Bad Sponsorships

Bad Sponsorships

I attended a conference in late January. It had terrific speakers, great content, and for the most part, the audience loved the event—but the sponsors hated it! I did not speak to a single sponsor who felt they got their money’s worth. The audience liked the speakers and felt they got good value for their registration fee—and that is important. A happy audience is a good thing for sponsors.

But if the sponsors don’t get what they were promised, the equation is not complete. Without sponsor revenue, this digital marketing conference cannot continue. Those added dollars, plus activations (that were muted), add part of the value. The registration fee for delegates cannot deliver the necessary revenue to make the event the showcase that the organizer wants it to be.

Here is a quick recap of issues that we provided to the organizer when we were engaged to “audit” the outcomes and what we observed.

  1. Sponsors were promised certain assets such as ads in the program, opportunities to sample, etc. and those were not all delivered.
  2. From the start, the event came off as disorganized with line-ups at the registration desk, late starting, and no coffee. It looked as though the organizer (which reflected on the sponsors) was trying to cut costs!
  3. The attendee numbers were lower than anticipated.
  4. The conference format changed from keynotes and breakout sessions to just keynotes (again lower than expected numbers and cost cutting for the extra rooms).
  5. One speaker dissed another speaker who was a conference sponsor and is a national brand!
  6. There was an app set up that allowed for posting and interaction, but it had no access to outside social media platforms so all the “chatter” was enclosed in a silo in the app and there was no conversation, postings, or otherwise on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TicTok, etc. even though it was a digital conference.
  7. There was a promotional “enter to win” contest that, again, was only within the app and the tracking system for earning points faltered, so neither the prize nor the sponsor got promoted, nor was recognition gained. And even three weeks later, the organizer still had not provided the supplier of the prize with the name or contact information of the winner!

Understand that sponsors are as important as the audience. Some would say not, but if you are going to have sponsors, they are as important as the delegates. Failure to keep them happy can result in financial troubles along the way. I know the organizer has even bigger plans for 2021, but I am pretty sure none of the sponsors from 2020 will be returning, so they will need to look elsewhere for those rights fee and activation dollars.

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  1. Problems 1 through 4 are solely on the Organizing/Event Team, problems 6 and 7 are due to the App choice and is again solely the responsibility of the Organizing/Event Team, and problem 5 probably could have and should have been prevented, but we don’t know the circumstances.
    Regarding problems 6 and 7, I provide Event text messaging and have to compete against App providers. Some Apps are excellent, many are not, and it is up to the Organizer to decide on what level of service they need from an App or SMS to best service their Event and all the people in attendance; i.e. Delegates, Presenters, Sponsors, Exhibitors, Guests & Volunteers. Both SMS and Apps can be sponsored and some Event Organizers just look at the revenue generated and/or commission they will earn when reselling App sponsorship to a Brand. As we all now know, Sponsors participate to create activation opportunities and build sales, not just to have their logo featured in an App .

    • Rick,

      Thanks so much for reading the TMC and the terrific insights. I agree, there are some good apps and some not so good. And yes, your texting services truly could have helped here as they have with so many other conferences.

  2. After reading your article, I’m surprised that the organizer of this event will actually be in a position to coordinate this event in 2021. Seems like a myriad of things were overlooked from start to finish.

    In my experience, when a sponsor is promised something in return for their support of an event, an organizer needs to bend over backwards to ensure their commitment is met, no ifs and or buts. Unfortunately this organizer may have to start from scratch finding new sponsorships for next year.

    • Julie,
      I totally agree with your way of thinking. A ton was overlooked and the biggest was the failure to deliver. In meeting with them, they seem to be taking another approach for 2021… going after government training grants so everyone who register for a escalated and inflated registration price of $1500 will get $1200 of it back in government training cash credits…

      I think they figured out sponsors won;t be back.

      • These are some of the TMC subjects I most enjoy reading!

        Simply put, in your words Brent, sponsorship is often only successful when the sponsorship triangle is complete! In this case, they missed 2 sides.

        One thing I notice time and time again in sponsorship, is that sponsors/brands rarely, if ever, keep the property accountable for deliverables. Let’s just say I have seen thousands of dollars in deliverables go “unaccounted for” without the property being caught for it.

        • Truly that triangle needs to have all three sides or else it does not work. And you are right… when 2 of the three are not there… disastrous!

          Thanks again for your comments and feedback.


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