The Role of Team Selling in Olympic Sponsorship Sales

When the achievement of an outcome, event, or action depends on sponsorship, those in the know, know this:

Nothing worthwhile happens ‘til the sale gets done.

The impact of a big sponsorship sale can be enormous. I have seen sponsorships finance new civic arenas and propel NHL and NBA franchises to success. I have also witnessed the power of sponsorship and watched in amazement as a major sponsor stepped forward to underwrite a young man’s dream to wheelchair around the world in 1986.

And there is nothing like a big sponsorship sale to spark an Olympic Bid or to help fuel the Olympic Games. In case you wondered, here is how those big sponsorship deals really get done.

Sharing the credit.

All sponsorship sales at the million-dollar plus level are done through team selling.  The larger the deal, the more people you need to make it work and nowhere is this truer than in the world of Olympic Sponsorship. Our carefully orchestrated pitches at VANOC required months of meticulous preparation and focused research by our entire department and then half a dozen presenters at the actual pitch.

The world record-breaking sponsorship sales levels reached for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, for example, were the result of the extraordinary effort of the entire Sponsorship team. The people that worked in my Sponsorship Sales Department at VANOC and my superiors, John Furlong, Dave Cobb and Andrea Shaw, along with dozens of others deserve the credit for the $752.6 million that we raised for the Olympic Games.

Strength in numbers.

Raising the sponsorship dollars for two back-to-back winning Olympic Bids has reinforced my belief in the axiom of strength in numbers. All the pitches we made in London and Vancouver to acquire sponsors involved senior members of the Bid team including the Bid’s President, and VPs from every department contributing to the campaign.  Teams worked in concert to establish credibility and build trust with sponsors as well as to share dreams and tell the most relevant, evocative and compelling stories possible.

Then, there are the details. When it comes to Olympic Bids there are about a hundred important task boxes that need to be ticked before a competitive bid can be submitted.  I have guided the preparation, strategy and execution of the sponsorship components of bids that have helped two Olympic Bid Committees gain full marks in that area.

As you can imagine, as the deals get bigger and progressively more sophisticated the teams required to sell them get larger, too. The stakes also get higher.

For example, for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, most of our operations budget was funded by the sponsorship dollars we raised, and the entire country was depending on us to deliver excellence – and nothing less. At no other time were the stakes and pressure to deliver higher, however, than in the Olympic bids to host the games – Vancouver (July 2, 2003 IOC decision) and the London (July 5, 2005 IOC decision) where there would be only one medal given out to the one winning city. I will always feel proud to have been both a leader and member of both teams responsible for the successful sponsorship programs that aided Vancouver and London’s success in winning the Games.

Fostering success.

My focus for the last two and a half years has been on The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games where my business partner Leila Bell-Irving and I acted as sponsorship consultants and sales agents. We worked closely in the early days with the Games President and Senior Vice President of Marketing, once again in a team selling approach, to land more record-breaking sponsorship deals. Getting out and making dozens of world-class pitches with this team has been a truly rewarding experience. The Games in Toronto are sure to be a huge success!

As we pass the baton along on that project as of May 2013, I am particularly interested in the upcoming race to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. As I follow each bidding city’s progress I know – nothing worthwhile happens ‘til the sale gets done.

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