You Don’t Know Jack: A Primer on Partnerships

By Jack Lennard

Every month in You Don’t Know Jack, I’ll be writing out some thoughts in a regular column here on the Quidditch Post. I’ll be using my experience in administration and management to break down some of the bigger trends and issues in quidditch, looking at the wider, global scale of how the sport is developing.

About the author: Jack Lennard is the founder and Director of the Quidditch Premier League. He has previously been the COO of the Quidditch Post and currently works in public relations. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Quidditch Post as a whole.

This article will be dry as dust. It’s not a rollercoaster; it’s not much fun. But this article, if I do my job properly, will be useful.

I’ve written about the important role finances do and will play in our sport before. In light of recent developments, such as the IQA charging more money from teams and players attending World Cup 2018, and the IQA then going into more detail about their financial pressures over the next two years, I thought it was time for a look at one of the most promising aspects of fundraising: partnerships. Several national team managers have got in contact with me over the last few weeks asking about this very topic, and it stands to reason that many more are curious about it.

In this article, I’m going to break down what tools you have in your arsenal to attract, secure, and develop partnerships, both of the financial and in-kind nature. This is not a complete guide. Indeed, as the sport develops, I’d hope that techniques, strategies, and relationships grow in new and exciting ways. But this article will take some of the methods we’ve used to secure partnerships at the Quidditch Premier League, and will highlight differentiating factors in what you can offer based on the type of organisation you represent.

So let’s start off by asking the question that any potential partner will ask you what can you offer?

Quidditch Analytica

As someone who worked in marketing and branding for some time, I can tell you quite bluntly that the majority of people reading this (yes, including you) are gold dust. You’re likely aged 18 to 26, you represent a delightfully balanced gender mix (swinging, at maximum, a few percentage points either way depending on the specific group within the community), you’re likely pretty left-leaning, many of you are leaving college and getting those lovely graduate jobs, which means you have a sudden (however slight) increase in your amount of disposable income. If you don’t fit that description, don’t @ me. Just know that almost every piece of data collected on the quidditch community spits those facts back out.

And that’s gold dust. Brands know that you’re forging loyalties to products and services that could last decades. You’re making choices between competitors that are hard to change moving forward. And you’re finally at the point where you can put actual goddamn money into those choices! Brands want you. And they’re willing to pay to get to you.

So the main thing you can offer a partner is exposure. That, of course, comes in many ways. If you’re attracting a lot of media attention, or your team is attending an event (such as World Cup) that you know will generate that sort of buzz, then having partner logos represented on your jerseys is a great idea. This not only cements the brand into the minds of those watching your team who are part of the community, but also builds exposure through photos and videos of the event with minimal extra workload from your own resources. It’s also a demonstrable and tangible exposure quantifier that you can show your partner after the agreement has been completed.

The other element of exposure that you can offer through no cost to yourselves is social media. As the subheading suggests, the sport’s reliance on those data-greedy social media platforms is a major strength when it comes to offering exposure to brands. Sure, your organisation doesn’t have a million likes on Facebook, and you’re not Twitter verified. But the audience you do have is engaged, knows (and, more importantly, trusts) your brand, and is largely comprised of that gold dust demographic I highlighted earlier. A series of well-crafted promotional social media posts can offer a fantastic opportunity to brands at a far lower cost than buying advertising directly through Facebook would. Not only that, but it’s more targeted and achieves a more organic result, which is a great signifier for engagement with the partner brand.

That does, of course, mean that you need to have a social media presence. If you’re not already doing it, start. It takes minimal effort for a respectable return, and even if you’re not looking at securing partnerships now, you never know when it’ll come in handy.

One minor social media note though: bear in mind that followers, reach, and engagement are all different things, and emphasise your organisation’s potential in a pitch accordingly. Your followers are the people who have actively liked your page, or follow your feed. Your reach is the (usually much higher) number of people who see your posts, either through organic shares or paid-for advertising. Your engagement shows how often people like, comment on, or share your posts. This is also an opportunity for you to show how well you understand the potential partner’s brand show how the audience and reach that you can offer matches what they need.

So, now that you have a potential partner’s attention, we can move onto a more entertaining question what is it that you want in return?

The Two Types of Partnerships

Partnerships can broadly be split into two types: financial and in-kind. Let’s handle the easy one first.

Financial: you offer exposure to the potential partner, they agree to a sum of money in return for that exposure, everyone goes home happy. Nice and simple.

Things are rarely that simple, especially when you’re starting out. We were lucky with the Quidditch Premier League we have a nationwide brand with lots of composite teams that we can offer for partnerships, a proven track record in media exposure, and a strong social media following. This means that around 40% of our 2018 revenue will be comprised of partnerships.

When we launched, however, people weren’t so interested. And why should they have been? We had little to offer, sparse evidence that we could make an impact, and hadn’t even run a successful season yet. The partners weren’t exactly queuing up to write us cheques.

But we made a lot out of in-kind partnerships, and you can too. In-kind partnerships are a kind of trade: a partner offers you a good or a service either for free or for a discounted price in return for whatever you agree to offer. Think about what it is you need. It’s rare that what can be bought with cash can’t be offered with an in-kind partnership. At the very least, it’s largely possible to secure discounts by guaranteeing a certain amount of business. So, for example, if you were to invest in travel insurance, and were able to make that provider the official travel insurance partner of your organisation (complete with social media, website, and, potentially, jersey promotions), you can get a surprising amount of money off your total bill which means savings for your players (if you’re a team) or just a nice day for your accountant (if you’re a more broad organisation).

This is not news. Many of you will be rolling your eyes at it. But there is a genuine lack of recognition within this sport about partnership potential, and the benefits that those partners can bring on a smaller scale. There’s a habit to see partnerships as the domain of the powerful organisations in the sport, but that’s a fallacy, and I believe that it’s something that the grassroots of our sport should feel more able to offer to external brands. For example, the Falmouth Falcons, a university team in the UK, have partnered with compareholidaymoney.com, showing that organisations of any size can secure partnerships. Don’t be afraid to ask.

The Falmouth Falcons at the British Quidditch Cup 2018 | Photo Credit: Sports Action Photos

 

Of course, should you prove to your partner that you can bring in good business, and that you can offer significant exposure, then you’re well-positioned to transition small in-kind arrangements to more profitable ones, or even to direct financial partnerships.

So once you know what you have to offer, and what you want, how can you actually find these partners? The next section will give you this magic key to getting them.

Fantastic Partners and Where to Find Them

Okay, I was bluffing a little. There’s no right way to find partners. If there was, I probably wouldn’t share it. Come on, I’m only human. But there are a few tips I can give you to identify potential.

Firstly, local is your friend. This seems counter-intuitive. Surely the more national, or international, your brand and audience, the more you can offer? Well, not always. If you run a local team, or an organisation with local groups (regions, locally based teams, events held in specific localities), then you can target brands based in, or looking to expand into, that area. The idea of local pride is something that holds an amazing amount of power, both for brands investing in an organisation or team, and in audiences supporting local businesses. Use that potential.

Secondly, reverse engineer the social media data machine. As I said, if you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you’re a member of that gold dust demographic. So look at your Facebook feed. If a sponsored advert appears, that brand has already put cold hard cash into reaching you and your demographic — the exact demographic that quidditch can offer. Social media screwed you out of your own data, time to use that tool for your own ends.

Thirdly, think about the PR angle. Quidditch has been hailed for its inclusivity, and Vice once called it the world’s most progressive sport”. More recently, an article in the Guardian called quidditch the current standard-bearer for mixed play in sports. Brands want to embrace that evolving social geography, and develop modern, outward-facing personas. Cynical as it may be, quidditch offers brands an impressively efficient route to developing that persona, and the quirky nature of the sport increases the attention such a campaign could achieve. They could throw their support behind any number of more traditional sports why should they care about quidditch? It’s often said that our inclusivity is our unique selling point as a sport. Sell it.

Some potential partners are hiding in plain sight. They’re the people working on their own businesses, their own projects, or who you’ve had a fleeting connection with in the past. Start a conversation with them. Talk to people you know who are starting their own businesses. Share your passion. Show how you can help them develop theirs. It’s amazing how those tiny moments add up. At the very least, you’ll learn an enormous amount about the wider landscape that’ll better equip you moving forward with other organisations.

Embrace Rejection

Funny story: Tom Ffiske, Communications Director for the Quidditch Premier League, once helped me out making those calls for a day. After an initially promising response from one company, he called the number they gave. What was shouted down the phone at him is unpublishable.

He picked the phone back up and called another potential partner.

You’ll hear the word no a lot. Rejoice at it. Every polite negative is more of a win than an outright angry or dismissive response, or, worse, no response at all. You’ll send a lot of emails, make a lot of calls, and it won’t always pay off. That’s okay too you learn from each interaction with a potential partner, and get more confident. Eventually, those no’s will start turning into yes’s.

While rejection is almost inevitable, don’t sell yourself short. Who cares if you’re young, if you’re a student, if your team is small or new? When a brand looks at you they see potential benefits for themselves. Don’t be afraid to look at them the same way. You never will get what you don’t ask for, and while it’s possible to overask (don’t be greedy), don’t be afraid to value what you bring highly and ask for fair compensation for everything you will do to help them. If they say no, it’s likely not going to be the end of the road and if they say yes then you’re getting exactly what you want.

Pitch Decks

One invaluable tool of this whole process is a pitch deck. There’s no right way to do this. But here’s how we do it at the Quidditch Premier League, and it’s worked out okay for us. Below is the basic structure of our pitch deck. It was written on Powerpoint slides by me, and then designed up by our designer, and sent out as a PDF. It’s worth getting it to look as glamorous as possible this is your big moment, after all. Each point is one slide, unless otherwise noted.

  • An overview of the sport in general (how it works, how big it is, why it’s unique, and so on).
  • About your organisation (just a broad overview at this point).
  • Why partner with you? This is your chance to include a personal message showcasing your passion.
  • Your audience who are they? Why would a brand want access to them?
  • A slide or two highlighting your social media reach and/or your coverage in media outlets.
  • Goals for the year ahead what do you want from them? What traction do you already have that you’re building on?
  • Include a series of example partnership packages (or just the one proposal if targeting a specific opportunity).
  • Contact details at the end.

We also interspersed slides featuring quotes from players and media outlets that would give the deck some character. Each slide also featured background photography that made the entire deck more dynamic and showed the diversity and speed of the sport at its best.

If you need more help or advice on developing a pitch deck, just shoot me a message or an email. It was one of the hardest things to get right for us, and there was a lot of tweaking, so take time to hone it the perfect pitch doesn’t come to life overnight.

What You Can And Can’t Do

The Warner Bros. situation does make things like partnerships tricky. Organisation-wide sponsorships aren’t allowed so we couldn’t call it the Skippy Crunchy Peanut Butter Quidditch Premier League, for example, despite the fact that crunchy peanut butter is delicious and you can fight me if you disagree. But you can secure partnerships for local teams or regional groups under your umbrella brand (such as the regional Quidditch Premier League teams), and events can have partners on the ground (and many do!).

You’ll also always find things easier if you’re an incorporated entity. That’s not there to scare you off it’s an opportunity. Being incorporated can offer the required security and legitimacy that partners might want, for very little cost from your own organisation. Here’s the form of incorporated entity that the Quidditch Premier League is in the UK I highly recommend looking into similar options in your own country.

Treat Your Partners Like Family

We’re all desperate for that yes. Sometimes I stayed up all night trying to get it (it rarely came). But when it does come, what should you do?

Well, the first thing you need to do is get them to sign a partnership agreement. Not the most friendly thing, I know, and frankly my first few times were more than a little awkward. But it’s important stuff it lays out in exact terms what each party can expect from the partnership (such as exactly how many promotional posts per week/month they can expect, the length of the agreement, how to end the agreement, and, of course, what you’re getting out of it).

Lizzie Keegan at the Quidditch Premier League Championship 2017, with Savage Apparel partnering with the London Monarchs for the 2017 season | Photo Credit: Gio Forino

After that, however, don’t feel icky about talking to your partners. I get it, they’re scary, you don’t want to screw things up. But ask them how they think things are going, float potential ideas past them, update them on how your organisation and team are doing. Invite them to some games, give them some mementos, such as a jersey with their logo on. They’re helping you include them. Saying that, remember to be broadly professional you’re busy, they’re busy, so don’t take too much of their time up if you’re getting the sense that they want space.

That can bring surprising benefits. An owner of one of the Quidditch Premier League’s partners for this season, for example, has become a steadfast friend of mine, and we align our two brands on projects beyond the initial remit of the partnership because we know we can help each other out. It’s developed my understanding of the business world, and brought them closer to the fantastic world of quidditch. A really well-executed partnership is just that, a partnership. Each of you makes the other better by working together. You don’t need to “win” the agreement for you both to reap the rewards.

Partnering for the Future

Whatever it is you’re looking to achieve with partnerships, whether it’s helping you pay for those extortionate World Cup player fees, or just want to bring some nice perks to your players at a local business, I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. While it’s more comprehensive than I expected I’d be able to cover, it’s not complete, and maybe I’ll update it as years go by and we continue to learn more.

At the end of the day, this is pretty much uncharted territory for the sport. But it’s important ground to cover, and holds huge amounts of potential and more of you have the tools you’ll need at your disposal than you realise.

So. Do some exploring. Grab your pitch deck outlining what you can offer. Prepare for a lot of rejections. And dive in.

Overtime

Some extra nuggets of news for you…

Everyone in the community has felt the loss of Sarah Goad. Sarah was a real pioneer in the sport – she helped get the Quidditch Post of the ground, she founded Face Beat It, she organised tournaments in Charleston. But more than that, Sarah was a huge personality, and was such an important part of quidditch. It’s easy, I think, in a sport full of such young people, to feel that loss isn’t something we need to worry about that much. But that, unfortunately, isn’t true.

Congratulations to the Hong Kong Quidditch Association, who are now a proper National Governing Body. An impressive branding campaign and web design has given this new NGB the best possible start, and I can’t wait to see them play in Florence this summer.

Some pretty major changes on the cards for QuidditchUK, who are rethinking the structure of their season. Instead of autumnal regionals which go towards a March national tournament, QuidditchUK have proposed a system where an event that offers qualifying for the European Quidditch Cup replaces those autumnal events, which are then moved to February, with an April British Quidditch Cup.

Finally, there are big changes coming at the IQA. With the publication of Trustee minutes dating back to October 2017 this month, some interesting elements have come to light. The biggest? The request for more autonomy and independence from the IQA by Quidditch Europe, and the imminent dissolution of the IQA as we know it and rebuilding of a new international sports federation for quidditch this July.