Sponsor an Event or Partner with a Venue?

Event sponsorship needs an overhaul

Sponsor an event, or partner with a venue? What would you do if you were a brand thinking about sponsoring a proposition? Think about it, would you invest in a one-off one night stand at a venue, or have access to not one but multiple events across a seasonal or annual term at the venue/property? Repeat and continuous engagement opportunities and fixed/permanent presence enabling you try out and test a variety of ongoing activation options, may give venues the upper hand relative to an ‘investment’ strategy. Besides, for most brands, investment is perceived as too great to support a single event. Conclusion: Event sponsorship needs an overhaul.

event sponsorship

Obviously not all events are unattractive. There is a case to be made for touring events; these are events that travel from one venue or property to the next, offering a greater and varied return for a presenting sponsor via multiple opportunities and endless touch points we stated above.

Of course there are, and will always be, sponsor-able one-off events. But not everyone’s event is the Super Bowl, or the GRAMMYs, or SXSW. Even the Olympics is made up of various events in various venues in various disciplines.

Think beyond the ordinary. If you’re an event producer or organiser, instead of trying to find the right sponsor for your upcoming event, or grab any sponsor whose money you’re willing to accept, step back and think about your overall lineup and instead present your proposition as a multi-event opportunity. Sell yourself as the producer, willing and capable, not the event per se. This way you’re not chasing after sponsors time after time. Nor do you have to compete with a thousand other similar ‘event sponsorship’ proposals on the sponsorship director’s desk at the brand level.

More importantly, your valuation is more palatable this way. The valuation of the sum of your events is greater then the value of each event added together. Most often than not, brands may not collaborate with you because your valuation is too low, or you end up dealing with local or regional sponsors, the local auto dealership for example, rather then the global or national headquarters of the auto manufacturer. You can’t just inflate your value to justify your leverage either. You need to have a credible valuation study that’s not based on pulling a number out of a hat.

We can’t begin to tell you how often we come across this issue when approached by potential clients who want to hire us as their sponsorship agency. And take it from us, we’ve had many years of experience, especially in recent years, where the above outlined brand perspective is a reality. Brands usually don’t even tell you why they’re not interested; they just don’t respond.

But if you arm yourself with a big picture attitude and a proactive strategy encompassing a larger return on investment for you and your brand ‘partner,’ you’ll enjoy more successes than having to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Brands are like VCs; they don’t like put all their investments into one startup, one project, one event. They love to diversify their investment and hope that the 1 in 10 will produce the 10 to 1 (or more) return to justify their risks that some of your assets may pose. Their risk get bigger when they’re just presented with a one-off event. Bottom line on event sponsorship: not impossible, but the odds are stacked against you.

For more on long-term partnership vs one-off sponsorship, read ‘sponsorship is dead; long live brand partnership.’

We’ll talk about presenting your project as a ‘platform’ rather than a product or service/solution in our next post.

Keep in mind investors invest in companies operating scalable businesses, not necessarily in products or services, especially in today’s world where obsolescence may be a factor sooner than later. Think iTunes. Apple didn’t want to create and market all the apps themselves and become an app company. Instead they created the app store platform for app developers to innovate. In exchange, Apple just takes 30 cents on every dollar; such a deal!

The point is, you’ll have more leverage as a platform. And if your platform is an enabler for innovation as a distribution channel for others to curate their content, you also gain credibility. Leverage and credibility adds up to getting what you need from the brand partners, and in turn your brand partners get more than what they bargained for. All in the name of measurable ROI, and an investable commodity, not a sponsorship spend.

In later posts we’ll also touch on (1) turning off major brands in the long-term as a result of the dangers of accepting sponsorship deals at all costs in the beginning of the process out of desperation; (2) not allowing brands to cherry-pick exclusivities of your assets; and (3) not depending on sponsorship money to be able to deliver what you propose, since no brand wants to underwrite your project; etc.