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Sponsors Matter! Associations need to better engage...

Let's face it.  Without sponsors, may things associations try to achieve could not happen. Whether it is an event, industry research, or perhaps a new program that you are looking to implement, sponsorship dollars really help your bottom line.

I know, nothing new.  But at a time where engagement is driving attendance, purchases and relationships, why are we still treating sponsors like a commodity?  Instead, I suggest changing our views.

Sponsors are those that help pay for breaks, or who only want their logo placed on banners and marketing material.  People who invest should be considered partners – they have chosen you for a reason.  You provide them with access to people they want to do business with.  In turn, they want to be positioned as thought-leaders, resources, and experts in your industry.

In this piece, I will provide you with two personal examples - what to do, and what to avoid.

Let's start with what to avoid:

  • Sponsorship Prospectus:  The prospectus has been used for years to show how sponsors can “pay to play”, and get branding access at a higher level to your delegates.  But they are basic, showcasing where their logos will be used, and what specific meals and sessions they could be paying for.  Going forward, if you need to have a prospectus, be clear that this is a starting point, as you want to customize their experience.  
  • Assumptions:  Just because they sponsored last year, it does NOT mean that it is a "done deal" for future sponsorship opportunities.  Relationships need to be nurtured.  This can be done through email nurturing programs, which update sponsors on the latest developments with your organization or event, as well as timely “touch base” calls.  If you are simply reaching out when it is time to ask for money, you are not doing enough.  There are a ton of other opportunities available to the sponsor, and eventually they will drop you in favour of someone who is paying attention to them.
Instead, you should try:
  • Customization:  For Greenfield’s Engaging Associations Summit, we are truly creating change.  This does not just mean change for the participant, but change for the sponsor as well.  The Summit will have fewer sponsors than the typical conference/event, and sponsors are going to have exclusivity in their industry.  What does this mean for them?  No competition.  This, along with our "basic" sponsorship coverage, extensive social media exposure, and the opportunity for small group presentations, our sponsors are finding that they are really getting value for their dollar.  AND we are checking in and getting their buy-in every step of the way!
  • Alignment with your values:  When we started reaching out to potential partners, we cast a wide net to see if the industry would support what we wanted to achieve.  And it did.  But some things are more important than the all-mighty dollar.  We wanted people who get it, and want to create change and engage. There were MANY of them.  Because we insisted on offering exclusivity, and spoke in-depth with each potential partner, we were fortunate enough to be in a “first come, first serve” position.  And we look forward to welcoming our partners to our inaugural event!
When was the last time you reviewed your sponsorship approach?  Do you have anything unique that you try to achieve with your sponsors?