Professionalizing Our Sponsorship Industry

Professionalizing Our Sponsorship Industry

Do you believe you, your peers, and your staff have all the tools necessary to be the most successful you can be in the sponsorship and partnership game?  I presume not. Most of us don’t believe we know everything. (OK, there are a few that do…) Most of us believe there is something to learn every day we come to work. I am one of those people daily ongoing learners..

I also believe that someone or something (like the SMCC, an educational institution, or even the Canadian Marketing Association or the Association of Canadian Advertisers) needs to take a leadership role to consolidate and professionalize our sponsorship industry on the professional development and training side. I know I have stood on this soapbox before, but I feel the need to shout it out again. There are more reasons than ever why this is so critical based on the feedback from my last post on this subject.

There is a ton of content, but no Canadian sponsorship accreditation program—and no one taking the lead to develop one. The charitable fund raisers have such a program. Through AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals), you can become a Certified Fund Raising Executive and receive your CFRE designation. The Canadian Marketing Association has an opportunity for their members to receive designation Certified Marketing Specialist™ So, here are my thoughts and feedback to date.

  • There is a ton of content from coast to coast to coast in Canada about everything from ROI measurement to valuation of assets, from negotiating to proposal development, from prospect development to activation tactics and strategy, ideation, brand integration and more. Most people in the industry, including me, are willing to share their content to better the industry. Post-secondary schools such as Algonquin College, George Brown College, Centennial College, Seneca College, Mount Royal University, University of Calgary, and business schools across the nation have sponsorship and sport marketing content built into their curricula. But no where is there an accreditation program (that could be valuable to SMCC, the membership, and the schools). So, why doesn’t the SMCC or a post-secondary institution grab this, develop it, reap the financial rewards, and provide a great service to our existing industry “professionals” and our future protégés?
  • Giving credit where credit is due, SMCC did include, years ago, in a polling of membership, whether or not members felt that certification was important. I thought the poll and overall questions and probing were excellent and what our association needed. What I have not seen is the outcome of the survey, specifically around certification. I am guessing that it was ranked low on a needs list by members. The senior industry leaders most likely said “not important” because they don’t need it; the mid-level members look at it as more work “and they already know everything”; and the entry level people are not quite sure what it is! So, the feedback was probably not supportive, and it will go no further. This, I feel, shows a lack of leadership. Sometimes the role of the association is to do what is right and needed versus wanted, so our members can walk into an office and have a designation of credentials after their name specific to our industry to show that they are qualified (like having an LLB, CPA, MBA, BA, or PhD). Furthermore, it will assist employers and employees in their employment searches for qualified people and companies.
  • Such a program will consolidate our standards around ROI measurement, valuation, activation, etc. It won’t stop creativity, but will show different types of case studies and scenarios. It will widen the doorway of knowledge and understanding for those who become certified. This is a good thing!
  • It will allow businesses to plan professional development for key staff. They can work to have that staff complete their certification and pay for it just as many companies pay for MBAs.
  • So, that comes back to the SMCC. As our association continues to struggle for membership growth outside of Toronto and is not really flush with cash, this can be a revenue generator. Since membership growth was tallied as the big revenue channel and that has not come to fruition, there is a need to supplement the other channels of awards applications, awards events, and Sponsorship 101 Workshops. The introduction of the Foundational Partners has injected over $100,000 to the bottom line annually without really giving up much in the way of value or costs. These “donation sponsorships” will probably continue, but never reach an annual income of over $200,000 per year. However, an accreditation program that requires three- or five-year updating renewals, plus training offered and annual fees, as well as the fee for the program itself could be $1,500 per person, and with 200 people taking it per year (and renewals in the future), this is in excess of $300,000 per year. Typically, this is a major revenue channel for other professional industry member organizations, but not for our industry. We continue to play the game of just trying to recruit more members.
  • Perhaps it is not SMCC, but rather a post-secondary institution or private sector business that should lead this, make it happen, and reap the financial rewards.

There is a need, there is a strong business case, and there is plenty of support. That support is in the form of available programs and how they operate. There is support from the holders of content. There just needs to be some leadership to, at the least, undertake a feasibility study around certification for Canadian sponsorship industry professionals.

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