Slingshots! Creating the ultimate meetings and conferences for sponsors - Peter Fisk at EMEC 2012
Slingshots … the ultimate events for your sponsorsBy Peter FiskSummary of keynote for the European Meetings and Events Congress 2012Events need sponsors more than ever.As the world of rapidly digitalised, extensively distributed content and collaborationfundamentally challenges the purpose of physical meetings and conferences, attractingaudiences is ever more difficult, and making money is even harder. The increased costof venues, collaboration tools and increased marketing, all add to the financial squeeze.Yet most event organisers still think of sponsors as promoting their logo in return for acheque.Out of desperation, the list of sponsors grows ever long – platinum, gold, silver, bronze –the logos crowd out the stage, as they diminish in effectiveness, distract or irritate theaudience.Out of desperation, the organisers seeks to give more – the keynote slots becomesponsor sales pitches, most of the tickets are given away free, and the experiencebecomes oppressive.And sponsors aren’t happy either. They struggle to stand out amidst competitive clutter,engage new and existing audiences, and make their budgets work better for them acrossmany different media and activities.
How can events do more for sponsors?Let’s start with the sponsor’s ambitions, rather than your own. They want to build theirbrand, engage audiences more deeply, increase their relevance and topicality, anddrive more sales. More likely though, they want to change their reputation, make peoplethink differently about them, in a more positive way, in a bigger way, in a more valuableway.The smart companies are not really interested in brand awareness. Or pushing messagesat people. Or worse, pushing products at people.They are more interested in “pull” rather than “push”They want to engage people in more relevant and compelling ways. And to reach newpeople, better people. They seek to connect with the issues and aspirations of theirtarget audiences, and to demonstrate how they can more valuable.They want to show the difference they can make, not just the name they have. They wantto help people explore unmet needs. They want people to think differently about them,to change perceptions. They want people to want them, not just to know them.Of course they have traditional media – advertising, direct marketing, PR and salesteams – and many new media too – websites, blogs, apps, communities and more.But events are different. They are real. They last more than 30 seconds. They enable realconversations, one to one, and can influence crowds too. And they are relatively cheap toleverage, compared to web building and ad production.
Rethink events as “slingshots” for sponsorsEvents can be the moments when sponsors transform their reputations and performance.They are the catalysts to thinking differently. They are the linchpins in an integratedprogramme for them that builds brands and drives more profitable growth.Like a spaceship that accelerates forwards though space, “slingshot” by the gravitationalfields of the planets that is passes, events can be the slingshots of great brand building.Start with the sponsor – the business leader, the brand director – who has a biggeraspiration for their business, who sees the bigger picture, the change they need to make.What do they want to achieve? How is this different from today? Why are theirconventional approaches not enough? How could they achieve it differently?Then consider the journey they need to take – the audiences they need to involve, thenew attitudes and behaviours they seek, the products and services which might berelevant, the commercial targets to achieve, and the many different actions required.Think how an “event” (or series of events!) could be at the heart of it. The definingmoments. The catalyst that ignites, shapes, and drives everything else.As an event organiser, designer, or manager, you now have the opportunity to define thejourney. To transform a brand, a reputation, a business. Paint the picture, draw theroadmap, engage all the others involved, and then focus on the amazing event.See things differently, think different thingsLearn from other placesSponsorship is like a matching process, enabling a brand to connect with new audiences,new ideas and purpose, new attitudes and aspirations. Consider these: Nike Jordan … connecting a personality brand (distinctive attitude, aspirational success) to a product brand (more functional, more generic) Disney and McDonalds … connecting an emotional brand (family values, dream- like stories) to a convenience brand (less healthy, more commodity) The O2 … connecting a functional brand (communications, technology) to an inspirational venue (entertainment, rockstars, lifestyle). Red Bull Air Race … connecting a functional brand (energy drink, relatively new) to an awe-inspiring event (big, daring, dramatic, unbelievable)
Make a bigger differenceThe is a mindset shift. Forget the names in the brochure, the logos on the stage, and thinkbigger and better about what you can do for a sponsor.Most sponsorship packages look like this …The result is a long list of logos with diminishing size, half the audience unengagedbecause they are there with a free ticket, products thrust down your throat, and spam inyour mailbox when you get back to work. We need new thinking.Creating “slingshots” for sponsorsEvents have so much more potential, to educate and inspire, to drive collaboration andinnovation, to change attitudes and behaviours. You can enable sponsors to harness thepotential of events, to transform their brands and reputations, and ultimately their
Peter Fisk is an inspirational speaker,best-selling author and experiencedbusiness expert in the areas of strategyand innovation, brands and marketing.He is described by Business StrategyReview as “one of the best new businessthinkers”.From nuclear physics he worked invarious commercial roles in airlines,technology and financial services. Hewas CEO of the world’s largestmarketing organization, the CharteredInstitute of Marketing, leader of PAConsulting Group, and MD of BrandFinance.He now leads his own business, theGenius Works, an acceleratedinnovation firm. Peter is author of fivebooks including the bestsellingMarketing Genius which is translated into35 languages, People Planet Profit onsustainable innovation, and mostrecently Creative Genius which exploresinnovation from the future firstname.lastname@example.orgGeniusWorks.com