Announcing the 2012 Municipal Forum on Sponsorship

We all know that municipalities are facing relentless pressure to “do more for less” and increasingly, they are turning to various forms of corporate sponsorships and advertising as sources of non-tax revenue.

Our company’s research and consulting work with several municipalities in this area has shown us that implementing these programs has proven to be more complex than planned as municipal staff deal with a risk-averse culture, limited resources, skeptical community stakeholders and even an unresponsive business community. Some of the key challenges include:

  • How do we take a strategic versus a fragmented approach toward corporate revenue development?
  • How do we structure a program that leverages our assets effectively?
  • How do we strike a balance between corporate “wants” and the public fear of over-commercialization?
  • How do we gain buy-in from elected representatives, staff, community stakeholders?
  • How do we implement our program cost-effectively?
  • How do we achieve early success?

Based on feedback from last year’s event, I’m pleased to announce our 2012 Municipal Forum on Sponsorship which will be held October 15, 2012 at the Grand Hotel and Suites in Toronto. Participants from municipalities from across Canada will gain essential insights into:

  • Strategic approaches to implementing a sustainable Municipal Sponsorship and Advertising Program
  • How to identify the full range of assets that your municipality can leverage with potential corporate partners
  • How to design and market a municipal program that reflects the characteristics and financial capabilities of businesses in your community
  • How to customize sponsorship benefits packages that respond to specific corporate objectives
  • Strategies for increasing public acceptability, political and internal buy-in for the program
  • Techniques for valuating and packaging Naming Rights Assets
  • Key considerations for implementing the program and managing risk

The Municipal Forum on Sponsorship precedes Sponsorship Toronto which will be held on Tuesday October 16 and Wednesday October 17, at the same venue. Sponsorship Toronto is Canada’s premier professional development conference for sponsorship marketers from all sectors and represents an unrivalled opportunity for participants from the Forum to extend their new-found practical insights into the overall sponsorship marketplace.

I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on Forum developments. For more information, check out some of my earlier posts on municipal sponsorship. In the meantime, if anyone has examples of great municipal practices in the area of sponsorship or other non-tax revenue, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Later, BC

The Link Between Marketing and Not-For-Profit Revenue Development

One of the first things out of many clients or prospective client’s mouths when we first meet with them is “we’re not into marketing” or “marketing is for business, not us”. Simpy stated, this is hogwash.  If your organization is involved any way, in attracting, servicing and keeping customers or encouraging behaviour change of any kind, like it or not, you’re in the “marketing business”. This is especially true for any organization that relies on earned revenue to sustain their operations such as user / member fees, sponsorship, product sales, fundraising, etc.

The fact is that if you were to replace the word profit with revenue or impact, the key functions of marketing would apply to almost any not-for-profit or government environment. These functions include:

  • Defining your objectives;
  • Defining your target audience;
  • Understanding the unique value you deliver to your audience;
  • Defining what actions you want your audience to take as a result of your efforts;
  • Identifying the barriers (including competitive factors) that will prevent your audience from doing what you want them to do;
  • Developing compelling messages for each audience segment and delivering these messages when they are receptive to them;
  • Delivering an exceptional customer experience (and value) so that they want to continue their association with you;
  • Measuring results for your efforts and improving on your approach and processes.

Who can honestly say that they don’t think about any or all of the above factors? And if you’re not considering these factors, I’d be curious to know how you’ve managed to stay “in business” as long as you have. 

About a decade ago, we created an annual conference called MARCOM to provide a forum for the not-for-profit and public sectors to learn about the discipline of marketing as a means of helping these organizations take a more strategic approach towards their work and connect with colleagues who share the same issues and challenges. This year’s event will take place on May 15-16 at the Ottawa Convention Centre and feature many of the country’s top experts in marketing in these sectors. 

In today’s highly competitive environment, not-for-profits and public sector organizations need to be more strategic than ever, to attract and retain customers or make an impact in the marketplace. I encourage you to “step outside the box” and consider attending this great event – I know you’ll leave MARCOM with hundreds of new ideas on how you can do things differently and more effectively.

Later, BC


Social Marketing and Sponsorship Marketing – Are they really that far apart?

I recently returned from the World Social Marketing and Non-Profit Conference in Dublin, Ireland where hundreds of academics and professionals gathered to share the latest trends, tools and strategies on the use of marketing to modify societal behaviour, particularly in the health care field. I always find it fascinating to see what others around the world are doing when it comes to marketing and in particular, how corporate partnerships are being used to advance marketing objectives.  One of the key take-aways from the conference for me was that Social Marketing and Sponsorship Marketing are really evolving on similar paths. Here are a few trends I picked up at the conference and how they relate to the world of sponsorship marketing.

The use of corporate partnerships (or sponsorships) in social marketing is increasing. As government and non-profit organizations struggle with “doing more for less” and are increasingly faced with the challenge of reaching target audiences with messages at the right time and place (when they are most receptive to messages), there is a growing realization that the private sector can play an important role in achieving these objectives.  However, most organizations are still struggling with how to effectively engage the corporate sector and demonstrate the impact (on both sides) achieved through these collaborative arrangements.  The lesson to be learned here is that in order to be successful in engaging corporate partners in any initiative, we need to take the time to understand what potential partners want to achieve and how they will measure success. Once we can define value in their terms, we will know what we will need to do to sustain the partnership over the long-term. (As a sidebar, based on what I heard at the conference, I think North America is ahead of the rest of the world in this area)

Sponsorship Marketing and Social Marketing are on parallel paths. Social marketing appears to be shifting its focus from “reaching target audiences” to “participant engagement”. This is based on the notion that when audiences become engaged, behaviour change is not far behind. This closely resembles what is happening in sponsorship marketing with the increased focus on sponsorship activation as a means of engaging audiences in the “brand experience” vs. the old way of relying on interruptive messaging to make an impact with audiences.The lesson to be learned here is that we need to build in audience engagement (activation) elements into our sponsorship packages in order to generate real results.

Sponsorship Marketing can have a major impact on behaviour change. As we know, marketing is about influencing behaviour, whether it be getting someone to switch brands, register for a conference, stop smoking or increase take-up on a new program or service. One of the themes that came across consistently at the conference was that people need to be exposed to a message at least 5 times in different formats before they seriously consider any form of action or behaviour change. I think this is a “golden nugget” for for defining the value of sponsorships as a marketing tool because an effective sponsorship program exposes audiences to brand messaging and storytelling in a variety of formats including print and online profile, direct mail,  promotions, signage and on site activation. Therefore, the value proposition to a potential sponsor is that they will be able to leverage multiple tools (or tactics) to make a sustained impact with their target audience.

Finally, the line of the conference for me was “people are no longer dogs – they don’t come running just because we call them”.  This statement really sums up the fact that creating a better mousetrap doesn’t mean that people will necessarily buy it, by simply putting it on the market. As marketers, we need to do a better job at understanding our audiences, developing meaningful relationships and demonstrating real value to them before we can earn their business and loyalty.

Later,                                                                                                                                                     BC