Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant

I have been in the sponsorship marketing industry for over 30 years (Ugh, that really makes me sound old; Ugh again, I am old). Recently, I was chatting on ZOOM with a couple of collogues. One was about my age (so nearing 60), one about 10-12 years younger, and one was in her 30s. We were talking about the effects of COVID19 on our industry, and the upheaval and changes we will experience around digitization, VR, broadcast, AR, and of course, onsite activations and engagement on- and off-site. We talked about festivals, sports, programming, and other events such as conferences. It was an amazing discussion. But one underlying theme that came out to me (as I was basically the elder statesman in the group) was the importance of staying relevant. I mean staying relevant as individuals who may be younger or older, as organizations, to our audiences (or have they changed?), and relevant to all the changes in the marketplace, such as technology (not just specific to COVID19). Here is what I took away—really two key outcomes.

  • I concluded that being relevant is not based on age, but attitude and willingness to learn. Where I presently sit, I have decades of experience, insights, and knowledge. One could presume that provides me with great relevance. But just because something worked great 20 or 25 years ago may no longer be relevant. It may be a great story and fun to tell, but is it truly relevant today? And thus, am I (and the lady my age with decades of knowledge) truly relevant anymore?

Then when I look at the young lady in her 30s, having been in the industry a mere four or so years, what can she contribute from a relevance perspective? How can her insights be relevant if she does not have a ton of experience? And the fellow who was encroaching on 50 who held a more executive management/desk-type role within in a behemoth organization today versus an “on the ground” position—was he truly still relevant sitting in his ivory tower corner office?

I can tell you that all four people on the call are still truly relevant. All had insights beyond their years. My age-similar comrade and me were more than our “old stories being rehashed.” We have stayed in touch, have been hands on, and work with others daily. We also attend a ton of conferences and undertake continuous learning. The executive management person could see from several sides. He had worked for agencies, properties, and brands, small and now large. His insights, instincts, and ongoing learning make him and his input relevant. And finally, the youngest of the group brought new ideas and questioned our approaches and beliefs (yes, she tested our relevance). Her opinions from five years’ previous work outside the industry brought different perspectives. And of course, her age and generational difference brought important relevance to the discussion.

So being relevant is not about being young or old, executive or front line, but rather how to you continue to gain insight and knowledge to add to your toolbox of experiences and your positive attitude.

  • From that first learning, I took away terrific ideas on how to stay or become relevant. It was based on three key elements: continuous learning, networking, and sharing. All four of us agreed that continuous learning involves both structured and unstructured experiences. All three of my colleagues mentioned the importance of the upcoming WSC® Alberta Forum in Edmonton and WSC® Ontario and events in Toronto and Ottawa to the industry. As the first-face-to face meeting opportunities for our industry since March, and after so many cancelled sponsorship professional events, these are critical. The speaker line-ups and topics they noted are amazing, and will allow for terrific learning and vision for the new world of sponsorship. They spoke about these types of formal events along with SMCC events in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver offering terrific learning and insights. For the veterans like me and others, such conferences and events offer new and engaging insights and content to keep us relevant. For those who are new, these events are truly important to broaden insights beyond the one or two organizations to which they may have been exposed. And for all the others, this is an opportunity to share insights and knowledge, either formally on stage or in networking groups. The other form of learning is through social media and the internet. We all agreed that platforms such as LinkedIn and the internet overall offer tremendous amounts of content, and differing opinions and insights. It is important to be on these daily to continually learn and be made aware of what is happening around you. Another terrific publication for being kept up to date every two weeks is The Sponsorship Report.

The second channel for staying relevant is networking, whether it is at formal events such as the Western Sponsorship Congress® or through coffees, social media like LinkedIn, or as we have become accustomed to recently, platforms like ZOOM. But always be networking. Talk to people, learn from them, and share your knowledge and experience. Staying relevant means being in front of other people (physically or virtually) so they know you are still around.

The third way to stay relevant is to share. Share your thoughts and knowledge. It could be a post on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter, or sharing with a comment. Share when asked to be a speaker at a conference, or on a podcast or webinar. Keep your knowledge out there, and show you have adapted and developed over time. Share when networking. Your opinions count and they make you relevant!

For insights, feedback, and tips on managing your sponsorship program during the COVID-19 recovery period and post-COVID-19, check out our videos page on the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists® website. There are several short clips, some longer ones, and full-blown webinars on COVID-19 and your sponsorship programs. Access is 100% free.

Please continue to practice social distancing, stay home when you can, stay in touch with others, and stay healthy.

© 2020 All rights reserved.


  1. Great read, Brent!
    You nailed it on the head with the “willingness to learn” notion. The amount of people, inside and outside of the sponsorship field, who squirm at the word “online” is a little troubling. Technology and new ideas dont HAVE to be scary!

    • Thanks Josh! Truly technology and new ideas do not have to be scary. WE need to be open minded. Thanks again for sharing.


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