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Many teams and clubs have been lost to the pandemic, so it couldn’t be a more crucial time for grassroots clubs and business owners to find a way to thrive through sponsorship. We spoke with Mark Covington, CEO and Founder of SNAP Sponsorship…

Tell us a bit about SNAP Sponsorship, how did you come to be and what inspired you to start the platform?

I started SNAP whilst volunteering at my local club. We were undergoing a big clubhouse facelift and needed a cash injection to get the work done. At the same time, I was working for a company involved in the construction of the 2012 Olympic site and I saw first hand how sponsorship was being carried out there and thought we could learn something from this. I noticed that, at my club, year on year we were having to go out to new businesses because we weren’t managing our sponsors right and they left as fast as they came. Furthermore, we were spending a fortune on print to produce sponsorship brochures which weren’t gaining us that much traction. 

Myself and another club member founded SNAP to run the sponsorship of the club, we ended up quadrupling the sponsorship portfolio and retaining those sponsors. We quite soon realised that the issues we were having at our club weren’t isolated to our club, but it was actually a national, probably even global issue. 

We made the SNAP platform with the 200,000+ grass roots sports clubs in mind and quickly had success in Rugby Union, securing 10% of all the grassroots clubs in the country. So, in 2019 we went multi-sport and despite a small setback in the way of Covid-19, managed to gain amazing traction in other sports, particularly football. Where we are now working with nearly 50% of the county FA’s, it’s been amazing to see football welcome SNAP with open arms.

What advice would you give to volunteers when starting out with sponsorship? Or, just picking it back up after a year’s hiatus? 

Funnily enough, we actually just posted a blog about this.

My first bit of advice would be to re-engage with your existing sponsors. In the last year, different industries have been hit in different ways, so sponsors’ business objectives may have completely changed. My suggestion would be that you ask your sponsors “As we emerge from the pandemic, how can we help you?”. Retaining an existing partner is easier than securing new ones and I think there’s often a tendency to want to secure new sponsor after new sponsor, when really the emphasis should be on retention and the potential up-sell, reducing the churn of our partnerships and delivering on our sponsors investment. Which leads me on to my next point:

When it comes to securing new sponsorship, SNAP likes to refer to the three pillars: The first being an upsell to our existing partners, the second being with our members and then finally new business. 

Regarding our members, particularly for larger clubs, it’s impossible to know who is lurking in the ranks of our audience. Maybe someone started a new side-project in lockdown and is looking to increase sales, or one of the mums in the under 9’s is high up in corporate, you just don’t know. By putting forward a well thought out sponsorship proposal (or SNAP Page) we have a good opportunity to show our members that sponsorship is more than just a donation and could actually help their business’.

With new business all we need to think about is adding value to our audience with business they will actually want to hear from. This is as easy as looking at your monthly direct debits and spending habits, seeing where you spend your money, and the likelihood is that your members spend their money in similar places. Local mortgage brokers, energy providers, local garages, greengrocers, butchers, estate agents and solicitors. Your members already spend their money at these places but probably all at different and competing businesses. If you as a club are able to bring on these sponsors and show them, if they’re seen to be supporting the club the likelihood of the members switching to them rather than using a competitor are higher. Particularly if the sponsor offers members a small incentive such as a 5% discount. It’s really that simple, but how you position yourselves to these businesses is crucial. Sponsorship isn’t an ask for some quick cash, it’s showing that you are willing to work with the business to ensure a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.

How have you designed the platform to make it streamlined and efficient for volunteers to use? 

SNAP does away with the need for a costly printed brochure and in addition to the obvious cost saving, allows clubs to be really flexible and reactive. Opportunities can be updated or changed quickly to make the most of competitions, mini festivals or charitable events which pop up quickly. At the same time, the platform auto-updates meaning there’s no danger of double selling, if something is purchased by a sponsor, it disappears to the outside world but stays within the back end for clubs to add activations or tasks against. 

SNAP’s social sharing tool allows volunteers to get their sponsorship to market using their own channels. We have thought of the words for them, decreasing the need for the volunteers to have previous sales experience, and by using social media we are bypassing potential gatekeepers. Going straight to the hands of a potential sponsor or a member of their marketing team. 

We have created a negotiation and contracting tool which makes it easy to professionalise and formalise any potential partnership. Once the deal is signed, any tasks or activations go into the management system. Here we can assign tasks to the right member of the committee for the job as well as stay on top of what’s needed to make the sponsorship relationship run smoothly.

In addition to the tech side of things, every SNAP member gets their own account manager, a human being at the end of a call or email. We understand that not every club has tech-wizzes and although SNAP is as easy to set up as a facebook page, we provide the account management service to ensure no club, league or team is left behind.

What are the benefits of sponsorship for both sports clubs and their local businesses? 

Sponsorship of grassroots clubs by local businesses remains a marketing investment and therefore needs to be justified like any other expense. It is a really cost-effective way of achieving the same results as multiple campaigns across multiple channels. Buying print, digital, sampling activations and the rest separately would be far more expensive than in a sponsorship package.

In the context of grassroots sport and local businesses sponsoring teams and events gives those businesses positive exposure. This can lead to increased sales, heightened brand awareness and customer loyalty.

What you, your team and club get out of having a sponsor is obvious: money, goods or other material help, and stronger links with your local community.

Sponsors will most often contribute financial means that can be invested in uniforms, travel costs, equipment etc. But there’s also the less obvious: one of our clubs, Woodham Mortimer, being a one team club, they really want to increase their membership size. A priority for them is growing their junior membership. Woodham secured a multi-million pound freight company as a sponsor and it was obvious from the outset that this company wanted to be involved in projects that benefit their employees and local community. The team at SNAP advised them on how to leverage that relationship effectively. Woodham went back to them with an idea about running free cricket taster sessions for all employees’ children and relatives. Helping meet the sponsors objectives of being involved in community projects while also helping Woodham grow their junior base. And that’s what sponsorship is about, all parties benefiting.

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