Glamorous posters, resplendent artwork and startling prize amounts characterise most of the innumerable events that take place in Manipal. Where does the moolah for all this come from? Most of the club treasuries are filled by sponsors across Manipal and Udupi. Having sat across the negotiating table on behalf of about five organisations, I have a fair idea of the scandalous world of sponsorships. As much as I would refrain from generalizing or making sweeping assertions, I can boldly assert that sponsorship is all about selling yourself irrespective of the number of lies you spin or the hyperboles you lash out.
The older shops have no doubt learnt the hard way that there is nothing in it for them. You would rarely see a Saiba, Dollops or Basil doling out huge amounts of money. At the most, they may give out a few discount coupons (with loads of clauses of course!). The relatively new ones, however, are easily enticed by the seemingly lucrative ‘marketing opportunity’ and willingly succumb to the sweet talk of sponsorship teams. Little do they fail to realise the trap they walk into. Many of these shops have eventually close down. Sponsorship is no doubt arduous work, be it walking under the scorching sun or being turned down at most places. Usual responses include “Owner not there, come tomorrow”, “Mail the person on this card” or “Sorry, our budget is over”. Some shops have even resorted to blaring “NO SPONSORSHIP ENTERTAINED” board. Interestingly, some students still enter these places claiming to seek ‘advertising’ rather than ‘sponsoring’.
Most clubs treat sponsorship as a part of the passage of rites for a fresher to be inducted into a club’s core team. The tactics are then passed down like a legacy or heirloom. Anyone who brings in a big sponsor is patronized by seniors, and he/she is looked upon as a lifeline. Most freshers loathe this work, while some treat it as a lucrative opportunity to showcase their soft skills. Girls and those knowing local languages are often considered to have the best prospects of succeeding.
A clichéd pitch would be something like “Hi sir! We are from XYZ and have an event coming up! It will be an excellent opportunity for you to reach out to the student community. You will get a huge banner and also your logo on all our posters. We will also distribute your brochures during the event. Your brand will be the focus when the events are going on, and will receive lot of attention. Once you create the initial buzz, it will spread like fire. We are coming to you first, because we eat here often and love this place! We really felt that more people should get to know about it!” Some pitches try to be more innovative but drive the central point – “reach out to student crowd”. The negotiations then begin. Believe it or not, I’ve had a friend who actually went into a shop and said “I am going to make you an offer you cannot refuse”.
There have also been times when clubs indulge in petty politics. They try to sway sponsor’s opinions and win over them by spoiling another club’s name. Big words such as “international event”, “thousands of participants from many countries”, “prospective customers” are thrown around freely.
After all this, most sponsors go through such harrowing experiences that they never let out a rupee again.
-Guest Writer. Anonymous