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.
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.
As the event industry has entered into uncharted territory during these uncertain times it has become apparent that many events especially those being run by volunteers and small staff needed some guidance as to what to expect and how to handle issues that are arising from cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19. After being asked to appear on several event association webinars Ryan Kintz from ,Afton Tickets, Michael Bleau from ,Event Hub, and Teresa Stas from ,Green Cactus Event Sponsorships are working together to help other live events by sharing our first hand knowledge of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and the feedback we are getting from our clients and other events across the country.
Signup Your Live Events Organization or Association
Our fully hosted and customized free 45-60 minute webinar for your group or association will offer information and advice for your event organizers and event vendors to help make it through the corona virus crisis.
Topics will include:
How to handle Sponsorships during this uncertain time.
How brands are dealing with their event sponsorships and what it means for you.
Correct messaging for ticket holders, vendors, sponsors, etc. to prevent a negative social media backlash.
How to handle canceling or postponing events.
Incentivizing customers to keep their tickets for next year’s event vs. demanding a refund.
Strategies to financially survive a decrease in revenues due to COVID-19.
How to SIGN UP for our Webinar: For Festival Organizations & Associations with a membership following, Contact Green Cactus at [email protected] to schedule a special expert webinar panel specifically for your association members.
Please include the following in your email:
Include Two or Three dates and times that would work for your organization (we are finding that Tues-Thursday at around 10am or 11am seem to work best)
We encourage you to include one or two of your own experts on the panel. Such as an event who has had to cancel or postpone, a legal or insurance expert to round out your webinar. If you have suggestions of people to include please also include them in the email as well.
As soon as we get your email someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
We are doing our best to accommodate every organization’s schedule. But available slots are filling up quickly. Please contact us to learn more.
As we continue to abide by the CDC’s recommendations and more local governments put regulations in place, it can be a confusing time for both event organizers and sponsors. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that this situation is rapidly changing as more news and information is available to the public and local governments adjust restrictions.
As a sponsorship agency we were seeing the following three responses from our brands:
1. Holding on Signing All Pending Sponsorships: The first and most common response we have seen is a hold on all pending sponsorships as brands try to find their footing and anticipate the economic impact they will face. This can be hard when you are trying to meet sales goals but try to think of this as a positive. This is not a “No”. Staying in contact with these prospective sponsors is key.
2. Canceling their Sponsorship Agreements: I can’t sugar coat it; brands are canceling their sponsorship agreements. There are several reasons this might happen prematurely from the cancelation of an event. It could be because they target an age group that is considered vulnerable, so they don’t want to be portrayed as irresponsible by partnering with a live event at this time. It might be that they have taken a huge financial hit and are trying to cut expenses everywhere. Although sponsorship cancelations are our fear, there is some solace to remember. If they cancel and the event hasn’t, there is a good chance you might still get to keep the sponsorship money. Make sure to double-check your agreement as most events have a no refund policy if the brand cancels. Now, whether your event keeps the money or refund’s it is up to you. Keep in mind it may affect future relationships with that sponsor. So be sure to assess the situation from all angles.
3. Willing to Move Forward but with a COVID-19 Clause: Currently, there is increased importance around contracts. The good news is that not all hope is lost, although it is at a much slower pace, we are still seeing brands move forward with sponsorships. Now they are taking a much closer look at clauses that deal with event cancellations. It’s highly recommended that every contract includes a plan of action regarding if an event is canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. This will allow sponsors to feel more comfortable with signing.
We decided to reach out to five of the brands we work with to gain insight into how COVID-19 is affecting their business, how they are dealing with it, and how it will affect the events that they work with. In order for these brands to provide candid feedback they asked that we share their answers anonymously but what we can tell you is our interviews were conducted with sponsorship decision makers in the beer, liquor, grocery, power and hospitality industries. After our frank conversations with the brands it became clear that there were three key themes, that emerged from their responses how they are handling new partnerships, current relationships, and the importance of communication from the event during this time.
Not Committing to New Events
The consensus from every company we spoke to was that they were not committing to any new events until more clarity on the future is given. It is hard to give a timeline on when they may be looking to sign new contracts since we do not know exactly when events will be able to resume again but the overall understanding was that once the mass gathering bands were lifted they would be able to resume commitments to events.
“We are still reviewing but not committing to anything until the global and local situation returns to normal or the “new normal” is established.”
Some are still reviewing proposals while others are not. Unfortunately, due to the ambiguity around the future, it is hard for them to commit but it still may be worth reaching out and at least starting the conversation. While not all are looking at new proposals, many of them expressed a continued commitment to their current partners.
“I imagine this will impact future sponsorship spends but I would only anticipate it affecting new relationships. We are committed to keeping the long-term partnerships intact”
Now with all that said, our agency has had luck working with new sponsors during this time who have verbally told us that once the ban’s are limited they are committed to signing or are willing to at least sign a letter of intent.
Continuing to Work with Current Partners
A lot of the feedback we received was regarding how brands are handling their current partnerships. Many expressed a strong commitment to working with them as much as possible.
“We are supporting events best we can in rescheduling and working with them to have the best experience for their patrons when things do return to normal.”
They are keeping track of the changing situation as best they can while also focusing on their own business. As events begin to reschedule or cancel, it is important that they communicate and provide updates as soon as possible.
“If events are looking to reschedule, they need to keep in mind the timing. There is going to be a large demand for already limited event resources. I suggest communicating with all sponsors and suppliers to ensure everything that the event needs to be successful will be available to them.”
The biggest fear was that events do not have a plan for the future. Because there is so much uncertainty, having multiple contingency plans and options is important. At this point, everyone should prepare for the worst, especially if their event is scheduled for the summer. There is no confirmed date on when mass gathering bans will end so it is a good idea to create multiple plans and establishing a timeline of when hard decisions have to be made.
“The other thing is that we’ve heard from some of the events we sponsor that they are moving ahead as if the event is going to happen, and when we press them on “what if” scenarios they come off like they don’t need them because their event is going to take place. This is off-putting because most of us in the business world are constantly dealing with situations that come up that impact our business and require us to make alternate arrangements or adjust our plans. What those kinds of responses tell me is that these folks don’t have a plan. That may not always be the case, but if someone can’t articulate their plans, whether that’s monitor and adjust or, we’ll cancel if it isn’t cleared up by X date, or whatever it is then that’s where you have the opportunity to create issues between properties and their sponsors. Another reason why communication is so important.”
Communication is key
Probably the most important theme we found from their responses was the emphasis on open and active communication. Even if an event does not have all the answers they need to reach out to their partners and have a conversation about the situation.
“Events should do their best to stay in contact with companies. Updates, even if they are negative will only help both parties move forward the best way possible. Lack of communication can be extremely frustrating and can impact future sponsorship opportunities.”
As mentioned before, having multiple plans of actions and communicating that with brands is very important for maintaining the relationship. It not only shows that the event is prepared but also that they care about their partners and are looking out for their best interests.
Overall, many brands are very conscious about the volatility of the current situation. They understand that it’s a rapidly changing environment and are committed to working with their current partners. Unfortunately, they are not looking to commit to new relationships, but some are still open to proposals. The most important thing is for events to have a plan (or multiple) in place and communicate that with current and future partners.
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 May 2020.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.
Teresa Stas is a national speaker, columnist, and consultant on the topic of live event sponsorships. She is an accomplished marketing leader and CEO of Green Cactus, a live event sponsorship agency based in Portland, OR and Fresno, CA. She has been named one of the 20 on the Rise Event Professionals by Honeybook and RisingTide.com. You can check out Teresa’s online sponsorship course at sellsponsorship.com. If you would like to get sponsorship tips to your inbox, you can sign up for the GC monthly newsletter at GreenCactusCa.com.