I talked a little with Amber Naslund (Director of Community at Radian6) at the end of last week on a new way to look at event sponsorship, after she sent our a rather wistful tweet, saying she was looking for a “better way.”
I agree with her. Let’s put ourselves in Amber’s shoes (and indeed the shoes of many companies) – as the figurehead of Radian6 she has conferences asking her all the time to sponsor their event. This means Radian6 give them cash, and the conference organiser slaps the logo on their website, plus gives them a few mentions on the day.
On one side the sponsor is wondering whether they are really getting the exposure they are paying for, whilst many event organisers are in the tricky situation of being new on the scene and struggling to get the sponsorship they need, even when they have a create line up.
This gives birth to two evils that Amber and I discussed that affect both sponsors and organisers, as well as their delegates:
- Pay to play. Sponsors are made to pay for speaking slots.
- Fake sponsors. Event organisers are made to lie about ‘sponsors’ they have onboard in order to secure actual sponsors.
Amber’s thought was that there must be a better way to go about this – on both sides – and I think there is.
Stop Sponsoring, Start Partnering
This old, 1950s model of sponsorship is based on the organiser getting money, and the sponsor getting exposure. These are separate benefits.
The new, 21st model is partnership and based on both parties building an ongoing relationship in which they achieve combined benefit.
Amber and I discussed Radian6 as an example. They don’t need their logo on a website – really, they don’t. What they need is space amongst the conference events to hold short demonstrations – to be involved in a people-to-people way, not just as a logo trophy.
Under a sponsorship mindset, the organiser wants to charge more and more for this – but if I look at this as partnership, I realise that I increase the quality of the event and the value for the attendees by having Radian6 hold small demonstrations. It means my attendees get exceptional tutoring on monitoring and measurement, they get expert direction on opportunities for their businesses, they get one-on-one advice for what fits into their price point.
Combined benefit also means we maximise each other’s strengths. Our video partners with Like Minds – 2.0 Production, Wide Eye Commnunications and Ooyala bring strengths to the conference that would be monumental in cost – and in return the ongoing exposure they get as partners with us has already given them more profile they they’ve enjoyed before.
Ways towards Partnership
Here are some ways to move out of sponsorship and into partnership:
- Event organisers: Have fewer, but deeper relationships in order to give more to each partner. Don’t spread it thin.
- Companies: Invest into smaller conferences that you can do more innovation with (Like Minds encourages all partners to have their own ‘value add’ angle that we can promote, like this and this.)
- Event organisers: Quit seeking logo trophies. Instead, build partner profiles.
- Companies: Get involved in the event, rather than complaining about lack of exposure. Make exposure.
- Event organisers: Partner with a number of local companies and put the benefits back into the local economy.
- Companies: Seek long term, multi-event involvement to leverage each event’s momentum onto the next.
- Event organisers: Invite competitors to both be partners with you. See if their Social Media oratory of collaboration translates into real life.
- Companies: Partner with your competitors.
As event organisers, what do you think? I bet that you’d actually increase the amount you raise through a partnership mindset than you do through a sponsorship mindset.
As companies coming on board as partners, what do you think? I bet that if you were prepared to work closer, and consider the smaller guys who don’t have the budgets of larger events, you’d get a lot more bang for your buck.
As far as I’m concerned, this is just all part and parcel of people-to-people.
Just some thoughts. Let’s hear yours.