The Intersection

Tools for Making Sponsorships Work

Three veteran meeting professionals weigh in on the care and feeding of 'corporate partners.'

Finding and keeping the right sponsors for your event is a necessary task — and can be a tricky one, too. Is there a formula for keeping everyone happy, attendees included?

In “Sponsorship Marketing,” the latest video for The Intersection, presented by PCMA and PSAV, host Jamie Muro gets down to sponsorship brass tacks with Kati S. Quigley, CMP, senior director of partner community marketing for Microsoft, and Meg Fasy, principal of sponsorship management for FazeFWD Sponsorship Management and former vice president of sales for Bellagio. Both are veterans of working with sponsors — and both say it’s critical to build long-term relationships that include lots of listening. “Gone are the days where partners are just saying, ‘Okay, well, I’ll put my money over to the welcome reception,’ or ‘I’ll buy the lanyards,'” Fasy said. “[Sponsors] really want to match sponsorship opportunities to their goals and objectives.”

Because sponsors are making such a significant investment in an event — one exponentially larger than that of an individual attendee — it’s important to make them feel “that they matter,” Quigley said. “It’s certainly a long-term approach. Understand who [sponsors] are and what they’re trying to achieve. Make sure that your goals and their goals are aligned.”

That can include giving sponsors a place at the table — literally. Beth Allgaier, corporate relations director for the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR), involves sponsors throughout the year during touchpoint meetings. “Opening up those extra channels for dialogue is really key,” Allgaier said. “One of the really cool things we’ve done in the last three years was invite [sponsors] to our planning-meeting site visits for the following year’s meeting, so they feel invested. They can talk to other industry representatives about how inviting the venue is, they can talk about early plans, and sometimes they text us from the airport and say, ‘Hats off to you.'”

Beth Allgaier
Beth Allgaier

However, working in the medical sector puts some limits on how SIR promotes sponsors, and how those sponsors can contribute to an event. “We have to be more careful than other industries,” Allgaier said, to adhere to ethical standards and rules, as well as minimize the perception of a conflict of interest. For one, SIR doesn’t necessarily use the word “sponsors” — “they’re corporate partners,” Allgaier said — and logos and product branding are for the most part verboten. So SIR recognizes its corporate partners in other ways. “We provide more meaningful follow-up on a regular schedule throughout the year, and we create opportunities for two-way dialogue to make [sponsors] feel like they matter, and that we’re listening,” Allgaier said. “We also bring our partners to our board meeting, during which we have a roundtable session between industry partners and our board of directors.”

And when it comes to involving sponsors in the event? “Be flexible,” Allgaier said. “Some companies lend themselves well to coming up with new types of sponsorship opportunities, like an interactive wishing wall, or something unique, innovative, and entertaining at their booth that might generate noise and drive people into the expo. That’s what we all want.”

That emphasis on shared objectives, flexibility, and imagination seems to be an ideal formula for working with sponsors in 2016 — as does not making false promises. “Sponsorship has never been stronger,” Fasy said in the video. “I think the conversations are smarter, and I think they’re much more in depth, and [sponsors] are looking to drive ROI in sponsorships in a way they never have done before.”

Kati & Meg’s Top Tips for Working With Sponsors

1. Focus on the attendee experience and everyone wins.

2. Consider sponsors as customers.

3. Align methods, channels, and interaction with sponsor goals.

4. Understand your audience data before pitching a sponsorship.

5. Make sponsorship activity a touchpoint for attendees.

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Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is associate editor of Convene.