What does Listening have to do with Sponsorship Success?

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill

This quote is excellent guidance for successful corporate sponsorships and partnerships.

Gone are the days of Platinum/Gold/Silver/Bronze-level prospectuses for top-tier sponsors. (“Heavy Metal Sponsorships”, as a former colleague called them.)

Today’s most successful partnerships are grounded in conversations about mutual goals …. the association’s goals and the partner company’s goals.

Two relevant stories:

  • My colleague Dan Kowitz was interviewing a marketing executive with a half-million-dollar sponsor of an association. Dan asked, “does the association understand your company’s marketing goals?” The executive replied, “How would they? They never asked!” The sponsorship was in jeopardy.
  • When I was VP of Corporate Partnerships for an association, I was meeting with executives from a sponsor company. I asked about their company’s business goals, marketing objectives, most successful sponsorships, and marketing ROI. They said, “good conversation; none of the other associations we sponsor ever asked us these questions.” We created a customized sponsorship renewal.

Not long ago, associations were “sole source” when it came to companies having access to members.

What does that mean?

  • To obtain a list of members, companies had to contact the association. Member lists were made available only to top-tier corporate sponsors, with limitations.
  • To educate members, companies had to participate in the association’s conferences and webinars based on the association’s guidelines.

Two things have changed:

1) Companies can use social media and other technologies to create prospect lists, including members of associations.

2) Companies can disseminate educational content via Zoom and similar platforms directly to association members, especially now that everyone is accustomed to virtual learning.

So companies no longer need associations to reach members and educate members!

However, companies value the power of affinity with associations. This creates opportunities for associations to partner with companies to reach members and educate members.

The result can be a win-win-win:

  • educational content for members
  • sponsorship revenue for associations
  • fulfillment of business goals for sponsors