Making Sponsorship Work

Making Sponsorship Work

Is your sponsorship program working or does it need a boost? I am excited to be back at the AFP Banff Compass. What an amazing bi-annual conference—terrific plenary sessions, great sponsors, an excellent lineup of breakout sessions, and of course, really strong networking opportunities. Congratulations to the Calgary and Area AFP Chapter on this amazing event. (I am really excited to see and hear Vu Le from Nonprofit With Balls speak later this morning about “non-donor-centred fundraising.” I get his weekly Make Mondays Suck a Little Less blog and really enjoy it.

So, how does all this about Banff Compass relate to your need to give your sponsorship program an adrenalin shot? I have the privilege of presenting a workshop today as well. It is on the Trinity of Sponsorship. I thought I would share with you some of what I will share at the conference.

Sponsorships have always been two sided. First, there is the sponsor who pays money to get exposure, be aligned with, and be able to interact with a select demographic or audience that the sponsorship selling property offers. The second and only other partner in the equation historically, and unfortunately for most properties reading this post presently, is the property. As a result, sponsorship programs tend to be two dimensional.   If the property gets money, it is happy. If the sponsor gets good ROI, it is happy. But for decades, and unfortunately for most properties, we have left out the third leg of the stool; we have omitted the third part of the Trinity of Sponsorship—the audience members themselves. Sure, they have been there, but when we build sponsorship programs, the focus has always been to ensure the sponsor got a good ROI and the property got cash so they could deliver on their mission.

With the advent of social media, this silent partner has come alive. Through social media, fans, donors, audiences, attendees, or whatever groups, have found their voices. When KFC did pink buckets of chicken as a sponsorship and fundraiser for Susan J. Komen, the donors took to Twitter and Facebook and shut it down. It was diametrically opposed to the mission of the organization. But the organization had seen the dollar figures in the opportunity and not what mattered to the donors!

That third part of the Trinity spoke up and it was a turning point for sponsors and properties to learn and understand that the “audience” now has a say and need to be considered in every sponsorship. In sport, the fans want real time stats, real time answers to questions, and real time interaction. At a walk or run, it is the same—“let me know when the first person crossed the finish line,” provide me with content I can use! For galas, festivals, and events—real time interaction; people inviting others to join them at a concert or festival and talking about the experience they are having with a sponsor. All of these things affect every sponsorship. Attendees at an event don’t want to see a banner or booth. They want interaction, experiences, and memories. That is why Honda had to revamp its entire Little League World Series on-site sponsorship activation to make it more experiential. That is why storytelling has become critical in sponsorship to link the third part of the trinity, the audience/donor/fan, etc., into the experience.

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