Sponsorship Beyond Activation

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Sponsorship marketers hear over and over about the importance of activation. Each year, sponsors spend millions of dollars to impress VIPs and target attendees at events.  Yet, what happens to all those hard earned, newly activated relationships after the event?  For that insight, let’s look at the event from the guest’s perspective….

Imagine a world class brand (Brand X) invites YOU to the Super Bowl as their VIP guest. You’re thrilled!  You’re counting the days to the event.  
Finally, the anticipated weekend arrives.  Sitting in the airport, you hear an announcement that your flight is cancelled.  Immediately, your phone rings.  It’s Brand X.  They’ve rebooked you on the next flight and rescheduled the transportation to your hotel.  They encourage you to head to the lounge where they’ve arranged for a complimentary pass.  
After you finally arrive to your destination, the driver is there as promised.  He takes you to your hotel where your suite is ready. You’re greeted with a gift from Brand X welcoming you to the event along with a customized itinerary for the weekend. You wonder, why can’t every trip be like this?
At the Super Bowl, you have a fantastic time.  At the pre-events, you get to know key leaders from the company.  You chat about the impending game, your businesses and your lives.  At the conclusion of the game, you feel like you know the brand and the people behind it now.  You’ve had an amazing experience and built (what you think) are solid relationships.  
After you return home, life resumes and memories begin to fade.  You see a post-event survey float somewhere through your inbox.  A few months later you think, “Hey, what ever happened to those people?”  

Is Activation REALLY the End Goal?

The story shows an activated VIP who is not converted into revenue for the brand.  In fact, the relationship is left to go cold.  Before you say, “Well, that could NEVER happen here!”  How sure are you?

As sponsorship marketers, our work doesn’t let up after the event ends.  We quickly become inundated with financial and ROI reports from our last event and contracts and plans for our next.  We assume those newly activated relationships get passed to sales, right?  Or is it the social media department?  Or is it that other marketing or sales department…..?

Never-ending to-do lists and a focus on activation obscure the significant opportunity in sponsorship marketing - long term relationship building.  Activation is a customer acquisition mindset - NOT a retention mindset.  

A Harvard Business Review Article states that acquiring a new customer costs anywhere from five to 25 times more than retaining a current one.  Moreover, that same article shows that that shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.  

By focusing on activation, sponsors could be excited by short term gains that lead to missed long term opportunities.  Yet, coupling activation with long term relationship management positions sponsors to capture long term customer relationships, create brand advocates, generate ongoing revenue and increased profitability.  

Activation to Relationship

Let’s revisit our VIP event experience with a relationship mindset….

...You return home and life resumes.  Soon thereafter, you get a call from one of the people you met at Brand X during the event.  The Brand X staffer asks about the event and invites you to lunch.  You have a great lunch and talk about working more together. It’s the beginning of a beautiful [business] friendship…