Aug 10, 2009 at 12:59 PM
written by Gail Bower

A Jump Start for Your Stalled Sponsorship Program

Festivals and events across the country are feeling the impact of the recession on their sponsorship programs. You may be, too. Worse, you may not know what to do next.

One crucial but perhaps counterintuitive next step is to deepen your commitment to your existing sponsors. Now is the time to strengthen the ties and all the ways your two organizations are interconnected and enrich the sponsorship program for your partners and for your own organization.

How to strengthen your ties to sponsors

Take the time to develop an understanding of what your sponsors face in their respective industries and markets.

  • Visit your sponsors’ web sites.
  • Do a web search on each sponsor and each industry segment.
  • Regularly read local business publications; the business sections of your local newspapers; and national newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.
  • Read the comments sections of articles you find online.
  • Set up Google Alerts and/or a Google News page with your sponsors’ names or industries so you stay apprised of news in real (media) time.
  • Do a search in Twitter and other social media networks, to find out what your sponsors’ customers may be saying.
  • Actively use your IEG Sponsorship Report (SR) subscription to conduct searches in the online archives that will help you find current news and trends that involve your clients, their competitors, and their industries.
  • Pay attention to advertising.
  • Keep your “marketing radar” alert when you are out in the world shopping, traveling, going to other events, and just normally living your life.

    These methods are all excellent ways for you to collect information that you will be able to use in your discussions with sponsors.

    Here’s what you’re looking for:

  • Problems in the sector: bankruptcies, mergers, earnings reports, scandals, polling data that indicates negative perceptions, poor online reputation management, new regulations or changes in governmental affairs.
  • Opportunities in the sector: mergers, acquisitions, earnings reports, polling data that includes positive and negative perceptions, new product launches, new services, expansions into new markets, new marketing campaigns or promotions, important initiatives, and key messages to stakeholders, investors, shareholders, and other audiences.
  • Ideas: Take note of what your sponsors’ competitors and businesses in other geographic markets may be doing at this time. What appears to work or not work about these ideas? Take note, too, of what organizations like yours in other locales are doing to address sponsorship issues.

    Keep files of this information and pay attention to particular trends or notions that resonate for you. What seems important? What seems like an opportunity? What seems troublesome?

    Next, Talk To Your Sponsors

    With this newfound information, contact your sponsors and schedule time with them, preferably in person. Your primary goal is to listen. Find out what’s really going on with your client’s company and with your contact.

    Your conversations should happen on two levels: with your primary sponsor contacts and among your two organizations’ senior leadership. The president, executive director, or executive producer of your organization or festival should meet with your sponsors’ senior management. If you are the executive director, invite the support of your board chair and/or key members of your board. The conversations are similar in nature to your conversation with your key sponsor contact, and the goals are to demonstrate regard for your partners’ best interests, to better understand the business climate, and to uncover opportunities for your sponsorship program to make a difference and effect some change or improvement for your corporate clients.

    Your goal here is to strengthen the already existing trusting, collaborative, and mutually beneficial relationship with each of your sponsors – organization-to-organization and person-to-person. Your efforts should demonstrate that you value their investment in your event or program, and that you’re a worthy partner who is willing and able to be flexible and nimble for the benefit of the long-term sponsorship relationships.

    New Ideas

    Use these conversations to learn about your sponsors’ current priorities and how your sponsorship program can help them address those priorities. Work with your sponsor to develop ideas and program modifications that address your sponsor’s new strategies and business objectives.

    Now it's your turn. In comments to this post, provide your best success stories for preserving your current sponsor relationships in this economy. Everyone who shares a tip/success story, will be emailed a free complimentary white paper drawn from my new guidebook, entitled How to Jumpstart your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times.

    For Gail Bower’s new guidebook, entitled How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times, visit

    Gail Bower is President of Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, a firm that assists nonprofit organizations and event/festival producers with dramatically raising their visibility, revenue, and impact. She’s a professional consultant, writer, and speaker, with nearly 25 years of experience managing some of the country’s most important events, festivals, and sponsorships and implementing marketing programs for clients. Her blog is