PMR Magazine collected top experts' viewpoints on the topic sponsorship. The following is Robert Buttrick's contribution:
My view is that the sponsor's role is vital for project success. In a project context, I consider each project should have only one project sponsor, often supported by a project board. In this sense 'sponsorship' is not like sponsoring a person to complete the London Marathon, where you just pay up if they do and where the object is for the person being sponsored to get as much sponsorship as possible. In the context of projects, the project sponsor is the person who is accountable to higher management in their organization for the project's business case. The project has to be justifiable and, if it can't be justified, the sponsor should terminate it. As such the sponsor is the person setting the vision for the outcomes and benefits required and is the primary risk-taker. To be effective a sponsor needs to be a business leader, decision maker and agent for change. The sponsor forms the link between the project manager and tam and the sponsoring organization. A sponsor's attitude, and behaviours, whether real or perceived, can have a significant impact on the project's out-turn; an 'invisible' sponsor is one who rarely achieves anything. Sponsorship is about effective and visible leadership and avoiding 'top-down failure'.
The UK government values sponsorship highly and have specific courses and Masters level qualifications for them. They use the term 'senior responsible owner' instead of 'sponsor', but the role is the same.