Sports, sponsorship, corporate partnerships, sports business
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Sponsorship sales advice during COVID-19

by theClubhouse team
November 17, 2020

There's no doubt that if you're a sponsorship salesperson in sports right now, both doing deals and retaining deals is a tall task. Lucky for you, we have some fantastic sports industry leaders that have shared some advice for you below. Hope you find it to be valuable and best of luck to all of you out there!

Casey Dellapenna – Director, Corporate Partnerships at the Miami Heat

I think you really need to lead with heart and empathy now more than ever. With marketers having to deal with a whole new set of COVID-19 related issues (layoffs, furloughs, budgets down, etc.) I’d recommend that new relationships be built on a foundation of caring and, now more than ever, empathy towards their individual situations.

Dylan Glickstern – Director, Business Development at Integrity9 Sports & Entertainment

Now is the time to be really creative. Brands are looking for new and unique ways to engage their customers since traditional hospitality options aren’t available, so ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to pitch something new.

Joe Wetzler – Global Partnership Sales at BSE Global

My advice would just be to stay persistent (not pushy) and be flexible. Things may take longer to get across the finish line, but relationships with brands can still be developed and strengthened during this time. With the potential of no fans in arenas/stadiums, pitches for 2021 will look different, but it’s also an opportunity to get better in areas like digital, social and virtual fan engagement.

David Braun – Head of Sales & Marketing at Glushon Sports Management

I would suggest being laser focused on what you can offer (talent/property), rather than what you want to achieve. The world is changing and becoming even more digitally driven, so it's extremely important to be able to effectively communicate your services to advertisers/partners.

Tyler Potts – Sr. Manager, Partnerships at the Los Angeles Rams

For me, right now the best advice I have to give is spend this time “planting seeds and growing.”

Plant seeds with prospects with a hand written note. Plant seeds with ideas on how to improve your processes to be more efficient with your team. Grow your relationships with prospects/current clients. Grow your skillset through reading more books, podcasts, seminars. Grow your knowledge of your product, market, fanbase. The sellers who spend this time planting seeds and growing will be the ones who reap the benefits in the end.

Tricia Johns – Account Executive, Disney Advertising Sales

I think the key word right now in sports sponsorship sales is flexibility. Our clients want flexibility written into their terms, which allows them to be more nimble in this time of uncertainty, when our major seasonalities and events are shifting back, getting paused, or being truncated all over the place. Clients want assurance upfront that they'll be able to pivot if need be, and that might come in the form of shifting their flight or their budget across different sports/properties and even across channels (TV, social, digital inventory).

Internally, our production and editorial teams are being empowered with flexibility as well, as the sports headlines might look very different with each hour. They're not always final scores and highlights these days. So, if I were to give any advice to a sports sponsorship sales person, it would be to position your offerings and capabilities to be as resilient to change as possible, and to be in lockstep communication with your clients and agency customers so you can be collaborative in solving for unforeseen challenges.

Sarra Serhane – Manager, Corporate Partnerships at the Detroit Pistons

Now’s the time to hustle and make things happen. Good sellers can sell when things are “normal” – great sellers can sell despite everything working against them. It’s important to be incredibly creative, flexible and nimble as we continue to navigate the uncertainty at hand. There is so much value that sponsorships can provide partners despite the potential of a fan-less scenario. Be confident, work hard and trust the process!

Brandon Tholen – Director, Business Development at Real Salt Lake

1- Keep moving

2- Life is about assuming risk

There are people out there who want to talk. There are people who want to do deals. It’s very easy to be afraid or to be insecure about making the ask right now but you have to keep moving forward. Now is a time to get creative; think outside the box. Push yourself and see what you are made of because I guarantee that it is more than what you think it is.

Additionally, life is about assuming risk. The risk is…do you stay or do you go, do you ask now or do you wait….is whatever the action is going to be worth it? No one is going to be able to answer those questions except for the individuals themselves. Once they get to a mental state where the current circumstances are no longer adversely impacting their confidence, assume the risk, and keep moving forward. Risk is risk. Some obviously hit us harder than others but whether it be COVID, a new owner, a new boss, or the many many other life circumstances that come our way, we are always going to have risk. It’s not a matter of us learning how to live with risk, it’s a matter of risk learning how to live with us.