How to keep sponsors?
I have had to cancel several sponsorships in my career, and it has not always been pleasant. Some of those events and organisations had to stop their activities because of the contract cancellation. Not that I hold my former company responsible for the failure, but it proves how close sponsors and events are connected. Out of my experience, sponsorships are often cancelled for the following reasons:
- no involvement between brand & events
- high sponsorship fees
- lack of activation possibilities.
- the impossibility of proving the return on investment by the organiser.
However, cancellation is not always related to how your event evolves. It can also be a change in the sponsorship strategy of your sponsor in response to other business and marketing objectives of the brand.
So what can you do to keep your sponsors as long as possible or get a renewal?
Negotiate long-term contracts
In my opinion, one-year contracts make no sense at all. It may obtain a temporary objective, but it is not possible to achieve a return on investment or objectives in such a short period. There is no follow-up of the progress or another opportunity to adjust your activation for more success the year after. What you also miss is building a lasting relationship with the audience. A good example was our cap gadget for music festivals. Every year we had a different model for every festival we sponsored and people love it as a collector’s item. 10 years later I still see those branded caps on festivals.
Make measurable agreements.
In various debrief meetings, I have experienced that events were challenged on return and often wrongly so. However, no measurable objectives were ever set beforehand. So the sponsor always wins. I know that many events are reluctant to do this, but it is the best insurance. Figures don’t lie and bad results are opportunities to do better towards the next edition. So a golden piece of advice. Always determine smart objectives in advance before you start a sponsorship programme.
Invest in your sponsorship relations
Retention & servicing tools are tools that facilitate sponsorship management for your sponsors. So they will be much less inclined to cancel a contract if they get the means from you to defend their investment internally to all involved stakeholders. Result-oriented reporting, debrief presentations, event videos, VIP invites are good examples of a servicing framework.
I keep repeating this to events and rightsholders. The days of sponsors knocking at your door are over. It is up to you to make your sponsorship strategy efficient and effective from a creative point of view and not from a reaction one. To keep sponsors aboard is equally important than finding new ones. Invest in tools, servicing and reporting to keep sponsors close. The initiative is yours.
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