“I can cite numerous sponsors at different places in my career that made a huge difference for me just in terms of pulling me aside and giving me a tip or some coaching.”
In many organisations, a project sponsor is simply the person who has the budget to approve a new project.
When working on a sizeable OSS project, they need to be so much more than that. They will be needed to be an influential advocate to drive the associated change through the organisation if/when an impasse is reached.
There are bound to be many change averse people and possibly even change averse business units within the CSP for any OctopOSS project. The Project Sponsor and/or Guiding Coalition and/or Project Champion must have enough positional influence to maintain momentum when obstructions to change arise, which they invariably will.
They will be required to engage with and influence their peers to spread the urgency and vision across the organisation and get the necessary buy-in of all key stakeholders. When your project engages stakeholders from multiple business units with different unit heads, it becomes an exercise of democracy rather than dictatorship (ie a Guiding Coalition is required rather than a single Project Sponsor).
Most importantly, the Project Sponsor must understand the compelling features of the project/product and be able to promote it throughout the organisation, eliciting excitement within all impacted teams and an urgency to implement the broad-based change of your OctopOSS.