checking in on how things are going. Making sure I am upholding my end of the arrangement requires focus and a plan. I use a schedule for all my partners that includes when I am obligated to do things under our contract, what I need to make that happen, any inputs that I need to seek and also where more spontaneous opportunities may exist so I can be mindful of accessing extra benefit for them. This includes a full communication matrix across all social media channels, content creation deadlines, meetings, reporting and more.

This might seem clinical, even a bit scientific, but the reality is that a good partnership is worth working for. It shouldn’t be adhoc or casual. It should be able to be measured, reviewed and built upon. With all the other obligations we all have, a plan is essential to ensure everyone extracts as much out of the partnership as possible.

This post was written by MEA’s General Manager of Membership Services, Michelle Cooper. If you have a story to submit, please email us today.

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