From the Magazine: Where’s the money? See the reasons you’re unable to get sponsorship

 by Aziza Uko

Why do most young people fail in their quest for sponsorship? You’ll be grateful you read this!

Every Nigerian must have at least two reality TV show ideas. In sponsorship, nobody is out to help anybody. It’s about all commerce.

A plan is not a house. A calling is not a ministry. A recipe is no cookie. And an idea is not a property.

 “AZIZA, PLEASE I need your help.”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“I have this idea, I need sponsorship.”

I have had this dialogue countless times, I’ll estimate, with thousands of youths. I worked in a public relations function for an organisation that was serious about sponsorship. We spent billions of naira annually on our marketing communications. We were a very visible brand focused on retail market. When it came to communication, we were a big dog. So, of course, with the visibility came a torrent of sponsorship requests.

It is from that job I derived the theory that every Nigerian has at least two reality TV show ideas. They may not have them written down anywhere or may not come up with a fancy proposal for sponsorship, but at least two hardcore ideas for a reality TV show have crossed everybody’s mind and those ideas have been thought about deeply or even discussed with a friend.

A bulk of the requests for sponsorship were matched with a letter of decline, but a good number were invited to make a presentation to our team. It hurt me to see young people with great ideas struggle to get their message across.

Thankfully, at some point, I led the sponsorship function and I had the freedom to include in my schedule what I always wished I could do – teach!

To be more effective, I made Thursdays an open day for all people who wanted to make presentations. So, each Thursday, I got a good number of young people with great ideas who needed money to match it into a room and this is what I told them.


Sponsorship is cold-hearted calculation

Yes! Forget about the do-gooder benefits of sponsorship to the organisation. If you are looking for someone to pity you and give you some money to make your dreams come true, run to mum and dad. Sponsorship is not Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

There’s a big distinction between the two of them. Sponsorship budgets are used to drive the marketing objectives of the organisation. So it’s treated pretty much the same way as advertising money; it’s just that the marketing matrix differs.

IEG defines sponsorship as, ‘A cash and/or in-kind fee paid to a property (typically sports, entertainment, non-profit events or organization) in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that property.’ and a property as, ‘a unique, commercially exploitable entity, (typically in sports, arts, events, entertainment or causes).’

In sponsorship, nobody is out to help anybody. It’s all about commerce.


Be original, but not too much

Many are so consumed by the quest for originality that they lose their way completely. It’s important to ask the question, “Is there anything new under the sun?” Most platforms have been explored by those who ran before you. Is there any need to re-invent the wheel?

Talent hunt of all kinds, for instance, have been done. Specifically, singing talents hunts have been done before. And guess what! There’s a world’s leading TV brand in that category called Idols. So, when a young person comes to me and says, “Aziza, I have this idea for a singing talent hunt for TV,” my immediate question is, “Something like Idols?”

You would think that the most common answer would be, “Yes.” Sadly, it’s “No, something different.”

While differentiation is the essence of brand creation, it never hurts to simplify your audience’s decision-making process by referring to the champion in your field and saying, “I am just like him.” Immediately, your prospect gets a picture of who you are because she’s familiar with the world’s leading brand in your field. It will save everyone, including you, a lot of sweat.

There’s a reason why #1 is #1. It makes sense to respect that. He didn’t become number by chance or luck, he became #1 because he did many things right. It’s a fatal error to be driven by a blind quest to be different that you step away from everything that’s great about the leading brand in your category. When you do that, you end up picking up redundant or discarded ideas and combining them with untested ones and might likely end up with an awful and unsellable phony of the real thing.

For a man in no place at all, you have nothing to lose by copying the leader.


Businesses don’t sponsor other businesses

So many times, I have seen proposals that belong on the desk of a venture capitalist or a loans officer on mine. If you have a great product or a great business idea and you need funding to get it out the market, there’s no money for you in the marketing communications purse. Forget about it. There are no shortcuts in life; you have got to go get funds for your business like every other entrepreneur and let go of some of your equity or some profits by way of interest payments.

This is true even if what you want to do would have commercial exploitation benefits to sell to a sponsor e.g. a TV station or a new kind of phone or a new website. You have got to have a property that holds value before you can successfully sell it to a sponsor.

Remember our definition of sponsorship and property.


Two is better than one

I believe that the biggest impeding factor in the quest for sponsorship is fear. There’s so much paranoia in the sponsorship circuit about having one’s idea ‘stolen’ that so many ideas land on the sponsor’s desk without any pruning whatsoever.

This is the way ideas go: they fly with the wind. It’s been proven that many people think the same kind of thoughts within a certain time frame. Ideas are the cheapest thing to find. Everybody has one. In fashion for instance, isn’t it amazing that a certain season opens around the world simultaneously and designers from Beirut to Lagos-New York to Milan come up with the same ideas? How does that happen?

When you are laying down on your bed, awake at night, looking at your ceiling thinking of doing your own version of ‘Top Chef’ or ‘Project Runway’ be rest assured that you are not alone. Possibly, at that same time, awake with you, thinking the exact same thoughts, are hundreds of others.

The lesson: Submit your ideas to people you trust and believe in. So that your assumptions can be challenged, your focus sharpened, your idea made better. That way, a refined product makes it to potential sponsors’ tables, increasing your chances.


Till you do something, you really have nothing

A plan is not a house. A calling is not a ministry. A recipe is no cookie. And an idea is not a property.

The race is not about who has the best idea, the race is about who gets to the market first. So, don’t hang around with your idea tucked in a safety deposit box in your lawyers chambers complete with a trademark seal and copyright stamp. While it’s locked up there, safe and secure, you may just turn on the TV and see your ‘idea’ showing on TV and you are not the creator.

Do what it takes to exit your idea from the realms of thought to the real and tangible where it can be measured and bought by a sponsor.


Control freaks end up alone

Ever wonder why professionals in sponsorship use the word ‘buy’ to describe sponsorship? It’s because that’s what it is, a buy decision.

When you accept sponsorship money, you are actually selling your property to the sponsor for an agreed period. For a TV show, it could be a season, for a sporting event, it could be for the entire tournament. 

Whatever the agreements are, if you don’t want to let go and start using the words ‘we, us, and our’ instead of ‘me, I, and mine’, you are getting nowhere with sponsors.

Most young people in the search for sponsorship act like they did with their parents while in school, “Mom and Dad, I love you so much. I need money for all kinds of things. Thanks, you are the best. … Don’t bother visiting me in school, I am doing fine. My grades are fine too, no need for you to check them. Just give me the car I need and lots of pocket money. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Hugs and kisses. Love you!”

Sorry, sponsorship relationships don’t work that way. You have to be willing to foster partnerships to get a sponsor who would back you up. This leads me to the last and perhaps most important.


Sponsors are people too

A lot of people blame their failures on their lack of contacts. “If only I know a ‘big man’ in the company, I will get the sponsorship I need.”

That’s the worst kind of impossibility thinking. It produces only regret and failure.

People run things. Find out what the people want, not in terms of bribes but in terms of value. Approach people with respect. Don’t try to force your idea down on other people. Listen to them, ask questions and be interested in the answers.

Respect for people and their own ideas will take you further in life.

I thought I was done, but there’s one more thing.


Don’t try to game the system

It doesn’t work. Don’t send out different figures to different organisations based on what you think will be their budget or appetite for your kind of property.

The people who take decisions on sponsorship are professionals and the mark of professionalism is information sharing. They talk!

Organise yourself.  Put your sponsorship matrix together – you’ll need professional help with this; get it. Be consistent with your communication and presentation. You can personalise the ‘soft’ aspects of your proposal, but the hard facts and figures should be consistent.

Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the desire to sign up a sponsor that you get desperate and under-price your property. Be firm and confident. People like that. Y!


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Comments (15)

  1. Hey Aziza, do you still blog? i mean, hope you haven’t stopped sharing wealth such as this with the several that are seriously hungry for such wealth as this one, gosh, how i have searched and combed the internet just for half the wealth you thrown in here. When i first came across your blog, i read the first paragraph and then had to do something on my computer, and unfortunately i had to do a restart, i dint remember to bookmark your page. but even whilst i was offline, i dug through my history from over 8 days, found your page, and kept it till i had the convenience digest it… i’m glad i did.

    And where are you coming from Buki? are you a Nigerian at all? are you a serious goal getter at all? I don’t mean to diss you or anything like that, but if really you say you’ve done a tonne load of work and got discouraged with what Aziza had to say in here, then you’re most definitely in the category of those actually being sent the warning signals.

    Common, lets give it up for this positive minded Aziza. you really made my day. This might seem just another blog, for me, its not just another blog, this is healthy knowledge, and i’m printing this one for my team mates to go through. We do have a project in mind, and we’re getting to the marketing aspects of our framework, this has really come in at a fix-the-knot-in-time moment for us here.

    Great work Aziza. God’s grace.

  2. Hi Aziza, you succeeded in discouraging me immensely, now I know how not to give advise. In a bid to sound blunt and experienced, you come across as the condescending, I-know-it-all guy who wants to show off his knowledge… makes me wonder too, how many ideas you’ve sought sponsorship for and actually succeeded at. Ideas rule the world you know, don’t pour frigid water on people’s excitement! Its already a tough country to be in and creativity should be encouraged…
    Btw I’m not some lazy folk seeking pity, after tons of hard work and endless research, bumping into ur article left me somewhat empty…but thanks for the bitter truth, I guess the patient needed it!

  3. Thanks Aziza Uko. Certainly this piece of knowledge will helps anyone anywhere looking for sponsorhip. There are a lot of wisdom hidden in this article. Thanks again 🙂

  4. At first when I saw the name Nigeria I almost didn’t click on it , you know why, but after clicking on it I am so happy and appreciative that I did, this is real good food as well as advice. It comes at a time when I am planning in doing a show call Sudden Surprise. Blessings to all.

  5. I am satisfied with this of info and please may I know if I can share with you my own opinion. I have a reality tv show written by me and I am still searching for a good sponsor and also can we work together on this?

    1. Sorry I lost my mind. This are my locations UK bristol , Nigeria Abuja. +2347080604009. Thank you.

  6. I also do have a business plan already do get in touch with me so we can discuss about it 08181738284 from lagos

  7. Hi, Ikem i saw your comment. What i think, the story or comment is a good one but all must come out of your passion, that is what you have passion about or like to do. That is the only way you can be truly successful you will be happy with yourself. Even if big organisation do not sponsor your programme, if you belief in it. it will stand and if you are able to give your time to God you will stand. Last think i will say is that give your self to lots of thinking, bring out new things, new idea, new creation. Nigeria youth i know we owns the key to greater future of this country. Don't give up!!!

  8. nice piece, i liked any other parts of this article except, "be original but not too much".., for starters, telling our youths to not be too original is like telling them to rip-off and duplicate and then, get caught in trademark or copyright infringement in the run-up to their ideas. As a design director for creative start-up that started on hard knocks by merely selling ideas to companies, that is no brainer. Companies definitely want newbies to proof their business worth and how?, by showing how fresh and original your idea is despite making a commercial case for it as well.I don't see why you'll get sponsored by giving MTN a knock-up version of project fame..,they'd better stick with what they have.We built our name by selling all sorts of ideas to big clients in marketing,product devt, and even events.. by making the ideas breath new experience fro user and customers.. you can never go wrong by being original..the lesson we learnt so far..thanks

  9. This is quite insightful. Simple but uncommon wisdom for creative minds.

  10. This insightful, simple but uncommon words of wisdom for creative minds.

  11. Great Piece. Educative and eye opening. Never thought of sponsorship in this way!

  12. Wow! This is no doubt the most educative write-up I've read on Ynaija. I'm surprised I've not seen a flood of comments following it. I thank Aziza for sharing her wealth of experience, it's appreciated. I wish I can contact her to learn more on this topic. I'm definitely sharing this ASAP.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail