A year ago, I was at my computer writing this column as a sort of “state of the sponsorship industry.” As a sponsorship agency, we were fielding an abundance of questions about what to do when it came to sponsors, events, and COVID-19 shutdowns.
Now here we are a year later. As venues begin reopening across the country and events start reworking their structures to accommodate mass gathering mandates, the questions about sponsorships and what to expect are surfacing yet again. I thought this would be a good time to give an overview of what our agency, Green Cactus, is seeing in the sponsorship world and how to approach sponsors in this complicated landscape.
Here are five key things to know and expect when reapproaching past sponsors or reaching out to new prospects during the pandemic:
1. Many brands and companies are still hesitant to get involved with events, even as many states are reopening. Your event may be housed in an “open” state, but their company may not be. Plus, their priority will most likely be their own employees. We are seeing lots of brands willing to talk sponsorship and look at proposals, but when it comes to onsite activations, they aren’t willing to send their teams out yet. Our suggestion is to try and create a sponsorship proposal that meets their needs. This may require your team helping with any onsite activations, or you may have to get creative and come up with ways to involve brands without the requirement of onsite activations.
2. Budgets have been severely altered this year. With the uncertainty of the pandemic’s impact on 2021 and the economic hit that many brands saw last year, sponsorship and marketing budgets have been cut this year. We have talked to brands who had to let go of their entire field marketing teams and have cut events completely out of their 2021 budgets. Although this can be discouraging, don’t let it define your sponsorship program. These budgets will come back and so will the field teams; it is just going to take some time. Use this year to keep in contact with those brands you want to sponsor your event. This could also be a way to incorporate a brand in a smaller way that could grow into something bigger later. For example, maybe the brand sponsors a live stream for your hybrid event for this year, but you can cultivate them into a full blown onsite activation for next year. Finally, you do not want to wait when it comes to prospecting. Because these budgets are smaller, there will be a lot more competition vying for those sponsorships.
3. The beverage category is actively seeking event sponsorships. I regularly get asked who wants to sponsor events, and right now the beverage category has been our number one sponsorship buyer for 2021 events. I believe that it’s because although they were financially impacted on the event and restaurant/bar side of things during the pandemic, what they lost on that side they made up for in retail. Beer, hard seltzer, spirits, and energy drinks have all been looking for events to sponsor that also give them pouring rights. Make sure you are developing this category because they are currently spending in 2021 and are ready to get back to events.
4. You need to know what your event is going to look like before you reach out to new sponsors. This is another topic that comes up a lot with my clients. Right now, some of the events we work with don’t know from week to week if their event is going to happen or not in 2021. Some of our events know they are going to have an event, but they will have to structure it differently or they are required to reduce their capacity. So if you fall into one of these situations, you may be wondering how to approach sponsors.
First, if you are in the category of not knowing whether you will be able to have an event yet, I suggest you continue to approach sponsors as if you were. The sponsorship process takes time. If you have the event, you will be in a much better position than if you are trying to approach them last minute. If you must cancel the event, then you address that situation with each sponsor at the time it happens.
Now, if you are one of the lucky events that knows it is happening but must make adjustments, be clear with your sponsors on how the event will look, then and adjust the price accordingly. Sponsors are very aware that reduced capacity means reduced engagement and sales. It is not responsible to ask for the same sponsorship fee that you normally would when this is a non-normal year.
5. Some of your faithful sponsors may not come back this year. I know this is not good news, but it’s the nature of the economic hardships that many businesses faced over the past year. Don’t just assume your recurring sponsors will be back this year. Several of our clients saw sponsors who have been with them for years have to step away due to budget cuts. Knowing this now will give you more time to find other sponsors. Because we are a capitalist society, when one business steps away there is usually a competitor ready to step in. This can be great for open sponsorship vacancies but remember to respect those long- standing partnerships and have an open dialog with them.
The sponsorship landscape is a little rocky right now, but it isn’t a drought. Sponsorships are out there, and they are ready to jump in as events begin to happen again! My biggest piece of advice is to start early. Decisions are taking a lot longer than usual, so last-minute or quick answers are harder to come by. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, use this time to open conversations with brands now. Even if they don’t come to fruition this year, they may be ready in 2022!
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine May 2021.The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.
The following is an excerpt from “Sell Your Event! The Easy to Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsors”
A few years back, I got a call from an event producer who reached out to me to ask if I would take her on as a brokering client, which meant we’d represent their event and generate sponsorships. She began to explain this awesome dog festival concept where people could bring their dogs to a concert, and there would be pet-centric vendors and activities. As I listened to her, I was getting excited. It sounded great.
Then I started asking my usual questions: “What are the dates? Where is it taking place? How many expected attendees?” You know, the general questions anyone would ask when you tell them about a cool event. My fears were realized when I learned she actually didn’t have definitive answers for any of my questions.
As much as I hate to say it, this is pretty common. People have great ideas all the time, but unless you have the details figured out, it’s nearly impossible to sell them to sponsors. I try to explain this to my clients by asking this question: “Would you want to invest your own money in an event that hasn’t figured out its details?”
For a brand or company to be interested in looking at your event, you need to make sure it has moved from concept to reality. You need to make sure it’s dialed in. Most sponsors want to buy into a fully formed event. Just an idea or concept is not enough. They want to know the people putting on the event are professionals who will produce what they promised.
So, before we get too deep into the sales side of things, let’s make sure you have the information you need to get started. Before you can approach your prospects or start creating your introduction deck, you have to have the details.
A lot of people come to me with great ideas for events, because they want help with finding sponsors. However, they want sponsorship money before they even have an event built. What they are really looking for is for an investor to fund the creation of the event. This is not the same as a sponsor. Finding capital for an event is different than finding sponsorships for an event. In this book, we will focus on finding sponsors for events that have moved out of the concept phase. These events are already established or are going to happen regardless of sponsorship revenue.
Before you can create your Introduction Deck or start prospecting sponsors, you need to make sure you have the following information figured out.
Event Date and Timeline
I work with a couple of events where their timelines can change year to year. Sometimes they know the month but not the exact date just yet. They still want to get it in front of prospects as soon as possible. You really need to have your date and timeline locked in. Even if you do not have the exact date, at least have it narrowed down to the month and the year. The more specific you can get, the better response you are going to get from prospects. Sponsors build out their marketing calendar around events, and it’s important they are aware if they are doubling up events during certain months or days.
Where are you having this event? If you are still working on that, you at least need to know the city and the state. If you have an exact location, fantastic! If you have an exact date and location, you are doing even better.
Event Name and Category
What are you calling this event? What type of event will it be? Is it a concert, a festival, a race, or a foodie event? It is critical to know what category your event is. I assume this is the easiest question I have asked so far. If you do not know your category, you need to figure it out before you do anything else. When it comes to the event name, make sure you have one. It’s really hard to sell an event when you don’t know what to call it.
How many people are coming to your event? If you have never had your event, then what is your expectation? Be reasonable! You must be fair and honest when it comes to expectations. If you are going to sell based on attendance numbers, then you need to make sure it’s close to the actual attendance. You will have a lot of trouble with sponsors returning the next year if they feel like they can’t trust you to tell the truth. You are better off going in and pitching lower attendance numbers and having more patrons show up then pitching high numbers and having significantly less show up. It is better to under-promise and over-deliver when it comes to attendance numbers for sponsorships.
Now that you have the basics down, it is time to start collecting some more advanced details. These are the items you will have to start collecting to make some serious sales.
If you have never had an event before, you might not have photos. You might have to pull some stock or generic photos to spice up your introduction deck. If you have had the event, then you need to find your best photos.
Every year make sure someone is taking good photos. In particular, you want to get some of the crowds and the overall event. Be sure to also make past sponsors a priority. I always tell my clients photos sell more than words do. And it’s true. Humans are naturally visual beings, and the more you can appeal to that sense, the better chance you have.
During the event, I would suggest even creating a shot list for your photographer. A shot list is an inventory of all of the various types of photos you want. For example, shots of the crowd from above, photos of patrons visiting a sponsor’s booth, and so on.
It’s also important your event looks into investing in a professional photographer if possible. A good photographer can make even the most mundane and non-exciting booth look awesome! Many photographers like the chance to shoot events and would even do it for tickets or VIP. Just make sure whether you trade or pay your photographer, you have the rights to use the photos.
We will cover this in detail in a later chapter, so we won’t go into too much detail here. The asset list is the general list of items you must sell. It’s like an inventory list. If you are an established event, you probably already have one of these, and if you don’t, we will go over how to create one in chapter three.
Demographics are the lifeblood of sponsorships. You would be surprised at how many events I come across that do not have demographic information. You cannot sell significant dollars if you do not have this information. In chapter four, we will cover ways you can collect audience data and how you can use it to your advantage.
You do not necessarily have to have a marketing plan to get sponsorship sales, but it does make a difference, especially when you are targeting your title or presenting sponsors. Those are the ones that are going to benefit the most from your marketing plan. If you know what your marketing plan is, then it is so much easier to sell to those larger sponsors, because you can show them how they will be included in your marketing efforts. If you don’t really know your marketing plan or just kind of wing it, then I suggest you take the time to lay out a plan. At the very least, get a basic understanding of what your goals are and what you can offer a title or presenting sponsor. If you are lost on how to develop your marketing plan, take a look at the companion workbook for an easy-to-follow template on building your marketing plan.
The above is an excerpt from the book Sell Your Event! The Easy to Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsors by Teresa Stas. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission from the author.
Recently a report was released by EventMB called The Virtual Event Tech Guide about the state of virtual events as well as giving information about virtual tech. Two very noticeable stats that came to light for me is that only 32% of live events pivoted to virtual this year and only 2% of event professionals were able to recover 100% of their annual revenue and “70% of event professionals were unable to recover more than 25% of their annual revenue using virtual.” These stats just verified what my agency and myself had been experiencing firsthand. That Virtual events aren’t replace live event revenue and part of that is sponsorships. The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Sell Your Event! The Easy to Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsors.”
“How do I sell my virtual event?” This is the question I was asked the most in the early months of 2020. As events tried to create virtual events that would make up for the lost income of their canceled live events, they often expected to pull in their same sponsors. My answer to them was sell your virtual events with the same principles as you sell your live events. You follow the same steps, and you provide the same information.
The one thing I ask my clients when they are considering a virtual event is “What is the ultimate goal?” Are they creating this virtual event for marketing purposes to help keep their event top of mind and their patrons engaged? Are they creating this virtual event to make up the lost revenue? Or are they creating this virtual event to replace their live event for the year? Knowing what you are ultimately trying to accomplish will help you understand the reality of the situation and set your expectations.
Although I do not believe virtual will replace the live event experience, it is not going anywhere, so we need to adjust for this popular form of event. To do this, you want to keep a few things in mind when it comes to sponsorships:
1) 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.
2) 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 excitement or sponsorship dollars.
3) 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 cannot just take the price of your live event and slap it on the virtual or hybrid event.
4) In the case of virtual or hybrid, make sure your production and your technology are 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.
5) You need to upgrade your marketing and make sure you message how your virtual event will work and how a patron can be a part of it. I have seen several events create great virtual events but did a bad job of marketing them or explaining how they work. This leads to low attendance numbers and low sponsorship dollars.
Virtual Event Assets
Digital assets can still be utilized for a virtual event. In fact, the value of these may become higher, since all you have is your online presence to connect with your audience, but again, this all depends on how much of your audience is actually seeing these assets. Traditional assets such as naming rights can also be integrated into a virtual event. Depending on the setup of your main entertainment, multiple stages could be named after sponsors.
In addition, a virtual event could also host a presenting or title sponsor. Shaq’s Fun House vs Gronk Beach, Presented by The General® Insurance found many ways to involve sponsors. As you can see, in the name they hosted a presenting sponsor for their event. They also hosted multiple “challenges” that integrated sponsors into on-screen activities. These challenges included a Lip Sync Battle, presented by The General Insurance, where Shaq and Gronk faced off. The McCormick Grill Mates Steak Challenge had Shaq and Gronk grill, with Shaq taking home the title of top chef. Fortunately for Gronk, he won the jousting competition, presented by Monster Energy. Rocket Mortgage Sports Showdown involved a photo finish to see who won the final obstacle, an egg and spoon race. It ended with Gronk defeating Shaq in the Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Challenge. As you can see, each activity involved the sponsor in a unique way. It also provided fans with hilarious entertainment to see two major athlete-celebrities go head to head in fun and light-hearted challenges.
Sampling can still be done with some virtual events through welcome packs or swag bags. Our client, Hood to Coast, teamed up with their sponsor, ONE Bar, to include bars in all of their “Finisher Packs.” When a runner completed their mileage, they would log on to the event website and enter their time. Hood to Coast would then ship them a package which included their medal, a t-shirt (depending on the race), and a ONE Bar. This met the sponsor’s goal to get their product into the hands of their target consumer, and it did it when there were no events happening.
Mailing a racing package to a registrant is a great opportunity to involve sponsors in a virtual race. This is a way for the event organizers to connect with their fans and engage with sponsors in a way that feels like how a normal in-person event would. It also gives races a chance to keep their most staple sponsor asset, the event t-shirt, along with the opportunity to include unique products. However, make sure you factor in shipping and production costs when adding items to the package.
Coupons or free sample cards have the best return on investment. By using a tracking code, you can also see the usage from those bounce-back coupons. As an event organizer, you will want to limit the number of sponsors you include in any type of package and make sure you include items of value. You don’t want to be shipping junk mail. Not only will it drive up shipping costs, but it dilutes the value of the sponsorship. Limiting how many can be involved in the direct-mail assets will help keep the costs down and the value high.
Virtual Expos and Conferences
A virtual expo might also be the way to go. It provides another gateway for an online event to connect partners and viewers. A virtual expo allows organizers to incorporate vendors and sponsors into one portal. EventHub created a platform that allows for meaningful and high-quality interactions. Event partners can engage with attendees in real time through virtual booths. Each virtual booth allows for video conferencing between the attendee and booth host. Sponsors and vendors are organized in a grid format and can be sorted and searched by category.
A Toronto marathon found through the virtual expo, they could showcase their sponsors, vendors, and even the charities they support. They even added programming to attract attendees to the platform. Throughout the virtual event, they hosted a speaker series that featured informational sessions for runners of all abilities hosted by celebrities and elite athletes.
A virtual expo does not just have to be for race events. Organizers of all kinds of events can integrate this platform into their live streams. Music festivals, pride events, state fairs, wellness expos, and more can benefit by adding this outlet for interaction between attendees and partners. The portal can even be organized by priority, allowing for sponsors to pay more for a premium spot.
Live streaming a music festival is nothing new. Major festivals like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas have been live streaming their events for years. Coachella historically has received millions of views and broke viewership records when it hosted Beyoncé as a headliner. These would be considered hybrid events, where there is an in-person and virtual experience for the same event. But not all hybrid events are six-figured attendance numbers.
I just spoke at a conference in Florida where there was a small, socially distanced summit with 100 people over two days. It was recorded and streamed to a much larger virtual conference audience of event professionals. The combination of both the live and virtual is the direction that many events are headed as we wait for the reopening of the event industry. Hybrid sponsorships tend to lend themselves to higher sponsorship dollars than just virtual, because they allow for some element of the in-person connection that is so important to virtual events.
My biggest piece of advice that I can offer in the virtual/hybrid event space is just like your live event: Audience data is the lifeblood of your sponsorships. If you know your audience, then target those prospects who want access to them. These are unprecedented times, but I have seen such innovation from the event world this year that I know firsthand you can sell sponsorships to virtual and hybrid events if you use the same principles and techniques used to sell successful live event sponsorships. Don’t wait! Get out there because now is the time to make it happen!
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association’s “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine November 2020.The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.
A lot of small and mid-size events make the mistake of mass calling or emailing any and all businesses in their area looking for sponsorships. They typically have no real rhyme or reason when doing so. They are playing it like it is a numbers game. The more people I ask, the better results I will get. This theoretically can be true, but it is by no means the most effective and efficient way to go about sponsorships.
The most efficient and effective way to go is starting with prospects that are a fit for your event. Now you may be asking, “How do I know what’s a good fit?” You know by looking at your audience data. This data derives from these questions: Who is your audience? Where are they coming from? What are their interests? What are they looking to purchase in the next year?
Letting your audience data lead, you to your prospects will ensure that you find sponsorships that are a good match for your audience. When you match potential sponsors with your audience, you will not only experience greater success in signing sponsors, but your sponsorships will be more successful. Trying to squeeze a sponsorship into an event for the sake of the money almost never leads to successful results for the sponsor and in turn, doesn’t lead to the sponsor resigning for the next year.
I bring up audience data and patron demographics a lot. These are essential for building your patron profile so that your event and your sponsors know who you are targeting. It’s what defines your attendees and your fan population. Knowing your patron data is the lifeblood of selling sponsorships. I will say this again. Knowing your patron data is the lifeblood of selling sponsorships. It’s a very important component that many small and mid-size events ignore. In this day and age where data is so readily available to sponsors those who don’t take this aspect seriously will be left behind.
Difference Between Audience Data and Demographics
Oftentimes the terms audience data and demographics are used interchangeably. I even catch myself doing this on a regular basis but there is a slight difference between the two.
Demographics refers to age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, income, education, and employment. They are characteristics that define a population segment but do not usually include so-called lifestyle characteristics. Whereas audience data refers to demographics and anything else you have on your audiences such as their favorite vehicle companies or the movies they are watching. For the sake of this article, they can be used interchangeably but it can be important to know the difference.
How to Obtain Audience Data for your Event
I’m hoping that you have already collected your audience data for your event. If you have then this metaphorical is for you! If you haven’t, then don’t stress I’m going to walk you through some ways to start the process!
1) You can use past ticket sales for zip code information to determine where your patrons are coming from.
2) Pull demographics from social media. This is not full proof but will give you a good sense of who is at least interested in your event and who is following your branding message. It may not tell you who is showing up at your event, but it will give you a good idea of your audience and their interests. If you do not have any data, this is a great place to start. You can go to your Facebook or Instagram insights and pull analytics of your fans instantly. There are many tutorials on how to do this online.
3) Ticketing platforms have become increasingly better at being able to collect audience data upon purchasing. Ask your ticketing platform what kinds of data you can collect. Many of them are able to integrate with patron’s social media and pull even more data like age, gender, job, and other important info. Some can even allow you to ask a couple of questions upon purchase of tickets.
4) Conducting a survey is one of the easier ways to get the information that is most important to you or your sponsors. You can do this either online or on-site. To get the best results we suggest providing an incentive. Maybe it’s a free gift like a hat or t-shirt. You could also give a chance to win experience upgrades, ticket packages, or a discount code prior to the event.
5) Finally, you can invest in a third party to poll demographics for you. For example, you can hire a company to come out to your event and collect this information for you. If you do not know what to do or need more in-depth information, then I would suggest having professionals come out and implement it for you. This is helpful to get a really good understanding of what your patron demographics are even if you only do it every few years.
The more audience data you can collect the better your prospects will be. Sponsors love audience data and making it essential to sponsorship goals will prove to be so much more successful for your event than mass emails and cold calls!
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association’s “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine August 2020.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.
GUEST AUTHOR: Dennis Freeman, Risk Mitigation Director at Freeman Enterprises
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get back to event work. I’m ready to start building budgets, creating timelines, talking to vendors and getting back out on the event site! As we start to plan for that blessed day, there are new details and concerns to ponder. Assessing risk and putting practical guidance into place is always a necessary component to responsible event planning. With the addition of COVID-19, these plans have moved from important to vital for the health, safety and well-being of your patrons and staff. Working through a detailed Risk Analysis and Risk Mitigation plan could mean the difference between success and failure.
What Is Risk Analysis?
Risk Analysis is a process that helps you identify and manage potential problems that could undermine the success of your event. To carry out a Risk Analysis, you must first identify the possible threats that you face, and then estimate the likelihood that these threats will materialize. Risk Analysis can be complex, as you’ll need to draw on detailed information such as local health department rules and regulations, security protocols, cleaning and sanitizing protocol, etc.
Start with an Impact Analysis
This technique is a useful brainstorming exercise that helps you identify potential risks and think through the full impact of each risk. This practice also sets the stage for creating and implementing a Risk Mitigation plan.
The first step is to gather the players; key staff, important sub-contractors, board members, etc. Make sure everyone understands the parameters of the analysis and the intended goal.
2. Brainstorm Major Areas of Concern
Consider and notate all areas that would be considered unsafe or need to be adjusted/modified in order to become safer. Consider each step of the patron experience as well as the back of house areas. At this point, just focus on problem areas, not solutions. Stick to “big picture” areas during this step.
3. Dig Deeper
For each area identified during step #2, begin to tease out details. At this point, get as granular as necessary in order to create a detailed, deep dive look at all areas of concern.
4. “What If” Analysis
In this portion of the exercise, you ask a series of “what if” questions to further research potential areas of impact. Take each element of the risk list you created in Steps #2 and #3 and begin to ask, “What If this happens?”, “What if that happens?”. Make sure to keep a detailed list of each scenario for use during Section 4 of this process.
Develop a Risk Impact/Probability Chart
Now that you and your team have created a detailed list of concerns, the next step will be to prioritize those risks. If you do this effectively, you can focus the majority of your time and effort on the most important risks. The Risk Impact/Probability Chart provides a useful framework that helps you decide which risks need your attention.
The Risk Impact/Probability Chart is based on the principle that a risk has two primary dimensions:
1) Impact – A risk, by its very nature, always has a negative impact. However, the size of the impact varies in terms of cost and impact on health, human life, or some other critical factor.
2) Probability – A risk is an event that “may” occur. The probability of it occurring can range anywhere from just above 0 percent to just below 100 percent. (Note: It can’t be exactly 100 percent, because then it would be a certainty, not a risk. And it can’t be exactly 0 percent, or it wouldn’t be a risk.)
The chart allows you to rate potential risks on these two dimensions. The probability that a risk will occur is represented on one axis of the chart – and the impact of the risk, if it occurs, on the other.
You use these two measures to plot each risk on the chart. This gives you a quick, clear view of the priority that you need to give to each risk. You can then decide what resources you will allocate to managing that particular risk.
Below is a basic form of the Risk Impact/Probability Chart.
The corners of the chart have these characteristics:
Low impact/low probability – Risks in the bottom left corner are low level, and you can often ignore them.
Low impact/high probability – Risks in the top left corner are of moderate importance – if these things happen, you can cope with them and move on. However, you should try to reduce the likelihood that they’ll occur.
High impact/low probability – Risks in the bottom right corner are of high importance if they do occur, but they’re very unlikely to happen.
High impact/high probability – Risks towards the top right corner are of critical importance. These are your top priorities and are risks that you must pay close attention to.
For most live events, you also need to look closely at high impact/low probability risks that could result in injury or loss of human life. There are far too many recent examples of events where low probability risks became high impact realities.
Build your Risk Mitigation Plan
Once you’ve identified the value of the risks you face, you can start to look at ways of managing them.
Avoid the Risk
In some cases, you may want to avoid the risk altogether. This could mean postponing or cancelling your event. This is a wise option when taking the risk involves no advantage to your organization, or when the cost of addressing the effects is not worthwhile, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Share the Risk
While this may be an option for risks unrelated to COVID-19, it will more than likely not be viable under those conditions. An example of when this might make sense would be related to financial risk. Rather than charge a food vendor a flat fee for his booth space, share the risk by offering vendors a percentage deal. In this situation, both you and the vendor share the risk but also share the spoils.
Control the Risk
This is your key area of concern and where you should spend the majority of your time and effort. Work with your team as well as local officials to strategize how to control or at least minimize the impact of each risk that can’t be avoided or is too risky to accept. From your Impact/Probability chart, these risks would be those in the high impact/high probability zone. However, especially during these times, it is wise to work through this process for the high impact/low probability risks as well.
Controlling risk during the time of COVID-19 will require diligent research and study in order to understand the probability of each risk, as well as keeping up with the latest scientific guidelines and government recommendations for having safe mass gatherings.
Accept the Risk
This option is reserved for situations when the potential impact of a risk is less than the cost of insuring against the risk, or when the potential gain is worth accepting the risk. These risks would fall in the Low impact/low probability zone.
Work with your Local Authorities
Under “normal” circumstances, working with local authorities can be as simple as completing permit applications and fulfilling the usual permit requirements. Now with COVID-19 added to the equation, relationships with local authorities will be vital to the success of your event. Not only will local authorities decide if and when it is safe to hold any sort of mass gathering, they will also expect you to provide a detailed health and safety plan before approving your event. It is more important than ever to maintain open honest communications with all local authorities and to build upon past positive relationships with those authorities.
All of the steps outlined above should be used to create a detailed health and safety plan to submit to the following entities:
Special Event Permitting officials
City or County Health Department
State Health Department
Local Law Enforcement
The Go-No Go Decision
Now that you have all the data and a plan for risk mitigation, it’s decision time. Here are a few items to consider as you work through the decision-making process:
What key concerns were highlighted by your Risk Analysis? Do you have a plan for mitigating those risks?
What are the costs (financial and otherwise) of mitigating those risks?
Are there risks that aren’t worth the cost? Deal Breakers (for example, __% of new cases due to your event)
If the risks can be mitigated or minimized to the point of having very low impact, are there any other factors that would impact your decision to go – no go? Ethics, morality, local authorities, negative impact on other shareholders (board, funders, etc.)
A decision to move forward with your event should hinge on confidence that the plans and procedures put in place through the risk mitigation process will:
Maintain the health of staff, vendors, artists
Maintain the health of patrons
Not have a negative financial impact on your event (or the future of your event)
Not negatively impact your relationships with local authorities, sponsors, etc.
Not negatively impact the reputation of your event
Dennis Freeman is the founder and Special Event Producer for Freeman Enterprises. With over twenty years of experience Dennis has handled production and logistics for clients such as CMA Music Fest, KAABOO and Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour to name a few. He was also a recent contributor to the Event Safety Alliance’s Reopening Guide. For more information or help with reopening your event, please reach out to Dennis Freeman at [email protected].
Freeman Enterprises can help you put together a customized reopening plan for your event and help you work with the right vendors to get your new protocols in place.
GUEST AUTHOR: ERIN REGRUTTO, Risk Mitigation Consultant at Freeman Enterprises
The other day, I was walking on a trail near my house and passed by a 3’x3’ white coroplast sign with red writing. Not surprisingly, this sign was the exact size, shape, color, and font that I’ve seen used for many events for directional signage over my almost twenty year career in the event business. What was surprising, was that just seeing this sign made me long for the days of driving around on a golf cart, zip ties and snips in hand, hanging up signs – a job that is not generally that fun, but is a necessary part of any event. That longing made me a little sad, and even caused me to choke up for a minute (tears were definitely shed). If you have ever worked an event, you know what I mean – the months of preparation, the long hours of load-in, the excitement of watching the crowd pour into your site, and even the hangover of load-out. I don’t know about you, but I miss it. Like, really, really miss it.
Over the past several months, while quarantining and homeschooling three of my four children in Washington state, my business partner, Dennis Freeman, and myself have been researching health, safety, cleaning, and disinfection and applying that knowledge to every possible situation within an event site. Between Dennis and I, we have completed the World Health Organization’s Public Health Preparedness for Mass Gatherings, the Event Safety Alliance’s Event Safety Access Training, FEMA’s National Incident Management Systems, and FEMA’s Orientation to FEMA Logistics and applied this new knowledge to all of the events that we have ever worked; ranging from farmer’s markets to multi-day camping and music festivals. With Dennis’ extensive 30 year career in event management and logistics, he was able to contribute to the Event Safety Alliance’s Reopening Guide, which if you haven’t read it, please download it here (ESA Reopening Guide). It’s an incredibly useful document, put together by over 200 industry professionals, with the goal of providing guidance to the events that will get to come back first.
This information and the level of research required to fully understand the practical application of it, can be overwhelming. Ultimately, the goal for any event in a normal year, is to mitigate risk: identify potential risks at your event, determine if those risks can or need to be avoided, and develop a plan to either eliminate or minimize the identified risks, or accept that those risks are an inherent part of holding an event. With the addition of “infectious disease” to the long list of risks that as event organizers, we are already assessing, there are many (many) new twists and turns to risk mitigation that were simply not on most of our radars until now. (As with any challenge, you will want to review reopening with an attorney and your insurance company to ensure that you are not only legally allowed to reopen, but to make sure that your insurance company is willing to accept the Risk Mitigation Plan that you have outlined. This list is to help you know what to consider when you are able to reopen, but does not serve as a sure-fire way to mitigate all risk.)
We have compiled the “Top 6 Things To Consider When Getting Ready to Reopen Your Event”. Take a look at the list and really consider how the below applies to your specific layout and event in our new normal.
1. Consult With Your Local Authorities – As you do for EMS, the Police Department, Fire Marshal, the Environmental Health Department and other agencies, research your state and local regulations regarding mass gatherings. Working WITH these agencies, rather than attempting to skate under their radar will not only provide your patrons with a safer overall event, but the relationships that you develop by reaching out and being proactive will pay dividends for years to come:
Check Executive Orders from your state’s Governor and your city’s Mayor
Face Covering Recommendations
Social Distancing Regulations
2. Review Your Budget – The addition of new health and safety protocols are unfortunately not free. Depending on the degree of coverage required by your state, county, city, or internal event management team, you will need to factor in some additional dollars to cover the costs of whatever preventative measures that you will be putting into place.
3. Operational Elements to Consider – There are a multitude of options available when it comes to determining how you will best protect your staff and patrons from illness at a mass gathering. After taking a critical eye to your event, you will know what your main areas of focus for health and safety should be. We have included several available options below:
A) Back of House and Staff
Additional Hand Washing and Sanitizing Stations
Temperature Screening for All Staff and Vendors
Protective Shields at Locations Where Interaction Between Staff and Patrons is Unavoidable (food vendors, merch vendors, sponsors, box office/will call, etc)
Increased Janitorial Staff for Higher Frequency Cleaning and Disinfection
Policy Changes to Food and Beverage Operations
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Required
Will you provide PPE to staff if needed?
Limit Staff Members/Production Vendors On-Site
B) Front of House Patrons and Staff
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Required
Contact Tracing App Integration
Touchless Ticketing / No Box Office or Will Call On-Site
Staggered or Typical
Staggered or Typical
Increasing Exit Points to Accommodate Social Distancing
Emergency Egress Plan that Considers Social Distancing
Increased Janitorial Staff for Higher Frequency Cleaning and Disinfection
Additional Restrooms and Hand Washing Stations (more, assigned to small groups, etc….)
How to Social Distance at Choke Points and Crowd Packs
Food and Beverage Booths
Merchandise, Retail, and Sponsor Booths
Other Locations of Interest
Designated Corrals for Limited Number of Patrons
4. Get Your Team On-Board – Share your plan with your team and take their feedback and concerns into account. The easiest way to get your Staff, Vendors, Contractors, and Sponsors to support and participate in your efforts is by including them in the planning process and clearly communicating with them what your final decisions are, and what you hope that those decisions will accomplish.
5. Communicate With Your Patrons – A well-prepared patron is far better than a patron who has no idea what is going on when they show up to your event. Make sure you communicate new rules or regulations that must be followed while on site. Here are some ways that you can reach your audience:
Pre-Event Communication Through Your Website and Social Outlets – “What to Expect When You Arrive”
Informational Signage in Parking Lots, Entry Points, and Event Site
PA Announcements and Video Screen Graphics (if applicable)
6. When Someone Is Sick – Unfortunately, the statistics will tell you that it is likely someone will show up who has an elevated temperature. Protocols need to be in place prior to the event that focus on how you will handle each possible scenario related to these new health concerns. Here are just a few items to consider:
Protocols for Staff, Vendors, or Patrons with an Elevated Temperature: Most cities have multiple testing sites available. While doing your temperature screening, if you run across a patron who does have an elevated temperature and/or exhibits symptoms of COVID-19, have a list of testing sites ready to go, so that you can communicate next reasonable steps to each individual. Additionally, particularly in the case of a staff member, consider where they have been onsite, who they have been in contact with, and how to adequately clean and disinfect any areas that they have been working in. Quickly alerting staff who have been in contact with a person who is ill, is key to slowing the spread of infection.
What To Do When a Staff Member or Patron Refuses to Follow Your Protocols: This is tricky, considering the strong feelings that are associated with some safety protocols. Ultimately, just as you set the rules for outside food and beverage, lewd behavior, counterfeit tickets, etc, YOU, as the organizer of the event, set the rules for what health and safety protocols must be adhered to within your footprint. If someone is not following the rules or your event, refer to your usual security plan for how to handle the situation, whether it’s a warning or a removal.
As event organizers, we are responsible for the health and safety of everyone within our event site. This has been true through everything from stage collapses, mass shootings, foodborne illnesses, trip hazards, and now infectious diseases. This new challenge is definitely a significant hurdle, but certainly not one that we can’t overcome. With some serious consideration and planning, you can provide an environment that is as safe as possible, while going on with the show. Ultimately, we all want to get back to work, and the more precautions we take to do that, the better off we are as an industry. Let’s work together to make sure that we can get back to doing what we do best – providing people with a great time and unforgettable experiences!
For more information or help with reopening your event, please reach out to Dennis Freeman at [email protected] or Erin Regrutto at [email protected] We have developed full-scale Risk Mitigation Programs for all different sizes of events. We can help you put together a customized reopening plan for your event and work with the right vendors to get your new protocols in place.
Although we all hoped and crossed our fingers and toes, it has now become clear that summer events in the US are not going to happen as we know them. For most, they have been canceled or postponed and for the few such as farmers markets, they look quite different from years past. As these tough decisions are being made you may wonder how, or if, you will be able to keep your committed sponsorship dollars. I can’t lie and say it will be easy, but here are the main five ways I have seen events keep their sponsorships intact.
1. Communication is essential! Be honest and open with your sponsors. You are not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes by pretending everything is good with the event. We know and your sponsors know that it is more likely your event will be canceled or postponed, than it will go on like planned. So, make sure your sponsors know that you are working on a plan and let them know what that looks like. Keeping in touch and continuing to do so will keep sponsors feel more connected with your event and they may even have ideas that you could use!
2. Ask to roll over their sponsorship to next years event (or postponement date) by including them in additional marketing opportunities during this down time. Maybe include them in something extra that your event may do virtually or socially to engage your fans. Such as sponsored social interactive contests, email blast inclusions to your audience database, virtual marketplaces, or sponsoring a live stream of an artist or performer. *Pro Tip: To make things easy on you and your sponsor, have them sign a simple addendum to your agreement that changes the dates. This will make sure everything is in writing and you will not have to go through the agreement process again for the new event date.
3. Look at Virtual or Creative Options. Although I do not believe virtual will replace the live event experience it is an option that many events are looking to try. We have had several events create virtual options to save some of their sponsorship dollars. To do this, you need to keep a few things in mind. The principals for selling live event sponsorships are the same for virtual or creative options.
A) What is it that the sponsor is trying to get out of the sponsorship? If you cannot help them meet that goal through your virtual event then you will have a hard time keeping the money, the same as if it was a live event. 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 excitement or money.
B) If this is the first time you take your event virtual then you are up against unproven results. Keep this in mind when it comes to pricing and technology. If you are charging, you need to make sure the technology works! You also need to consider how you price. Perhaps you charge less than you normally would, but the event get’s more sponsorship dollars based on impressions or marketplace visits if you are doing a virtual marketplace.
4. If you are a non-profit you might be able to accept the sponsorship as a tax-deductible donation. All states have different rules around this but if your event has a 501c-3 behind it you should investigate the possibility of turning the sponsorship into a donation. We have seen success with this concept especially from those community events where the sponsors are invested in the return of the event. Even a few for profit events have had their sponsors be willing to “gift” them the sponsorship in order to see it recover next year.
5. If you have sponsors who have committed to this year but have not paid by the time you end up canceling or postponing it is still worth asking them to recommit to next year. Even if you must wait for the money knowing that you already have sponsorships committed to next year will make a huge impact on your recovery. Go ahead and have them sign an addendum that changes the dates on the agreement.
Remember that sponsorship is a partnership and if you treat your sponsors like partners you have a better chance of them sticking with you through these difficult times. How you treat your sponsors, vendors, and stakeholders during this time will make all the difference for when you come back next year.
As municipal officials begin to allow small groups of people to gather in public even while the fight against COVID-19 continues, there is a tremendous need for guidance how small events and venues can reopen as safely as possible under these incredibly challenging circumstances. In response, the Event Safety Alliance today released The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide.
The Reopening Guide addresses health and sanitary issues that event and venue professionals need to consider in order to protect both patrons and workers. Since there is still insufficient testing, no contact tracing, and no vaccine against COVID-19, this guidance is particularly detailed. The edition released today is tailored to be especially useful for event professionals reopening the smallest events with the fewest resources available to mitigate their risks, since in every municipal reopening plan these will be allowed to reopen first.
Other than emphasizing the importance of following authoritative scientific advice from organizations such as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, the Reopening Guide offers suggestions and alternative practices for consideration rather than claiming that any one practice is better than all others. Event Safety Alliance Vice President Steven A. Adelman, the head of Adelman Law Group, PLLC and editor of the Reopening Guide, explains how the document applies the legal duty of care.
“As a matter of common law, everyone has a duty to behave reasonably under their own circumstances. Consequently, there is no such thing as ‘best’ practices. There are only practices that are reasonable for this venue, this event, this crowd, this time and place, during this pandemic. Because few operational bright lines would make sense, The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide is designed to help event professionals think through their own circumstances. In the order than one plans an event, the Reopening Guide looks closely at the health and safety risks involved in reopening public spaces, then proposes risk mitigation measures that are likely to be reasonable under the circumstances of the smaller events and venues that will reopen first.”
The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide is the product of contributions from more than 300 professionals from all facets of the live event industry, from the smallest to largest producers and the many businesses that work to support them. As it says on the cover, “Please share this Guide – We all want to reopen safely.”
The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide is available as a free download at http://eventsafetyalliance.org.
Developed in partnership with attractions members and operators from around the world, as well as health-related guidance from government agencies and medical professionals, IAAPA’s “Reopening Guidance: Considerations for the Attractions Industry” outlines principles and approaches to consider for reopening once local government officials in your area remove “stay-at-home” orders, allow non-essential businesses to reopen, and say it’s safe for citizens to move around their community.
A successful marketing campaign for a live event is important for many reasons. It not only helps to sell tickets to the event but also helps to attract sponsors. According to Bizzabo’s 2019 Benchmarks and Trends Report on Event Marketing, “The most successful businesses are spending 1.7x the average marketing budget on live events.” This means that there is a major opportunity for event organizers to secure deals with brands to have them market their company at their live events. It also means that an event needs to demonstrate the ability to run a successful marketing campaign to build confidence amongst future sponsors. Having a proven track record of successful marketing campaigns can give any event an advantage when it comes to selling sponsorships. On the flip side, having poor event marketing can cause the loss of a sponsor.
Types of Event Marketing
Before the event, social media and online marketing are critical. Having a website that is easy to navigate and nice to look at is essential. This is the first place that most people will go to learn about the event. This should be looked at as more than just a hub for information. It is a chance to put your best foot forward and engage with viewers. A website should be seen as a marketing tool and designed accordingly. Potential sponsors will be looking at these pages and determining if they want their logo and branding associated with your event.
Other types of digital marketing include email marketing and social media. Email marketing is a great tool for disseminating information to your audience because there are no tricky algorithms and community guidelines to follow. However, it is not as visible to those who do not already know about your event. Social media is especially important because it is an avenue for new people to find your event.
Why Social Media Matters
When your event has engaging and beautiful social media posts it not only helps to sell more tickets but also to build up the event’s reputation in the community. This in turns translates into being more desirable to work with. If a brand sees that you have not only a large following, but also create beautiful content, then they are more likely to want to work with you. Furthermore, this is something that can be leveraged when negotiating a sponsorship deal. Adding in a digital marketing campaign in addition to the on-site footprint can give any event’s sponsorship package a major edge over others.
How Does Bad Event Marketing Lose Sponsors?
A poor marketing strategy can make any event look unorganized, unprofessional, and all-around have many negative impacts. Brands do not want to associate their name with bad marketing campaigns. This can prevent an event from acquiring new sponsors and also cause them to lose ones that are currently signed on.
Event marketing matters when it comes to selling sponsorship because it is one of the first impressions a brand can have about an event. Companies only want to associate their name and logo with effective marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, bad event marketing can cause an event to lose sponsors because they will not trust the event to amplify their brand effectively. That is why having a well thought out strategy and heightened focus on marketing is an important factor when it comes to selling sponsorships.