By Paula Beadle
Sponsorship has been evolving slowly over the last several years, and while these have been great strides toward strengthening the value and relationships between brands and event properties, there is more work ahead. Whether we were ready for it or not, COVID-19 has escalated the need and demand to evolve the sponsorship industry. This is an unexpected, but welcomed opportunity to build stronger partnerships, produce more meaningful experiences for our audiences, and unite the sponsorship community in a whole new way.
As we continue to have conversations with brands and event properties, we are learning from and responding to the shifting landscape of sponsorship. We have gathered valuable insights on what we believe the future of sponsorship will hold. Every sponsorship leader should be taking note of these trends as well as asking themselves some crucial questions.
- Sponsors will require unique, innovative ideas to connect with audiences.
By now you’ve probably read a dozen articles about “Now is the Time to be Creative” or “Thinking Big During Crisis,” and it may seem like a daunting task. It’s hard to think innovatively during the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. However, with the industry in flux because of cancelled events, unknown public gathering restrictions and timelines, budget shifts, and the competition for limited sponsorship dollars, you must turn your attention toward creating unique ideas based on your sponsors brand and needs.
Question to consider: How are you extending your sponsors current campaigns?
- Spending will decrease and fewer sponsors will participate.
Recent surveys conducted by SponsorshipX and IEG suggest that sponsorship revenue will decrease by up to 45%. While we typically support a “bigger, better, fewer” approach. We are proponents of revising your strategy to seek and secure more sponsors in 2021.
Question to consider: If you reduce your total sponsorship revenue by 50% in 2021 and your average sponsorship spend by 25%, how many new sponsors do you need to return to pre COVID19 goals?
- Sponsors will place a greater value on employee engagement.
As leaders seek to rebuild and redefine a new culture, connecting their team members and engaging them in unique ways will be a prominent objective.
Question to consider: What opportunities does your team, event or venue provide for employee engagement?
- Sponsors want partnerships to include a social good or service element.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: The days of a company writing a check to receive lackluster recognition are over. Sponsors are looking to partner with event properties that have thoughtfully and progressively developed a way to host their event while incorporating a strong social good or service aspect of the program.
Question to consider: How is your property serving the audience and community and how can you integrate sponsors to support those efforts?
- Digital, Social and Virtual assets will become a non-negotiable.
Events, non-profit organizations, cultural arts, and sports teams are harnessing the power of the digital and virtual world to engage audiences and showcase sponsors. Those who innovate will diversify programming, grow participation, gather more data, create more revenue streams and establish new metrics. Watch leaders in this space including the L.A. Chargers, SXSW, Frieze Art Fair, and NASCAR.
Question to consider: What knowledge and resources does your organization need to develop digital, social, and virtual ideas and assets?
- Sponsorship decision-making and revenue sources will evolve partnerships.
A broader sponsorship vision will bring together multiple departments to develop, fund and decide on sponsor opportunities. Departments likely to participate include HR, Community Outreach, Investor and Government Relations, Diversity & Inclusion, Sales and Business Development. Working across departments will bring bigger thinking and more resources to support the partnership.
Question to consider: What is an example of a fully integrated sponsorship that connected multiple departments you have created?
About the author: Paula Beadle is the CEO of Caravel Marketing, a national consulting company specializing in sponsorship marketing, and the founder of Sponsorship Mastery, an annual summit and programming dedicated to improving individual and organizational sponsorship performance. She is a results-driven trailblazer with a proven record of developing smart strategies and creatively connecting the right partners. Paula has helped iconic events and major brands achieve their goals through innovative sponsorship initiatives, generating incremental revenue and successfully coaching thriving teams, executives and boards.