One change that Dan Kowitz, founder and CEO of JSB Partnership Consultants, has seen in the sponsorship space in recent years is the rise of learning content from for-profit companies. That shift not only creates more competition for associations but also new demands from sponsors.
“Large companies are creating their own communities and offering benefits that associations have historically been wary to provide [to sponsors], such as data, member lists, and thought-leadership projects,” he said.
In other words, signage, logos, and other traditional sponsorship offerings no longer cut it. “When Google works with us they focus on content,” said Samantha Walsh, operations and vendor coordinator at the Associations of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS). “A lot of companies are moving in the same direction.”
Since sponsorships have real implications for an association’s bottom line, it’s important for groups to consider new ways to work with their sponsors to diversify offerings and deliver on expectations.
Tools for Retooling
Rethinking your sponsorship program is a comprehensive process.
“You need to dive in and look at everything your association is doing right now,” Kowitz said. “How are you selling currently? How do you package and price? What do your staff and sponsors think of the program? Use that information to draw new goals.”
And those goals can’t be built around gold, silver, and bronze sponsorship levels that were relied on in the past, according to Kowitz.
“Associations reach members 365 days each year, and companies want to market and reach members 365 days a year as well,” he said. “Focusing on ways to partner year-round will really drive revenue.”
Walsh recommends talking with sponsors to get a better sense of their marketing needs and what they want to communicate to members.
“Be curious about what could be next because that’s how you come up with interesting solutions,” she said. “I ask my sponsors what they’re working on and how we can help accommodate those needs and meet our own goals.”