Change is inevitable. Social media, the sponsorship industry, likes and dislikes, hot properties and not-so-hot properties—they are all forever changing. Every day is different. Change is all around us. In The Costco Connection, I recently read an article about change by Jim Clemmer. It hit home.
Jim talked about the term “change management.” He called it an oxymoron because you can’t predict or manage change. Successful leaders and organizations embrace continuous growth, learning, and development. Change is an ongoing journey and he notes that there are really two types of people with regard to change. There are those who are changing and those who set themselves up to be victims of change. Basically he says, “Change or be changed.”
I got thinking about this. I looked back over my two and-a-half decades in the sponsorship industry to see how it and I have changed. I have watched too many people and organizations become victims of change. Often these are the older folks who were fundraising volunteers for years for their charities of choice who believe the arm twist “sale” will always work. Or they are the fundraising professionals, who to this day do not understand the difference between philanthropy and sponsorship. And finally, there are those in the sports world who still think sport sponsorship is about the sport and the athletes. Times have changed. Many organizations are living in the past and cannot understand why they cannot attract sponsorship revenue.
The sponsorship world has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Thanks to the research provided by the Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study, we have seen that corporate marketing budgets have shifted, from 5% or so of dedicated budget dollars to experiential and sponsorship marketing, to the 2012 results of 30%. Over the last seven years alone, sponsorship marketing as a part of the overall marketing budget has grown by 75%. This change tells me that it is not just about the “cause” anymore, but about the business of growing business through sponsorship. It is “sponsorship marketing.”
The Imagine Canada shows that 56% of Canadian corporations switched from corporate philanthropy to corporate sponsorship over the previous year. This reflects the change in corporate decision makers. Those who are still hoping to arm twist or beg for money need to understand that their pot is shrinking steadily. Unless they provide a value-based sponsorship opportunity, their chances at revenue will continue to decline. There is a difference between philanthropy and sponsorship.
Another big change that affects many organizations is the “proposal.” The colorful, pretty stock packages produced and promoted by advertising agencies and printers have gone the way of the dodo bird. Sure, I still see lots of them, but ask the sponsors. They don’t want anything to do with it. They want a discovery session and a customized proposal developed specifically for their needs. Organizations that are still using those glossy, graphically pretty WOW stock presentations are either too lazy to do it the right way, customize a proposal and conduct discovery sessions, or they are being convinced by agencies that make their money on graphic design and layout and get a kickback from their favorite printers. These glossy WOW stock packages benefit no one but the agencies and the printers. Times have changed!
Finally there is sport. Let’s face reality. Many of us watched the Olympics this summer. Truly, we had to recognize that it really is no longer about the athletes. They are told what to say, how to say it, what they can and cannot wear, etc. It is all about the dollar. The sport organization (be it the Olympics or high school football) needs the money. The sponsors have the money. Sponsors need positive ROI on their sponsorship marketing investments. That means they need to sell product. They really do not care so much about the athletes and the games. They care about the ability to reach the right audience members who will have an affinity to their product because they sponsor the sport, team, or athlete and expect the consumer who likes that sport, team, or athlete to buy their product as a result. For those folks in the sport world who still think it is about the sport and the athletes, welcome to the world of change.
Many will say I am being overly-critical or over-generalizing. I don’t think so. The industry has changed and we all need to change with it. For some, change has passed them by and they will never recover. Don’t be the next victim of change. Instead, learn, understand, and embrace change and be extremely profitable as a result.
These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.