For Maximum Impact, Forget the Event, Concentrate on the Event Experience

Sponsors, have you ever lamented that some of the events you sponsor only last a day, a weekend, or a week? Wondered how you were ever going to leverage enough or establish enough relevance to justify the investment in that short timeframe? Have you ever felt hamstrung by the limitations of the event or your sponsorship level?

Sponsorship seekers, do you wonder how you’re going to sell enough sponsorship to an event or program that only attracts a few hundred or a few thousand attendees? How to juggle all of your sponsors’ various agendas within the scope of your event without overcommercialising it?

Here’s the trick: Stop talking about the event and concentrate on the event experience. (Geez, did I give it away in the title?)

The event – and I’m using that term generically to refer to whatever you are sponsoring or selling sponsorship of – is usually finite. It happens in a particular place during a particular timeframe with x number of people there and, depending on what it is, possibly a larger audience participating via the media. It’s limited, often crowded and cluttered, and to stand out, many sponsors resort to being loud and annoying, rather than meaningful and relevant.

The event experience, however, provides the scope, longevity, and flexibility to create amazing, bespoke sponsorship programs. How? Think about this… Do people stop being fans of a team when the game ends? The season? Does the concert really start with the first crushing chord and end when the lights go on? Is your Louvre experience over when you re-emerge into the Paris dusk? Do you stop caring about the charity once you’ve finished the walk-a-thon? Do you have to attend a conference to be interested in the content? No. No to all of it.

The way most sponsorship is done, however, you think the event itself was the be-all and end-all. The fundamental reason for this is the flawed (and outdated) idea that the primary relationship is between the sponsor and the sponsee, hence, the focal point is the event. In reality, the primary relationship is between the sponsor and their target market(s) – with the sponsorship seeker in the role of “conduit” – so the focal point must be the people who make up the markets, and for them, the event is only part of their event experience.

The event experience starts the moment an event comes into consideration and doesn’t end until the last memory fades, the last story is told, you turn the concert CD into a coaster, the t-shirt into a rag, or simply decide to care about something else. The event experience is longer, broader, and deeper than the event itself. It encompasses anticipation and memories, logistics and mementos, it is emotional, functional, educational, social, and so much more. The event is created by a production company or team or association. The event experience is created by individuals. And because there are so many ways to have an event experience – so many components, so many touch-points – many people create one for themselves without even attending the event.

I am not talking about simply running a sales promotion (or whatever) that is anchored on the event, but happens outside of the event, although that certainly can be part of a leverage program. I am talking about extending the basic concept behind best practice sponsorship – that sponsorship is now win-win-win, with the third win being the target market – across the entire event experience.

Creating those “third wins”, those small, meaningful value-adds for the target market, falls into two main categories: Amplifying or extending the best parts of the event experience and ameliorating the worst parts of the event experience. There are as many ways to do this as there are aspects to an even experience, but here are some ideas to get you started.

Amplifying the best stuff – could you…

  • Provide sponsorship-driven advice, tools, inspiration, or information
  • Give the target market access to behind-the-scenes information or exclusive content
  • Create ways for them to have input into the development of the event (content, location, etc)
  • Create a way to experience the event online for people who couldn’t attend
  • Create a promotion offering content or souvenirs from the event (eg, mp3 downloads with proof of purchase)
  • Create a keepsake that can be shared with others – photos of people at the event (downloadable later?), post-event content sent to phone or e-mail, etc
  • Create ways for people to post reviews, stories, etc relating to the event
  • Create ways for people to post their own related content (eg, they can post their “best bike stack” videos around a mountain bike event), and people might be able to vote on the best one

Reducing the worst stuff – could you…

  • The Corporate Sponsorship ToolkitCreate an event guide or planner, so people can create their plan of attack for a larger event based on their own interests
  • Offer VIP ticketing before they go on sale to the general public
  • Create ways for people to participate in the pre-event promotion – submit questions for a press conference, participate in a live web chat with a star/expert/whatever
  • Provide more convenient access or parking
  • Create pre-event forums asking for people’s concerns, questions, things they want changed
  • Offer specialised packages tailored for the target market – families with young kids, older people, teens who travel in packs, etc.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, but the starting place is always, “What are all the ways people interact with this event, sport, artistic endeavour, charity, or whatever?”. Use the scope of the event experience to give your brand the flexibility you need, the clear space to operate, the longevity to create a consistent bond.

For sponsorship seekers, use the event experience to create a larger, more valuable platform for your sponsors and potential sponsors. Give them ideas for leveraging outside of the event itself. They will thank you for it.

For all you need to know about best practice sponsorship selection, leverage, measurement, management, and more, you may want to get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.

Need more assistance?

If you need any assistance, I am available for consulting and strategy sessions. Just drop me a line and we can discuss your needs and what I can do for you.

Kim Skildum-Reid
kim@powersponsorship.com
AU: +61 2 9559 6444
US: +1 612 326 5265

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