Does the Sponsorship Industry Need an Association?

Blue signMy frustration with Sponsorship Australasia is no secret. Unlike many of the other industry organisations I’ve worked with around the world, they have not held the mantle of a strong, credible industry resource for many years, and I have had no issue calling them to account*. As one of the founders, over twenty years ago, this past year or so has been particularly painful. The website sat for months with no useful content. It was then wholly forwarded to the organiser’s registration page for their October 2012 conference, where it remained until June this year, at which point the domain was allowed to lapse. is now home to a site hawking home remedies for kidney stones. Seeing that felt like a punch to the gut.

That didn’t improve when a few weeks ago – three months after the domain was lost – representatives of the Association reached out to the industry asking for input on their future. No mention of how the association had let down the industry. No mention of the website debacle. No mea culpa at all, and without that, no trust can be rebuilt. The end. The thriving Association built by thirty hardworking idealists in 1993 is as good as dead. Worse, I don’t even think it will be missed.

As disappointing as all of that is, it brings up a much bigger question: Does the sponsorship industry need an association? And if it does, what does that look like?

The first question would have to be, what is the role of a sponsorship industry association? As I see it, the role is to:

  • Promote global best practice to the industry
  • Represent the industry as credible and forward-thinking to the media, business community, and fans
  • Create and promote educational events (real or virtual)
  • Foster a sense of collaboration and community across all sides of the industry
  • Create or co-opt useful industry content
  • Curate the best sponsorship content being created by credible industry professionals
  • Create and administer an accreditation or certificate program

I could include “create networking events and platforms”, but I do think we have some strong industry epicentres in social media that probably do the job.

There is an argument that there are enough commercial organisations providing content and events that an association isn’t needed. To an extent, I agree – there is a lot of good stuff available – but we need to keep in mind that these are commercial organisations. Some organisations have built their business model on an outdated approach, so aren’t going to be producing content that is reflective of current best practice. Some newer sponsorship practitioners are outstanding, while others understand the value of blogging and social media better than they understand sponsorship, so the quality of content can be patchy. And for all of us commercial organisations, we’re in this industry to make money, and paying clients are always going to take precedence.

I’m in that group, and although I’m proud to be an industry resource, providing all of this free information isn’t actually my primary job. I have to fit it in amongst consulting and speaking and coaching and writing books – stuff I get paid for – and the associated 14-hour days, long-haul flights, and jet lag. And then there is this little matter of being a single mum. Sometimes, creating new, useful stuff for the industry just isn’t my top priority. But that’s got us to the crux of it:

For an industry association, creating, curating, or commissioning
credible, best practice industry resources is absolutely the top priority.

It’s an association’s primary job to raise the understanding of the importance and sophistication of the industry, and the capacity of the industry to deliver on that promise. For that reason, I believe we do need an industry association.

The bad news is that an association requires a lot of work, and some markets have neither the critical mass of industry professionals to sustain the paid staff to run it, nor enough industry idealists with the time to take it forward as volunteers. The good news is that technology has advanced to the point that geography isn’t a major factor, creating more options for creating a peak body than we’ve ever had.

We could certainly continue with countries/regions creating and administering their own sponsorship associations, if they can, and many of them do a wonderful job. (For examples of existing sponsorship associations, check out my Industry Associations page.) There has also been a groundswell of interest for an American sponsorship association, with an online petition you can sign if you’re interested.

This still leaves many major sponsorship markets – and most of the big emerging markets – without representation or expertly curated resources.

The idea I keep coming back to is a global sponsorship association. I don’t see it replacing the existing associations, but providing infrastructure and resources to the global community of sponsorship professionals, many of whom don’t have the benefit of a strong, objective association looking out for their industry.

The international body could provide members with:

  • Curated monthly digests of the most useful and/or important research reports, articles, and blogs
  • Curated and reviewed white papers and book recommendations
  • Web-based education programs – webinars, tutorials, web chats, etc
  • Searchable directories of sponsorship brokers, consultants, trainers, and other industry suppliers
  • Annual global industry conference (real or virtual)
  • Industry media relations

If appropriate, an international body could provide geographically-based committees and/or associations with:

  • Global content for localised communications (newsletters, websites)
  • Assistance with setting up accreditation programs
  • Recommended conference framework options and resources
  • Recommended workshop (or other in-person training) framework options and resources
  • Access to feedback about established and emerging speakers/trainers

I note many established associations won’t need help in these areas, but newer/smaller associations could probably use some assistance and direction.

What do you think? Would a global association provide any value to you and your business? Or is a geographically-based association more to your liking? Or do you think an association is wholly redundant, in this day and age?

I’m opening up comments – moderated, as always. Let ‘er rip!


*Related blogs



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6 responses to “Does the Sponsorship Industry Need an Association?”

  1. Guy Hedderwick says:

    I think it’s an exllent idea, would love to help

  2. ericc winton says:

    Well put. I’ve had some similar experience in a parallel but connected field. Managing costs etc needs to be balanced by a willingness of members to pay a fair fee. Quality is needed. That costs. Members who understand and collaborate are vital. Its a chemistry that needs leadership snd drive.

  3. Our industry needs a global sponsorship association, not only to provide the members with all you mentioned but also to promote and define ethical standards and I would love to be a part of such an organisation, to help our industry to develop and grow.

  4. dan beeman says:

    Hey Kim – great stuff as usual.You can count on my Sponsorship Insights group of 12,000+ professionals on LinkedIn as a communication platform to promote and discuss this idea. I will make it the featured discussion.

    • Kim Skildum-Reid says:

      Thanks, Dan! I think the time has come to create an industry body for the WHOLE industry.

  5. Jasni says:

    Hi Kim,

    Both a global and regional based associations are probably the best way forward. It creates the link whilst maintaining the integrity of the local structure.

    Different countries/ regions are at various stages of the sponsorship cycle. Having both a regional and global associations will help iron out the imbalances.