Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to participate in, present to and host many sponsor summits and have become a big proponent of what they can accomplish for both rights holders and their brand partners when the conditions are right.
Bill Burke, the founder of the Los Angeles Marathon, is credited with introducing the idea in the 1980s in a case of necessity being the mother of invention. According to Burke, the only way he could get race sponsors to discuss promotional plans and explore joint activations was to “lock them in a room and not let them out.”
Fortunately, today’s summits don’t risk anyone being charged with false imprisonment. But even when partner representatives are willing participants, successful outcomes are not guaranteed. Below are some recommendations on getting the most out of a sponsor confab:
Focus on achieving these primary goals. 1) Update partners on property developments, including new marketable assets, latest audience/fan insights, new staff and cosponsors; 2) share activation success stories, trends and concepts to help increase promotional activity; 3) introduce partners to each other to facilitate cross-promotions and collaboration
Prep participants. Brand and agency reps should be aware that they will be expected to share information on their upcoming sponsorship plans and be willing to meet with other participants to learn more about what their activation programs will entail.
Feature the best and the brightest. Identify the sponsors who are doing the most with and achieving the best results from their involvement with your property. Try to strike a balance between top-tier and lower-level sponsors to broaden the relevance of their examples. If there aren’t enough current partners that fit the bill, go outside your organization and invite successful activators of other properties.
Provide detailed information. Collect participant’s promotional plans, assets available for joint efforts, timelines/deadlines and contact information for distribution to all attendees. Including similar particulars regarding the property’s assets.
Encourage attendance from sponsor agencies. Often most responsible for conceiving and executing activation, agency representatives can play a key role in advancing the dialogue. Remind them to be respectful of the summit’s intent and not to view it as a chance to pitch new business.
Schedule wisely. Summits ideally should be held as far out as possible from a key event date or season start to allow time for planning and budgeting. Keep them to one-day, including time for social and networking activities, to limit the number of hours sponsors must be away from home and office.