I often hear that it’s an old cliché and we need to set it aside. But I believe that, no matter what phrase you want to use, we need to think differently. We need to be more creative in our sector. We need to take technology to the next level. We need to think beyond the norm. And we need to be bold. We need to crush those archaic (and as I once noted, the costliest eight words in the English language) thoughts of “But we have always done it that way!”
It is time to take charge. I don’t care if you are a development officer, a VP of sponsorship, an ED, or a fulfilment coordinator. Push back and bring forth your new ideas. We have been stagnating. Other than pro sports, creativity in the sponsorship sector has been in a rut for too long. Here are some examples of what I mean.
- We still ask sponsors to “support” galas and give them nothing more than a banner, logo, speaking opportunity, and a table for eight! What about direct to mobile device messaging and opportunities during the gala? Or even the silent auction process that is managed by your smart phone versus signing a sheet that, in turn, provides a detailed record of who bid on what and for how much. Wouldn’t that provide the donor with valuable information that makes it worth paying to have an item in the silent auction? Heck, why do we let people just provide such a product? How come they don’t pay a rights fee to be there?
- What about our newsletters? Sure, we have gone electronic, but I don’t see us going digital as yet. Why are we not allowing sponsor integration in our newsletter from a digital link perspective through an electronic newsletter to provide enhanced content and important information?
- I see too many organizations living in the days of old as they continue to think that they can research everything they need to know online and through researchers, and then build proposals only to get rejected. They need to push back and say to the CEO, DD, or ED of the property, “This is a long-term relationship-building process, not a quick slam dunk ‘ask for a big amount because they are a financial institution and have lots of money!’” We need to understand that it is meetings and relationship building that secures long-term deals that deliver maximum ROI for both partners. Please push back, stand up for what will help your organization, and do not be bullied into “pitch packages” and “go get the money now!”
- Brands need to better understand which properties can truly deliver their audience. As sponsors they need to dig deep beyond just an anecdotal belief that live theatre delivers wealth management clients or festival exit surveys to ensure we are placing sponsorship dollars in the right places. The technology and deep dive big data information is readily available to know your property’s audience better than they do! We are presently undertaking this work with clients, so this is not a far-fetched conceptual desire—it is a reality!
- Likewise, we are still seeing too many properties continue to build prospect lists on historical concepts and traditional beliefs versus using the tools and expertise available. As an event that delivers a high-end rural suburban audience (read “estate property” owners) who lease luxury vehicles every 18 months on average, we know to go after the luxury car manufacturers and dealers because we see their cars in our event parking lot. But what we might not see in our parking lot or at the event is that this same demographic that has been a subscriber to the event for the past five years indexes at 435 for European luxury river cruises that they take twice a year. This means that 6,500 of the 17,000 people who come to your event are over four times more likely than the average Canadian to take a high-end European river cruise in the next 6-12 months. Wow! Now, what travel agent doesn’t want to be aligned with you? But you won’t see these folks parking their “cruise cabins” in your parking lot, so you will probably miss out on a huge sponsorship deal because the traditional approach to prospecting is all you do. You look in your parking lot, you look at the clothes your patrons wear, and think that is all you have to do to be successful. Think again—there is technology to tell you all this. We are doing it for clients right now as are others. But you have to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone to think “outside the traditional”
Your creativity, ideas, and ability to think beyond what has been done safely before are there, but you have to unleash them. You need to build the courage to go where your mind and creativity will take you. Stop being conformed by the safety of “We have always done it that way.” Be bold, trust your instincts, and take a calculated risk. As has been said so often, “Ships are safe in harbours, but that is not what ships were made for.” Sponsorship was designed to be creative, interactive, engaging, and compelling. Take your “sponsorship ship” out of the harbor and steer it where it belongs—to greater heights of success!
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