COVID and Sponsorships
Guest Feature: Teresa Stas
Teresa Stas is a national speaker, author, and CEO of Green Cactus, an event sponsorship and marketing agency based in Fresno, CA, and Portland, OR. She has brokered millions of dollars in sponsorships for her event clients working with local, regional and national brands. She currently handles partnerships for several events along the west coast such as the national relay Hood to Coast, the Oregon State Fair, Country Fan Fest, and the nationally recognized Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Teresa is an Oregon State University graduate and holds a Sports Marketing Certification from Columbia University. She is the author of the book “Sell Your Event! The Easy to Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsors” and writes the column “Small Event, Big Sponsors” for IFEA’s “ie” magazine, and her online course SellSponsorships.com has been used in university course work and by event professionals nationwide. She currently resides in central California with her husband and step-son.
Where do we go from here?
If you are in the event industry you probably woke up sometime this week and asked yourself “what the actual hell?” I ask myself this regularly, I look at all the events on my calendar that I was supposed to be working this time last year and see the red “cancelled” marked across them. I see the projections of what not only our client’s sponsorship dollars were, but also what my agency was projected to earn in 2020 and it has dwindled to nothing. There is no beating around the bush, this year SUCKS!
Working in the world of sponsorships puts me in a unique situation of seeing the impact of COVID not only on events, but also on those brands and companies that support them through event partnerships. It is not only the events that are suffering but the brands are too. Some sponsorship industries are holding up better than others but for the most part they were all impacted in some significant way. I saw entire field marketing teams let go, entire marketing teams sized down to two people, and companies shut down entirely. I struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wondered if our agency was going to be one of the companies that didn’t make it, like so many of my industry colleagues, I was afraid that we may not come back from this industry shutdown. This was supposed to be a big year for our events and for our agency and now I’m wondering if we will even be around in a year. Oh, and did I mention that my book about sponsorships comes out today (Sell Your Event! The Easy to Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsors)! Perfect timing, right? What the actual hell?
I write all of this because it’s this mindset that I had to drag myself out of to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to be able to tell my event clients that all is not lost. Like many of you, I have seen such innovation and tenacity from the event industry. The creativity that has made us successful in the first place will be what saves us. Sponsors will be one of our biggest allies when it comes to rebuilding our industry. What does the sponsorship landscape look like now? Can’t lie, it’s rocky but sponsors are still out there and believe it or not, now is the time to start looking for them! Your event may not look the same next year but if you plan on having some version of it, whether it be virtual, hybrid, drive-in, or social-distanced you need to approach sponsors now! I say this because we are in the fourth quarter and this is when sponsors start to plan their budgets for the following year. Budgets are being cut because of financial hardship for a lot of companies and you want to get on their radar now while there is still time. If you wait until things “calm down” or until they are “normal” you most likely will miss the boat.
Here are some tips to selling sponsorships that can be applied to today’s climate from my new book, Sell Your Event!
Audience data is the lifeblood of your sponsorships. You don’t have to be Coachella to sell sponsorships, but you do have to understand you are selling access to your audience.
Communication is key! Sponsors are keeping track of the changing situation as best they can while also focusing on their own businesses. As events begin to reopen, restructure, or go virtual, it is important you communicate and provide updates as soon as possible. Make sure to include your sponsors in the conversation as your event evolves and always keep in mind what they are trying to achieve as a sponsor.
The principles for selling live event sponsorships are the same for virtual or hybrid events. You must understand what the sponsor is trying to get out of the sponsorship. Just like in a live event, you need to know what the sponsor is trying to achieve. You need to know if you can help them meet that goal no matter what type of event you are doing. Just taking a sponsor who had a major activation at your live event and offering them a logo on a Facebook stream will most likely not generate the same excitement or sponsorship dollars.
If this is the first time you have taken your event virtual or hybrid then you are up against unproven results. Keep this in mind when you consider how you price your sponsorships. Perhaps you charge less than you normally would, but the event gets more sponsorship dollars based on impressions, clicks, or marketplace visits (if you are doing a virtual marketplace). You can’t just take the price of your live event and slap it on the virtual or hybrid event.
In the case of virtual or hybrid, make sure your production and your technology is good. When virtual events first took shape during the pandemic, it was okay to host in your living room, but things have changed. As virtual events become more commonplace, the audience is demanding more. Good production and professionalism are required for success.
The good news is that events are slowly coming back in some form or another and brands are still actively participating in sponsorships. As I’m writing this, I just got news that a new brand for our agency has agreed to sign on with one of our drive-in clients. Deals are still happening, but they are just taking a little longer and are getting more creative. I see the light at the end of the tunnel now and I know that we may not come out if unscathed, but this industry is going to make it.