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Hiring the Right Sponsorship Team

By Paula Beadle

Are you considering making a change in your sponsorship sales management or adding a new team member in the coming year?  I recently facilitated a round table discussion at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) conference on the pros and cons of managing sponsorship efforts with internal staff members vs. hiring an external agency. Before you decide on an inside or outside approach, give some thought to these questions to help determine your current needs and scope of work:

1. Do you have a sponsorship plan?

A sponsorship plan sets revenue goals for the coming year, identifies target sponsors and highlights the path to reach these goals. Whether an employee or a hired consultant takes on the plan development, it’s completion must be part of the process. Establishing clear expectations and a measurement for success is critical to your efforts.

2. Are the goals and expectations clear?

Are the goals of the organization around sponsorship clear to everyone? Have the expectations of the sponsorship department been clearly communicated?

3. Do you have enough resources?

Sponsorship sales is a team sport, not an individual one. Don’t count on the sponsorship manager to handle every step in the sales process and execute every sponsorship program. You need to provide resources to support a robust effort that will require the involvement of other departments.

4. Is there unwavering internal support?

Don’t make the mistake of launching a sponsorship sales initiative and then be unwilling to provide the assets or resources needed. If you want to see an effort unravel, veto an agreement that’s been negotiated or don’t deliver what was promised. The leadership team must be fully onboard before setting sail to direct the teams support.

5. Are the assets valuable and plentiful?

The first step is to identify the assets available and the potential value to a partner. Also be certain you are willing to provide those assets to sponsors. If you are unsure, stop and reconsider the initiative.

6. Is sponsorship currently meeting your objectives?

Are you partnering with the right sponsors, increasing revenue and developing programs that meet your long-term business objectives? Sponsorship programs should support an overall business strategy beyond just sponsorship.

7. Are you maximizing the opportunity?

Sponsorship programs are multifaceted and often complex. Are you providing value to your sponsors at a fair market value?

8. Are your current sponsors happy?

If the attrition rate is beyond 25 percent, or sponsors are expressing disappointment, it may be time to make a change. Job no. 1 is to understand the concerns so you can assess the experience and skill level needed.

9. Is your revenue increasing?

Given the landscape of sponsorship spending nationally, if your year-over-year sponsorship revenue isn’t on the rise, that should be a red flag that you may not have the right team.

10. Do you have best practices and a sales process in place?

If a sales process and internal systems are not in place, be prepared to grant a new team time to implement best practices to improve efficiencies.

If you answered NO to more than five of these questions, it’s time to do something different. The right person may already be in the job and a departure is not necessarily the answer, but something clearly needs to change. These are tough changes to make without new players involved. It’s important to evaluate why the sales effort isn’t currently successful or meeting goals before deciding which path to pursue.

If current goals are not being met, consider hiring a full-time staff member to lead the sponsorship effort, hiring an agency or consultant to sell sponsorships, or a combination of both.

Given the nature of Caravel’s business, you may be thinking I am about to suggest you hire an agency or consultant. Nope, I’m not. An external team is not necessarily the right solution for every business. I’ve outlined a few pros and cons of each option here. In many cases, I’m an advocate for an internal team with support from an outside resource until you can answer each of the above questions with a resounding YES.

Let’s assume you’ve made the decision to either build a new team or rebuild your current sponsorship initiative and you need to determine which option will best suit your needs. To help guide your decision making process, here is a simple pros and cons list to consider. It does not consider everything, but it will get the conversation started.


Full-Time Staff Member
ExperienceExpense regardless of results
Knows how to get things doneOther projects
Builds relationships internally and externallyDay to day
Identifies opportunities for growthLimited view
Lower investmentTransactional
Agency/Consultant Representation
High level of expertiseLevel of investment
Contacts and relationshipsSponsor has limited relationship with sponsor
Reduces FTE expenseExpensive +/- 25%, long term payment
Proven sales processProblems with activation/onsite management
Staff resourcesLacks consistent communication with staff
Quick resultsNot building long-term relationship
Combination Internal and External Resource
Outside perspective, internal knowledgePotential expense
New sponsors, ideas, connectionsTypically no day-to-day manager
Staff executes programs and builds relationshipsRequires solid internal process
Sponsors are directly connectedRequires strong communication and relationship
Organization more involvedChallenging to manage


Regardless of your approach, hiring and retaining the right person will be the single most important factor to your success.

About the author: Paula Beadle is the president of Caravel Marketing. She is a results driven trailblazer with a proven record of creating order out of chaos. By developing and managing innovative sponsorship initiatives, generating incremental revenue, and successfully coaching thriving teams, executives and boards, Paula has helped numerous organizations discover and achieve their goals.