When you make a sponsorship marketing investment, you need to measure results. Those parameters need to be set prior. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, at the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists, we invest heavily in sponsorship. We are an independent agency focused specifically on sponsorship. We assist both brands and rights holders to make more money. We are leaders in the field. We practice what we preach and the focus of our marketing is sponsorship marketing.
We invest in small and large properties ranging from $250 to $25,000 annually. In addition to rights fees, we also activate on site. Most often, we use branded products like our pens or notebooks and such to build our name recognition and profile beyond the days of the event. Mark Jackson and his team at Promotion Resource Group – PRG work closely with our team to get the right products in association with the right events. Last spring, we were the wine sponsor of a conference banquet. PRG sourced several ideas around wine and gave us options and ideas. It was terrific. All of that is an investment above and beyond the rights fees we pay-and well worth it.
We have metrics in place to evaluate at the front end if the investment will likely be a good one, and then again at the back end to measure against pre-established yardsticks. For us, those metrics are criteria such as traffic to the web site, traffic on Twitter, overall lead generation, quality prospect development within six months, and closing or incremental business within the next 18 months. At the front end, we look at these same criteria as well as “Is this a sector we focus on?”; “Will it open new doors?”; “Will it support existing clients?”; and several others.
So with all that established, I want to tell you two stories. In neither case will I identify the property or event as I don’t think that is fair. But I think the reviews will benefit others.
First, the good news story. The event was about seven months ago. It was a small cash investment at the front end, but on the activation side, it was a little larger. It included a speaking opportunity. Truly, it was not a sponsorship industry sector in which we do a ton of business, though we are fully qualified to do so. So, I was skeptical as to whether to make the investment or not. Typically, one of our major competitors is a sponsor and presenter at this event, but the rights holder wanted to add us to it. We saw it as an opportunity to grow our brand in a sector where we were not holding our fair share of the market. Also, it was not a huge cash investment. The speaking opportunity was guaranteed and we went forward. The feedback on our presentation was tremendous. The event organizers said the evaluations showed it was one of the best and well-attended breakout sessions of the conference. That was great news. We delivered reputable content. We activated well and we built some brand equity. But the real bonus is that, in the last seven months from that conference alone, we have generated about 15% of our fiscal budget for 2015. Typically, our sales cycle is six times that long. The investment was good, the leads were good, and the business followed. There are no regrets here. In fact, we have signed on for another year. The metrics established the ROI and helped to determine if we should make the investment. We followed the rules.
The other story is not as satisfying! It occurred about seven weeks ago. We were a sponsor. It was a pretty significant cash investment. It was a provincial event in a core industry sector for our company. The right people were going to be there, and we had been extremely successful at other provincial versions of this event and the national event. In fact, on a metrics valuation, the events associated with this one have yielded high ROI for us. But this was different and I should have known better. Sometimes you think because it is the right audience, it is the right investment. Wrong!
All the signs were there. The person managing sponsorship sales professed to know way more than they truly did. The organization was living in the past. It had stock packages and allowed little to no variance. When I spoke at the national event five months earlier, our session was the #1 attended breakout session (over 300 people) and received very high ratings by delegates. This sister organization said it did not want us to deliver such a workshop because the topic was not of interest or value to its audience! (I knew something was wrong at this point… the decision makers were still living in the 1960s!) Then on top of that, the sponsorship manager tried to add additional activation costs to our program. The other “clincher” that should have sent me running (beyond the gold, silver and bronze packages) was that the assets offered were useless… logo here, logo there, (and vague), and the real market value of the offered assets was probably about 15% of what we paid for the agreement. But let it be known, they do very well with their sponsorship revenue in spite of themselves. A great many of the sponsors are big corporations and suppliers to the industry buying their access to the delegates and this is an important lobbying opportunity for them. These sponsors do it right. They know they need to be there as their absence would be noticed. So they sign up at “whatever price.” They don’t measure the ROI or asset value-they just “do the circuit.”
This is probably one of the worst sponsorship investments we have ever made as a company. I should have known better. The signs were there, but instead of being analytical and doing what we do for our clients, I followed emotion and believed “because this worked elsewhere, it will be great here too.” Every rights holder is different. You need to evaluate each one individually and not rely on the success of a “sister property” as your justification for the investment. The signs were evident. The decision makers were not truly looking at the best interests of their delegates, they were behind the times; the assets were overvalued, and the opportunities were limited; the sponsorship manager was not strong though they thought they were and promoted their number of attendees versus the quality of the attendees.
Lessons are learned continually. I know where to re-invest my sponsorship dollars and where not to. Do you have any great stories of success or failure that you want to share? I would love to hear about them.
Thank you for reading and your feedback.