Recently, I spoke at three conferences associated with municipalities. There was the CAMA Conference in Fredericton. This included the CAOs (Chief Administration Officers) from cities and towns across the country. Then I was in Charlottetown at the Recreation Atlantic Summit—the staff from municipalities and private facilities who manage, operate, and maintain the physical structures such parks, arenas, aquatic centres, etc. Finally, I spoke in Halifax at FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities—all the elected officials—councillors and mayors of our Canadian municipalities). A couple of themes ran through all three events. These were: How do I generate extra money outside of user fees and taxes and how do we maintain our crumbling physical infrastructures?

If you are a regular reader of the TMC, the answer to the first question is pretty simple. Put in place a professional sponsorship program, and go out and secure naming rights and sponsorships. Figure out what you have to sell and what it is worth. Then go close the business. (I know it is more complicated, but that is the premise.)

The second theme, how do we maintain our crumbling physical infrastructures, is also applicable to us in the sponsorship industry. I got thinking about this because it concerns me. The fact is that we in the industry don’t do enough to maintain and plan for the future of our own sponsorship infrastructure. Like the cities with decrepit old arenas and pools that have outlasted their time, but we still patch them up and use them; like municipalities that have old leaking pipe systems underground that need repairs beyond belief; or municipalities that have antiquated technology and use a series of patchwork solutions to keep their technology on life support, we in the sponsorship industry are just as bad.

We deal with a lot of organizations, both on the buyer and seller side. Few truly recognize the infrastructure support that is lagging. Sure, we are not talking physical structures and equipment. What we are lacking is continued maintenance of our human infrastructure. You can have the greatest sports team, the hit play, the “sexiest” cause, the best school ratings, and such, but without great human capacity to sell and maintain sponsorship, the revenue does not come in. So here are my thoughts about the roads, buildings, and technology equivalents that you and your organization should be paying more attention to.

  • Do you have a budget set aside for sponsor summits? It is critical to plan these, deliver them, and enhance the value you provide to your sponsors. Too often, I see properties cut corners on sponsorship fulfilment overall and wonder why sponsors leave.
  • That brings us to fulfillment. Do you have a dedicated person (PT or FT) to manage this? If not, you are probably going to have problems. I watched a pro sports team make its sales people handle all the fulfillment. They couldn’t figure out why they had such high turnover and unmet sales objectives. The salespeople were spending more time on fulfillment than sales. It is a vicious cycle. Management forces them to do less fulfilment, but with no extra staff. Customer service drops as do the dollars (already not making target).
  • Do you have a proper up-to-date IAV (Inventory Asset Valuation)? Is it accurate? Has your inventory expanded or declined since it was last done? Are your traffic numbers higher or lower than when it was conducted?
  • Have you kept up with the required technology for your staff, like a real CRM system versus an Excel spreadsheet?
  • Do you have a dedicated budget for professional development for each of your staff members—salespeople, development staff, fulfilment staff, etc.? The minimum annual contribution should be 5% of salary and the recommended level is 10%. So, an $80,000 a year staff member should have $8,000 a year for professional development, such as membership in AFP, SMCC, or other applicable member organization, online training, sector publication subscriptions and of course, travel and registration costs for conferences like the WSC. Failure to invest in your staff’s future means neither they nor you will have a future.
  • Speaking of futures, do your staff members see a development curve? Are they constantly learning, and just as important, can they grow in the organization? If they cannot see promotion opportunities and growth, they may need to look elsewhere and then you become nothing more than a training ground for others. Ensure your staff can grow within the organization. Perhaps there are limitations in the department, but what about the organization overall?
  • That leads me to one of the worst case scenarios for lousy infrastructure. Are all your partners tied to your organization through a single person or account manager? Do you have a development/salesperson who owns the relationships? Or is it perhaps your CEO who holds the relationships and will not let go? What happens when that person leaves? Your organization goes with it. That is troublesome. Make sure no single person owns any client or partner. It must be a team effort or your infrastructure with fail with the loss of that single person!

Ensure your human infrastructure is being maintained, enhanced, and well cared for if you want it and your sponsorship program to succeed over the long term.

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