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Keeping Those Fish in the Barrel: Sponsorship of Associations and Meetings in the Twenty-Tens

By Diane Knoepke Jan 7, 2010

I'm co-facilitating two interactive sessions next week at the PCMA Annual Meeting: (1) a roundtable discussion about industry funding for medical meetings and (2) a panel on how to get (and think about) sponsorships of meetings, associations and destinations. (For more information, including the schedule, check out www.pcma2010.org.)

I have spent time these last few weeks talking with colleagues (including my esteemed co-facilitators) about the pertinent issues we should discuss in these forums. Many of them are not new to 2010—sales strategies, ROI measurement, servicing with limited resources—yet deserve the same or increased emphasis as years past.

Still others are trends that represent changes in how we will do business this decade.

  1. Exhibit hall traffic
    While some of our meetings colleagues have had terrific years in their exhibit halls, others have seen significant drops in traffic and/or personnel registrations. And many have struggled with how to help their exhibitors appropriately bait attendees to spend time in their booths. Corporate sponsorship is a potential solution for some exhibitors, though it may be that innovative sponsorship programs will inspire and inform the exhibit hall of tomorrow. Many of the best association and meeting sponsorships are melding content and technology—in-hall, on-line, and elsewhere.
  2. Endemic realities
    One of our inheritances from 2009 is that many industries continue to suffer, and thus the associations that represent them have a particular challenge keeping their bread-and-butter supporters not only in business, but in business with the association.
  3. Non-endemic aspirations
    In response to many endemic budgets drying up, many organizations are pursuing non-endemic, or non-industry, partnerships. Hooking a non-endemic sponsor requires precision, timing, and calculated risk. Consumer and business brands are used to opportunities fitting into handy buckets like sports or cause marketing, and what many associations have to offer doesn’t fit into that type of bucket. Changing minds is heavy lifting; those unwilling to do that hard work will spoil it for the associations behind them. You can’t cast a wide net with these partnerships—generic junk proposals are an even bigger waste of time with non-traditional categories.
  4. Competition
    While among the fastest-growing sectors, association and membership organizations still represent the smallest bucket of sponsorship dollars. Yet the number of deals is large. Will so much competition for a growing, but small, pool of dollars lead to consolidation of sales efforts? Companies are confused and fatigued by the sheer number of organizations and meetings, other media opportunities (e.g., stand-alone trade magazines), state and local chapters, sub-groups (e.g., medical sub-specialty societies), and internal sales efforts (e.g., foundations, advertising and exhibit sales, etc.) they have to sort through to advance their business goals. Yet they also have the advantage of being able to play these opportunities against each other—few industries have the singular “must-do” meeting any more.

These big-picture topics are just a start. We are looking forward to hearing your experiences, tactics and ideas (big and small) to address these challenges.

If you won’t be able to join the discussion in Dallas, please join us here, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or your other favorite social network. We’ll bring it all together and report back later in the month.

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Diane Knoepke

About the Author

Diane is managing director, client leadership for IEG Consulting, where she supports the team’s growth and innovation. Throughout her career, she has advised more than 50 property and brand clients on marketing and social value creation, sales, measurement and strategy. She delights in helping people change organizations more effectively. Follow Diane on Twitter!

 

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