Critical Elements of a Smart Sponsorship

By Dan Kowitz Jan 18, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of leading a panel of industry colleagues at PCMA’s Convening Leaders Annual Conference. The group consisted of representatives from PCMA, FedEx Services, the National School Boards Assn. and Gaylord Entertainment/Gaylord Hotels—all of whom have developed deep and meaningful sponsorships that brought in more value and revenue for the associations and their meetings, and provided the sponsors with access and benefits they were seeking.

All the participants agreed that sponsorships need to be transformed into partnerships to truly drive bottom-line value for all constituents: association or property, sponsor and member or event attendee. Partnerships are rooted in clearly outlining and discussing very clear objectives for all parties involved. All sides must then work together toward accomplishing those objectives, with the end game being changing behavior, not simply mass recognition.

Each participant spent time discussing the five key elements that they define as critical to achieving partnerships, above and beyond sponsorships. I have outlined those below:


  • Form partnerships through dialogue, not proposals
  • Determine brand fit
  • Establish key objectives of the partnership
  • Over-deliver on value
  • Define, measure and deliver ROI


  • Customer service
  • Mutually beneficial relationship
  • Access to key leadership
  • Exclusivity
  • Voice for corporate partners

FedEx Services

  • Support/advance global brand?
  • Make sense in the marketing plan?
  • Access to target audience?
  • Partner position in the industry?
  • Metrics? Measurement? ROI?


  • Brand alignment – Principles of strong brands
  • Commitment – Multiple stakeholders
  • Value – Measurement and exchange
  • Delivery – Manage expectations
  • Accountability – Metrics, reporting, business reviews and ROI


  • Prospect research – Proper alignment
  • Brand development opportunities
  • Business objectives – Total value
  • Flawless delivery – Over-deliver
  • Accurate & timely metrics – Business reviews

Each participant created their five essential elements without knowing the others. You can clearly see some commonalities, such as brand fit, delivering value and ROI. However, no panelist had exactly the same five elements. That fact is directly related to the true key in forming smart and effective partnerships: The parties involved may come to the table with different ideas and priorities, but success is only achieved through alignment behind and delivery of the objectives of both parties.


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