Do you fancy fast-tracking your career, fulfilling a dream or just making more money? It’s time to find a sponsor, says Penny Fray
Where would Leonardo da Vinci be without the support of someone (the Medici family in his case) – or many of Oman’s entrepreneurs, sporting-stars or celebrities for that matter?
Mentorship may count, but in today’s tough terrain, practical patronage puts you on the path to power.
According to leading business thinker and author, Ann Hewlett, sponsors propose you for plum assignments, protect you when things go wrong, financially support you and give you feedback, even when it’s critical or hard to hear.
“A sponsor might be a director of your company – or, outside a corporate setting, more like a talent scout – who takes an interest in your career, not out of altruism, but as an important investment for them,” she explains. “Your role is to deliver outstanding results, build their brand or legacy and make them look good. Sponsorship, done right, is transactional.”
It’s this win-win aspect of sponsorship that accounts for its extraordinary leverage and durability through the centuries.
Today, a protégé has to deliver not only a stellar performance and loyalty but help build the sponsor’s brand.
Rumaitha al Busaidi, one of the Freezing Omanis who will embark on an expedition to Antarctica thanks to the support of various sponsors, including Sabco media and RevGX, agrees.
“It’s certainly not a one-way street,” she says. “Sponsors have certain expectations and they have to be fulfilled. You have to do what you say you will and provide evidence of that.”
Her employer SABCO, Media, were keen on supporting Rumaitha on her environmental journey.
“We’re always looking for people with ambition, drive, and the passion to make a huge impact,” says Eihab Abutaha, Chief Executive Officer of SABCO Media. “What we get back is being part of someone’s success.”
But it’s not all about philanthropy; companies often sponsor people to increase brand loyalty, create awareness, get positive publicity and showcase their sense of social responsibility. And it works. Think of Red Bull. The drinks company has become famous for its sponsorship and promotion of a mind-blowing array of musical and sporting talent. Several Mercury prize nominees have collaborated with them and one of their two teams dominates Formula One. On a more local level, Bank Muscat, The Zubair Corporation and several other businesses are all nurturing new talent in the Sultanate with their influence and rials.
So how do you get a sponsor?
Well, according to Hewlett, it’s not easy. You need to choose your targets carefully.
“Friendship can actually hinder a relationship that’s instrumental in nature, so prioritise efficacy over affinity. Don’t be put off by leadership style; you need to respect your sponsor, not vow to become them. It’s their clout, not their style, that will turbocharge your career. In larger organisations, they are ideally two levels above you. In smaller firms, they’re the founder or president, or they have the ear of that person.”
The next step is to get in front of your target. You could do this through networking or getting a supportive manager to put you in your potential sponsor’s line of sight. Just make sure you’ve done all your homework before you pitch any kind of proposal. Anticipate their needs, learn demographics and argue how you’ll help them achieve their goals.
“Try to articulate not just what you do but your distinct value, added to spark interest, and ensure you’re remembered as someone with lots to offer,” adds Hewlett, author of ‘Find a Sponsor’.
Finally, if your target demurs, ask if they can introduce you to a more appropriate leader.
WHAT THE PROTÉGÉ SAYS:
“I wouldn’t have been able to go to Antarctica and be one of the Freezing Omanis without sponsorship. This is about putting Oman on the map, showing the world that we care about the environment and proving that we have young people who want to have a positive impact on the future. Mentorship and sponsorship go hand in hand when it comes to achieving big ambitions. But this is not just about going to Antarctica. There’s a lot to be done when I get back. This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.”
Rumaitha Al Busaidi,
Freezing Omani and Merge 104.8 presenter