Sponsorships are becoming an increasingly tricky beast. At the very time when associations, for example, are more cash-strapped than ever and more reliant on sponsorships, the very companies they approach, or want to approach, for sponsorships are, in turn, watching their bottom lines and are therefore more selective about how they spend their dollars.
Against that backdrop, we asked a panel of industry experts, at a specially convened roundtable, to discuss a question — how to find and keep sponsorships? — that arose out of M+IT’s 2016 Meetings Market Report.
“You have to be transparent. You have to be authentic. And you have to be open to creative solutions,” said panelist Bettyanne Sherrer, CMP, CMM, president of ProPlan Conferences & Events, current president of CanSPEP and M+IT’s 2013 Hall of Fame Industry Planner inductee.
Sherrer’s strategy involves looking for potential sponsors’ spending patterns. “I’ll say to a board of directors, tell me the top 10 cheques you write or your organization writes in a month. And you’ll then discover where they’re spending their money, because your board or your committee or as many of the influential members that you can find, that will go through this process with you, you’re going to find a pattern. It’s going to emerge and you’re going to identify one company or a silo. And then you do your due diligence. You do a competitive analysis and you do the research and you find them.”
Next step, she said, is to put together “a really great prospectus that’s written in marketing language that speaks to value. It’s not about asking for money. It’s about demonstrating value. That is a totally different conversation when you’re looking to engage a partner — not sponsor, a partner.”
After that, it’s crucial to “be really open and creative to brand activation,” said Sherrer. “I’ve said to partners, ‘you know, it’s really great that you’re going to sponsor this lunch. Here’s the pay-to-play fee, now what are we going to do?’ — because in my opinion, sponsors and partners should understand that they need to invest a further five to 10 per cent on that brand activation. It’s not enough just to say, ‘here’s my slide and my table card.’ All those things are great, but it doesn’t serve their brand and as the planner — I think this is the shift — you’re the creative person. You’re the one that is threading the experience for the delegate and the attendee.”
As for fostering new sponsors, “it’s a tough one, going out to the marketplace,” said Julie Calvert, CMP, CMM, manager of events and regional programs for The Canadian Payroll Association and M+IT’s 2014 Hall of Fame Industry Planner inductee. “Again, you have to identify what your market is. What you’re looking to accomplish with your sponsors and exhibitors and what are you offering.”
On the question of ROI, “the exhibitor needs to understand what they’re looking for as well, and sometimes that can a little bit of a grey area, especially if you have legacy sponsors or exhibitors that have been coming to the table year over year, and if you’re looking to perhaps the sponsor/exhibitor experience, it can be a little bit tough, especially if the ask is different or you’re looking to change things a little bit,” said Calvert.
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