Peanut Butter and Jelly

Sounds good, huh?

I love me a good Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. What's not to like? Peanut Butter, good. Jelly, good. The two working together, goooooood (insert Joey's voice when eating the trifle that Rachel made for Thanksgiving).

First and foremost, I must give credit where credit is due.

My former colleague with Comcast Spectacor, the legendary Bob Schwartz, would use this analogy when leading various workplace meetings, seminars, or simple "rah rah let's win one for the Gipper" rallies, except he would use Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to paint the picture and simultaneously whet our whistles. I've decided to make the change to accomplish two goals: 1) Avoid totally plagerizing Bob, and 2) Show that you don't need to be a big company making a seismic change in philosophy, you can be a individual simply opting to make a small change for the better one day.

You see, Bob was the company's VP of Marketing (overseeing an army of "marketers") while I was a VP of Partnerships (overseeing, along with my colleagues, an army of "salespeople"), and far too often we found our respective divisions butting heads.

"The Sponsor is paying tens of thousands of dollars to have their brand's message included in the communication for that event"...the "salespeople" would say.

"Our fans don't want their timelines cluttered with ads from sponsors. It's going to lead to people not "following" us any more...said the other.

Who is right?  

This is an all-too-common occurrence within many properties in the Live Sports & Entertainment industry. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have seen this type of back-and-forth in my 25+ years.

Being on the "sales" side of things early in my career, I was admittedly sitting on one side of the table. I couldn't comprehend how the person wearing the marketing hat couldn't understand that losing a few followers, if it even happened, is well worth keeping a major Sponsor happy. Then, as I aged and my career matriculated into more of a leadership role whether it be leading overall business operations for a professional sports team or being a member of the senior leadership team for a major Venue Management company, the "bigger picture" came into view.

It couldn't just be about what my end goal was as a sales person. It needed to be about what the overall organization's goals were.

Now, in our industry, 99 times out of 100 (and I'm probably low-balling), the organization's overall goal is to maximize net revenue. The thing is, there are LOTS of ways to get there. It's not just about selling sponsorships. It's also about attracting and engaging fans who then buy tickets and then buy food and then buy a hat that they give as a gift to someone along with some more tickets and the cycle goes on and least that's the plan...and a lot of that plan depends on strategic marketing.

That said, despite the tentacles that a property's marketing department sends out into the world, it can't treat Sponsors as second-class citizens or take the attitude that a Sponsor should "be happy" that they're associated with the property. Let's face it, revenue generated from marketing efforts is oftentimes indirect or trickledown and is very difficult to quantify whereas revenue from a Sponsor is direct, easily quantifiable and, oftentimes, contractually-obligated for multiple years, allowing properties to build out budgets and forward-looking business plans and increasing a property's market value.

Both are fundamental cogs in the successful operation of any property.

What? It's not enough to see how the other benefits the greater good if it still makes MY life more difficult and puts MY department at risk of not achieving our objectives?

Ok. Then how about this.

Sponsorship department: Let the Marketing department know who you are engaging from time to time, especially if it is a brand with a sizeable employee base or vast reach. Discuss, before you "pitch" the brand, how the Sponsor might be able to bring added value to the partnership and become a champion of your property instead of "just" a Sponsor.

Marketing department: Don't dictate what the Sponsor "has" to do as part of the overall relationship. Come up with a reasonable way they may be able to help amplify your marketing voice, whether it be to their employees or to their customers. Don't try to get the Sponsorship department to jack up the price on their proposal because of the "value" it brings the Sponsor. Recognize that it brings value to the property as well, and that it might help your programs and campaigns be more successful.

If managed correctly, and each department can lose their tunnel vision and look at things from a more holistic place, the relationship between a property's (venue/team/league/event) Marketing and Sponsorship departments can lead to wonderful results, for both their individual agendas as well as the property's overall goal.

Peanut Butter, meet Jelly. Jelly, meet Peanut Butter.