Bring your sponsors together for added value

June 1, 2020

Good communication is vital in planning for a sponsored event or activity. Sponsorship receivers/rights holders/ property holders should add value by bringing all the sponsors of an event together.

These meetings are often called ‘Sponsor Summits,’ which I think is a terrible name. It leads to perceptions of large, expensive, extravagant, formal sales events. I think other names could simply be based on sponsor or partner ‘conference,’ ‘meeting,’ ‘briefing’ preceded by the name of the event or activity being sponsored, ‘Pleasantville Fair Sponsor Conference’ etc. For the sake of simplicity, I will call these events ‘briefings.’

Briefings help to maximize the benefits from the relationships between sponsorship receivers (‘property holders’) and sponsors. The briefings provide a forum for communication, information sharing and relationship-building.

These briefings are valuable for informing sponsors about the marketing plans for the event or activity, and to identify mutually beneficial cross-promotion opportunities among sponsors. This can be a great benefit to the participating sponsors, as well as the property holder through the synergies created.

Such briefings give executives the opportunity to learn what other sponsors are doing, and to gain ideas on how to get more out of their sponsorships. It helps them justify the sponsorship commitment to their own senior management.

Also, if a sponsor is concerned or unhappy about some aspect of the forthcoming event, the sponsor briefing provides an informal opportunity for them to address their concerns to the organizers.

In summary, these events can be used to:

  • Update sponsors about latest event news and audience research
  • Share information on all sponsors’ objectives, promotional plans, time frames and distribution channels
  • Inform sponsors of further added value provided
  • Share information on measurement they can initiate before the event (always better to start measuring beforehand to enable ‘before and after’ comparisons
  • Open discussion on sponsor cross-promotions
  • Pave the way for promoting future events planned by the property holder
  • Inform sponsors about the event ‘culture’ so their brand activities match closely

(Disappointingly, industry feedback indicates that less than half of property holders conduct these briefing activities for stakeholders, despite the great value they provide to all those involved. It is common sense to hold these events.

In your planning, make sure the package offered to each sponsor at each level is perceived as fair and transparent by the other sponsors. It invites trouble to hold a briefing in which sponsors look jealously at each other to try and see if anyone else has received a better deal.

Best-practice tips

  • Treat the briefing with due importance. Ensure key decision-makers attend. Their involvement demonstrates the importance of the occasion.
  • Involve sponsors in planning the briefing. It makes great sense to involve sponsors in planning the program. However, this is not done often enough. Input about the target market is essential in planning to maximize benefits for sponsors, and ensuring that they feel part of the briefing. This is also likely to increase their interest in attending the briefing. Sponsors can choose topics relevant to their objectives and can in effect run these sessions.
  • Attendance increases when the event has an attraction that draws interest. The attraction can be a business leader, author, coach or general manager, consultant, or someone recognized as a leader or innovator. The goal should not just be to gain big attendance, but to attract decision-makers, thought leaders and influencers.
  • Schedule the briefing away from other events. Property holders should try to host briefings at least several months before an event to ensure sponsors have enough time to develop new cross-promotions.
  • Don’t try to sell-up. Property holders should be careful not to turn the briefing into a sales pitch about other future events. People smell a contrived sales pitch very quickly!
  • Provide suitable reading materials. Participants should be provided with copies of presentations, contact information for all attendees and other important details such as sponsor guidelines and venue information.
  • Provide for B2B sponsors. Sponsor briefings help business-to-business sponsors make contacts with other sponsors, and share information. Just be sure they don’t try to use the opportunity for sales pitches to the other sponsors. For example, media companies might try to sell air time to other sponsors.
  • Make efficient use of time. These types of activities should run for 1-2 days requiring a one-night stay. Local events would probably need only a half day.
  • Include relevant third parties. Don’t forget to include attendees from relevant third-party organizations such as sponsorship, marketing, promotion, PR and other agencies.
  • External facilitator. You should consider using an external facilitator with knowledge of sponsorship. The expert can help heighten the importance of the event and help facilitate discussions that may not be possible with just sponsors and property staff.
  • Offer online access to summit presentations. Property holders should consider online access through Skype etc to provide for people unable to attend personally.
  • Follow up actions. Property holders should provide participants with a summary of activation ideas, lists of promotional ideas available through other sponsors, and summaries of each partner’s plans and objectives to make post-meeting follow-up easier.

Aim to provide a worthwhile experience

Experienced operators find that the meetings need to strike the right balance between information and relationship-building. and that the forum promotes various levels of communication (property holder to sponsor, and sponsor to sponsor) so that worthwhile information is exchanged.

The opening presentation is typically followed by sponsor introductions and updates on their marketing objectives. That is usually followed by networking sessions to allow sponsors to discuss potentially working together on cross-promotions and other activation efforts. The briefing typically ends with relationship-building activities. These obviously vary from event to event, but often include meeting with athletes, musicians or other significant personalities associated with the event, behind-the-scenes tours and other unique experiences.

Sample Sponsor Briefing Agenda

Property Information

  • Executive briefing
  • Updates/plans for upcoming year

Activation/Cross-promotion Discussion

  • Case studies/best practices
  • Group sharing of individual partner opportunities

Formal Networking

  • Structured meetings/conversations

Informal Socializing

  • Relationship-building activities

The downsides

Be prepared for excuses that property holders make against holding a sponsor briefing:

  • No budget. Simply divide the cost of a briefing across all of the sponsor attendees and share the cost with them.
  • No time: Then do less of something else. The summit will actually save time because it helps to pave the way for future sponsorship packages.
  • My sponsors will see it as useless/wasteful/extravagant. Ensure content is useful, don’t go over the top and don’t make it extravagant. At the end of the event ask your sponsors if they think it was a waste of time, and you will invariably find it has been worthwhile for them.

Overall, if you have been considering whether a sponsor briefing or summit is worthwhile, don’t hesitate. They definitely are!

You can read more about sponsorship in this special Kindle book, How to win corporate sponsorship: Helping you win the corporate sponsorship you want!

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

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