Kick Off Your Q4 2023 by Learning 5 More Top Findings from Corporate Sponsor Interviews

“Findings from Interviews with 100 Corporate Sponsors that Can Help Associations Improve their Sponsorship Program Success” was the title of an Expert Series that  Bruce Rosenthal presented for Non Dues-A-Palooza.

In the “Kick Off Your Q3 2023”article, Bruce identified the top five findings from these interviews; Lori Zoss Kraska added her valuable insights. In this “Kick Off Your Q4 2023” article, we present five more top findings from corporate sponsor interviews.

#6. Soliciting sponsorship dollars from companies is very competitive

(Bruce) Quotes from sponsors:

  • “For the money, time, and energy the sponsorship involves, I can create other opportunities.”
  • “Our company has created an on-line community of 30,000 professionals; this diminishes the need for sponsorships.”
  • “Banner ads with the association got minimal clicks. We spent $5K on Google ads and got $60K of results.”

(Lori) Competition is stronger than ever for sponsorship dollars, especially if your organization is targeting the marketing department.  To Bruce’s point in the first bullet, you’re often competing against broadcast, digital, and high profiled opportunities when engaging the marketing department.  As an alternative, engage CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) and Community Affairs executives.  These decision makers have an interest in engaging purpose driven organizations, have growing budgets, and in many cases are more accessible.

#7. Companies want to be involved with associations … not be treated like an ATM or a checkbook

(Bruce) Quotes from sponsors:

  • “We want to help develop a more meaningful [sponsorship] program. We think our participation is a direct benefit to their members.”
  • “We don’t want to just write a check – we want to bring value and be a partner.”
  • “We want to be more part of conversations on what’s coming next in the industry as a whole and with the association.”

(Lori) An area of interest I’m hearing a lot from corporate sponsors includes opportunities for high level executives to present educational industry related content on webinars/conferences.   Also, sponsoring the facilitation of educational content for your members as well as programs to engage youth and underserved populations are high interest for their support.

#8. Many companies want fewer piecemeal purchases and more year-long sponsorships

(Bruce) Quotes from sponsors:

  • “The association is squeezing too much money out of so much à la carte.”
  • “We’re absolutely interested in a year-round model and less of a piece-by-piece, ad hoc model.”
  • “Our company markets 365 days a year; our conference sponsorship is only 3 days a year.”

(Lori) Absolutely correct.  Associations should be engaging with existing sponsors at least quarterly to check in on new objectives and initiatives.  The corporate landscape for a company changes fast and what was an initiative in the beginning for the year may have completely changed by summer.  Staying in touch throughout the year keeps you top of mind and proactive to the needs of sponsors.

#9. Companies have different ways of measuring their sponsorship success

(Bruce) Quotes from sponsors:

  • Some companies say that they measure: “ROI”, “KPIs”, “tracking on a dashboard”, “tracking pageviews”.
  • “We know what a potential customer is worth at every stage [of the process].”
  • “The association doesn’t really do anything to help us reach our audience.”

(Lori) See the advice in #6 in engaging CSR whose goals tend to be more in line with those of purpose driven organizations.  However, if pushed for more tangible measurement, focus on what you can provide as opposed to what you cannot provide. For instance, number of newsletter subscribers you have, number of members who engage with specific webinars, etc.

#10. Many associations are clueless about their sponsors, which makes it different to create a partnership
  • “We want an in-depth conversation about each other and industry issues – not a sales pitch of stuff.”
  • “The association needs a better understanding of why we want to sponsor.”
  • “We’ve never had a strategy discussion [with the association staff].”

(Lori) Going back to the advice in #8, if you have an open line of communication throughout the year, you will be in a stronger position to better understand your sponsors.  Also, at least 30 days before the end of a sponsorship or partnership term, schedule a deep dive session with your sponsor to solicit their feedback discussing both challenges and opportunities.  This will set you apart from other organizations and show your sponsors that you’re interested in long term success for both your sponsor and your organization.

The recording of Bruce’s Non Dues-A-Palooza presentation is available.

About the Authors

Combining their extensive years of experience in corporate support and corporate partnership, Lori Zoss Kraska, MBA, CFRE and Bruce Rosenthal have come together to share insights and best practices with a series of Quarterly Engagement Action Items. Lori is the founder of Growth Owl, LLC, author of The Boardroom Playbook, and creator of Growth Owl Academy. Before starting Growth Owl, LLC, Lori held leadership positions within public media, commercial media, and purpose driven organizations responsible for corporate sponsorship. Bruce Rosenthal is the founder of Bruce Rosenthal Associates, LLC, co-convener of the Partnership Professionals Network, and author of articles on corporate sponsorship programs.  Before starting Bruce Rosenthal Associates, LLC, Bruce held high level corporate partner and engagement positions for various national associations. Both Lori and Bruce are regularly invited on the speaker circuit and featured in various webinars, presentations, and podcasts about corporate partnership and support.