Creating a Sports Sponsorship Deal

The development of a sponsorship deal is nothing more than a basic sales process. In any sponsorship situation, there are potentially three parties. First, the property, which is defined as a team, league, or event, is almost always on the selling side. On very rare occasions a property will purchase sponsorship of another property, as was the case in a recent deal between the Lowell Spinners, class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and the stock car of amateur racer, Jessica Coulter. The second party, the corporation is always on the buying side. Finally, an agency can negotiate and execute a sponsorship on behalf of either a property or corporation. The presence of an agency does not remove either of the other two from the equation; in fact many deals are done through a collaborative effort of all three parties. 

Roles in the process vary slightly in each situation, but each and every deal has the same five steps:

  1. Prospecting – This first step involves a great deal of research and discovery. The primary task is to identify potential targets for sponsorship.
  2. Propose and Pitch – Once a company or property has expressed interest, the sales team from the property or agency develops a formal proposal. This proposal goes through a series of several revisions before a face to face meeting is set up between the senior level sponsorship, marketing, and consulting personnel.
  3. Negotiation – If the target company is still interested after reviewing the proposal, the two parties will commence a series of negotiations over the terms of the deal. This is often the most difficult part and is where many deals reach a breaking point. To ensure success, a sponsorship team must have a good grasp on the target company’s objectives and have the appropriate tact and flexibility to customize the deal to the sponsor’s liking.
  4. Execution – The sponsorship team works together with marketing, media, and ticketing operations to ensure that all aspects of the sponsor’s rights package are executed. Other aspects of execution include fulfillment of on-site sports event promotions, and media (TV/radio).
  5. Analysis and Renewal – Before the deal reaches its end, the property must prepare a proposal and pitch for renewal. The most important thing the sponsor will want to see is some sort of demonstration that the sponsorship was successful. This can be a measurement of awareness done through fan polling, or a calculation of on-site impressions (number of times the sponsor brand is perceived), sales, participation rates in promotions, etc. If the property is able to show the sponsor that the partnership has resulted in real business value, it will have a much easier time renewing the sponsorship.

Regardless of whether sponsorships are being bought or sold, or managed by a property, corporation, or agency, the hierarchical department structure is essentially the same. The only difference is the department’s name. Properties – teams, leagues, facilities, and events – typically refer to sponsorship sales as business development or corporate/marketing partnerships. An agency’s role in sponsorship is called consulting and/or activation. A corporation prefers event, sponsorship, partnership, and/or sports marketing. Examples are as shown below.

Vice President of Business Development
Director of Business Development/Business Development Manager
Account Executive
Account Coordinator


Vice President of Consulting
Director of Consulting/Account Manager
Account Executive
Account Coordinator


Vice President of Sports Marketing
Director of Sports Marketing/Sports Marketing Manager
Assistant Marketing Manager
Marketing Coordinator

Read on for a discussion on sports sponsorship jobs in each of the three areas, along with a listing of the major players and tips for your search.

Sports Properties