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  • How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times
    How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times
    by Gail S. Bower

Getting Started with Sponsorship

A Case Study featuring the International Visitors Council of Philadelphia

by Gail S. Bower

Nancy GilboyIt used to be that when the International Visitors Council of Philadelphia (IVC) identified companies to sponsor its events it first looked to its board members who could commit the funds.

“We didn’t have much to offer,” said Nancy Gilboy, IVC President & CEO. “Just tables, the company’s name in an invitation. Certainly not all the benefits we have outlined now.”

When a group of dignitaries from Russia visited Philadelphia, one member of the delegation IVC was hosting had a programming request – to meet with someone experienced at producing jazz festivals. Through her network, a colleague put Nancy and me in touch, knowing my 20+ years’ experience marketing, developing corporate sponsors, and producing jazz festivals would be a good fit. 

Nancy knew that IVC’s sponsorship program had more revenue potential and was “leaving money on the table,” so she applied for a capacity building grant from a foundation and brought Bower & Co. Consulting LLC in to help increase those dollars.

Together we reviewed IVC’s operations and events, uncovering opportunities for corporations to partner with IVC, identifying assets like receptions, visitor packets, and name badges, and assigned value to the program components. In addition, we focused on a transfer of skills so that Nancy and her staff members would be able to approach corporations themselves, know what to say, and how to propose meaningful sponsorship opportunities to prospective partners.

“We’re more sophisticated now, much more professional in what we’re doing,” Nancy said. “Companies respect that and don't take advantage of it.

“You gave us confidence to say ‘no’ to people,” Nancy continued, “and to feel comfortable telling a sponsor who offered us thousands of free cocktail napkins with their logo on it, ‘Thank you, but that’s not a benefit within your investment level.’ I never would have done that before. But the reaction I got was one of respect.  

"We had been giving things away which diminished our value, so it was an eye-opening experience for me.  Our new approach is generating more revenue. And as one corporation gets involved, it attracts others. It adds credibility. But it’s still all about who you know.“

For corporations, sponsorship is a marketing vehicle characterized by the experiential opportunity it offers. When there’s a good fit, audiences of an organization’s event, conference, or program interact face-to-face with a company’s brand, product, or service. Businesses that use sponsorship effectively do so to achieve results towards their business or marketing objectives. 

For nonprofits, associations, and membership organizations, along with other event producers that incorporate sponsorship into their operations, not only do you add an important source of unrestricted income, but also, structured properly, your organization benefits from a tremendous windfall in marketing exposure. 

While some organizations view sponsorship dollars as an obvious source of revenue – and it may be – there is a great deal to prepare before jumping in.  From the skills necessary to the impact on your overall operation, learning more about sponsorship will help you determine whether sponsorship makes sense for your organization strategically. 

Also, once you determine that sponsorship revenue is appropriate for your organization, you’ll want to take several initial steps, like the ones IVC completed, so that you launch your program from a position of strength. 

“I liked how you organized everything, and the systematic way you did things,” Nancy said. “It was very methodical, logical, and easy for us to understand.”

“I feel confident now that what we are offering is of value,” she said. “Now it’s part of me. We’re still figuring it all out, but I’m much more confident.”