Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.
How can meeting professionals help to make their events mutually beneficial for sponsors and attendees? Two sponsorship experts offer their advice.
Gail Bower, who as president of Philadelphia-based Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, helps nonprofit organizations and associations raise their visibility, revenue, and impact, thinks that meeting organizers need to be more forward thinking about their sponsors - literally. They should “always have their radar tuned in to what’s going on in the future,” Bower said, “not only for their organization, but also for their sponsors.”
Corporations are looking at their marketing plans and budgets long into the future, she said, and “they know what products are going to be launched.” Likewise, meeting organizers should be thinking about their future goals, Bower said, “so that they can start making some pairings.”
Bower’s previous experience selling sponsorships for the Newport Jazz Festival offers an example. Concerned that some of the jazz musician greats were dying off, the festival’s producer “saw it as his role to cultivate younger musicians and younger jazz goers,” she said. Bower also learned that event sponsor Mercedes-Benz was about to introduce a car geared to younger drivers, and convinced the automaker that, by sponsoring a new stage area showcasing younger jazz talent, it would reach the demographic it was seeking.
It may not always be easy to execute on an initiative that so clearly aligns the goals of the meeting with its sponsors. But Terry Cecil, president and CEO of the International Sponsor Council, believes that “many events” just aren't trying hard enough to integrate sponsors in a way that enhances the attendee experience. They think that putting sponsors’ logos up all over the place - what Cecil calls “logo soup” - is enough. “Sponsors have a unique insight into the industry,” he said, and meeting organizers should try to “pull them into the decision on topics [at meetings]. Not only of the content, but the opportunity of delivery channels of the content.”
Bower agrees. “Sometimes people that are in sponsorship on either side of the table don’t fully understand the impact that the medium of sponsorship can have,” she said, “and therefore, they don’t structure it properly. The corporate person doesn't know how to fully activate and leverage the sponsorship investment.”
For that, Bower and Cecil offer the same prescription: Make sponsorship more than just a one-to-one relationship. “So many times in sponsorship there’s one point person at that company,” Cecil said, who is often “overwhelmed with all that they have to do. It’s very important to increase the collaboration with that sponsor by increasing your touch points, and working with different verticals within the corporation - [not to] go around the point person, but work with them to ... connect with the sales department, sustainability department, government relations, HR, legal, and PR.”
Likewise, Bower recommends that convention organizers “have a meeting internally with each sponsor to try to engage multiple departments to get more involved with the event. There could be a number of different departments that have some connection to this event,” she said. “The more they’re taking advantage of it, the better impact that sponsorship will have.” .
Make Them Relevant
The International Sponsor Council’s Terry Cecil offers this tip sheet to help meeting organizers provide “deeper value to sponsors”:
- Don’t assume sponsors’ needs. Ask for their objectives, which will differ from sponsor to sponsor. It could be brand awareness, sales lift, brand lift, and/or employee morale and education.
- Increase touch points within the sponsoring organization. Don’t expect the sponsor’s point of contact to fully integrate your opportunities throughout their respective organization. Reach out to the key verticals.
- Get the sponsor’s views on event content and topics. Find ways for sponsors to enhance content and add opportunities for content-delivery channels.
- Look to deliver higher value than just logos on your website and signage. Make sponsors relevant.
- Develop and deliver a report showing results to help justify the resource commitment from sponsors. This will impact renewals.
Read Gail Bower’s blog at sponsorshipstrategist.com
. To learn more about the International Sponsor Council, visit sponsorcouncil.org
The Meeting Management: Sponsorship series is sponsored by the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau.