Event managers are finding it increasingly difficult to secure sponsors and to keep them engaged in providing much-needed financial and in-kind supports. Something needs to change. It is time to bury the old idea of developing one-size-fits-all programs that beautifully outline our event’s Platinum, Gold and Silver sponsorship levels. These packages are still being heavily relied upon to secure revenue to help sustain our events. There is a better way.
During a panel session of sponsorship buyers at a recent conference, a marketing executive for a Fortune 500 company indicated that he doesn’t even consider engaging in these types of programs. The other buyers on the panel were quick to agree and indicated they all place these event sponsorship packages in the trash where they belong.
So what is the problem with these programs? For one, these programs tend to be very event-centric without taking into consideration the specific needs of the potential sponsor. A one-size-fits-all event sponsorship program cannot be effective in delivering value to a sponsor in today’s economy where every marketing dollar is being scrutinized. We have to understand that event sponsorship is a business transaction and must generate a positive return on the sponsor’s investment. If it doesn’t, then it will viewed less as marketing and more as a donation or philanthropy.
The key to event sponsorship programs
The key is to make our sponsorship programs sponsor-centric and to give greater consideration to their marketing and investment needs. When we open a dialogue with potential sponsors, we will quickly understand that they are looking for long-term relationships and are ready to invest in the right opportunities. Our job is to identify the right sponsors for our event, customize the right program that meets their goals and objectives, and help prove the value in their investment.
How do we do that? The sponsorship industry has seen major change in the past decade. It has developed into a structured industry with a defined methodology for managing sponsorship programs. Sponsorship professionals build programs by following these steps:
- Inventory and valuation - Every event has physical and non-physical assets or benefits that sponsorship buyers have an interest in. We need to catalogue these assets and individually determine their market value. We need to do some research to gain an understanding of what value to apply to each asset.
- Prospecting - We need to research and build a database of potential sponsors. When we understand our attendee demographics, we can determine what type of companies will have an interest in gaining exposure to them. Qualified sponsors will also have business goals and objectives that align with our event.
- Discovery - We need to take time to meet with prospects and begin building relationships. Our goal should not be to educate them about our event, but to learn about their business goals and objectives, the opportunities they are looking for, and the outcomes they expect from their sponsorship marketing investments.
- Custom proposals - We will utilize our inventory list and what we learned from discovery to develop a customized proposal for each potential event sponsor. Our proposal will focus on the sponsor outlining the benefits being afforded to them. It builds a business case describing how their investment supports their business goals and objectives.
- Activation - Once a company has invested in our event, they receive the agreed upon benefits which may include the right to conduct additional marketing activities to further leverage their sponsorship. We must work with our sponsors to ensure they take full advantage of the rights and benefits afforded in their contract.
- Fulfillment management - We need to ensure that the benefits promised to our sponsors are fulfilled. Not only do we have to work to deliver on our promises, we also need to provide our sponsors with a post-event fulfillment report. This report outlines what benefits were committed to and describes how each was achieved.
The following resources will help you learn more and begin developing a more effective event sponsorship program. These conferences and publications are all Canadian resources.
- Reality Check: Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing, by Brent Barootes and Janet Gadeski
- The Sponsorship Report, Editor: Mark Sabourin
- Amplify Sponsorship Forum
- Canadian Sponsorship Forum
- SMCC Western Sponsorship Congress
- Sponsorship Marketing Awards and Conference
- Sponsorship Toronto