By Ken Ungar
With 2020 sponsorships in tatters, it might sound silly to suggest that properties have sponsor summits this year. Typically, the sponsor summit has been a meeting to gather sponsors to highlight strong property performance. Few think of 2020 as a year of strong performance.
In fact, the sponsorship summit is probably the last thing on people’s minds. However, in times of crisis, I advise clients to do three things: communicate, communicate and communicate. To build relationships beyond the crisis of today, the sponsorship summit can be a valuable communications tool. We recommend three tips to build that value.
Confirm Performance in 2020
Confirm exactly how the property and its sponsorships performed in 2020. Someday, the COVID-19 pandemic will be in our rear-view mirrors. However, properties will still need their credibility with sponsor partners. So, avoid the temptation to “spin” bad results. Give sponsors the bad tasting medicine without sugar. Sponsorship managers for brands understand hard data like television ratings and social media engagement. They’re looking for answers about their sponsorship investment and do not appreciate attempts to avoid reality.
While being honest about data, the property also should provide context (not “spin”) for data so that it is understood in relation to the market. For example, if your sports property’s television ratings have dramatically declined, that’s bad news. However, if all other sports television ratings have declined similarly over the same period, that’s important context.
State Your Revised Strategy
Sponsors appreciate properties who exhibit strategic leadership in their market. “We don’t know” is a strategy statement guaranteed to end partnerships in 2020 and 2021. For this reason, a sponsorship summit can be valuable to debut a new and improved go-to-market strategy with sponsors. Sponsors want to know what their property partners are doing about their current circumstance, how they’ll address it in the future and what role (if any) sponsors can play in that plan.
For example, sponsors want to know the following:
- Will digital play a more prominent role for the property?
- Will attendees have a different in-event experience in 2021?
- Has the property’s audience continued to consume branded content in 2020?
Management expert Robert H. Waterman, Jr. once said, “a strategy is necessary because the future is unpredictable.” Using the sponsorship summit to confirm strategy takes the unpredictable out of sponsorship which will strengthen the sponsor-property relationship.
Give a Forum to Your Partners
Most of our property colleagues have experienced financial losses in 2020. However, many of our brand partners have as well. A 2020 sponsor summit should give your sponsor partners the opportunity to share their challenges with their colleagues. Offer opportunities to brainstorm about ways that the sponsorship or other sponsor partners can contribute towards business solutions.
A powerful aspect of the sponsorship summit is its combination of business leaders from different industries. Diversity of thought generates powerful ideas. A property can harness that power at their summit. A sponsor that finds unexpected solutions during a sponsor summit will think about their property partner in a whole new . . . and positive… light.
A great sponsorship is like a great personal relationship. If you invest in the fundamentals like communication, authenticity, creativity and problem-solving, the relationship grows in value. Without question, 2020 is a mess. The work to correct that mess begins today, not next year. If you use tools like the sponsorship summit to focus on the future, we’ll be back in the business of creating mutual value through sponsorship.
ARE YOU READY TO SELL POWERFUL SPONSORSHIPS?
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