Sponsorship Monday: Hospitality Gets a Makeover

It’s gala and golf season. I see so many of these events go under utilized. In this economy, the savvy sponsorship seeker needs to use every occasion as an opportunity to engage sponsors and prospects. Also, hospitality is being redefined by this diminished economy. Some of the trends you can’t afford to ignore when it comes to hospitality packages are as follows:

1. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all hospitality packages. Some sponsors will want less lavish packages (sends the wrong message), while some want more bells and whistles to wring every penny’s worth out of the deal. Treat the hospitality package as a key strategy for the sponsor, not just a pile of give-aways. Discuss who they need to engage via hospitality and what that audience cares about. Tailor accordingly.

2. Bottom line impact matters more than ever. Hospitality packages have to contribute to growing the sponsor’s business. Do their sales department needs a special walk-through or brief workshop on how to maximize the hospitality package with their prospects and clients? Offer these spiffs. If they don’t take you up on it, they’ll still appreciate your asking.

3. Use hospitality events as cultivation events. Lead by example. View your VIP experiences as cultivation events. Bring together current sponsors with prospects. Let them mingle with each other and network. Deploy some of your mavens, perhaps a key volunteer, to make introductions. Plan an ice breaker event or door prizes that incorporate products and services of participating companies to raise awareness and stimulate interaction.

4. Swap old school hospitality for digital assets. Linked In, Facebook, Twitter are all key digital assets sponsors crave in their marketing programs. Offering 50 free tickets to the sponsor to throw into a desk drawer is less appealing than pushing out an offer to sponsor newbies to a free night out– “free tickets, sponsored by Verizon.” It gets the conversation going. Note: I am not talking about jumping in front of Internet users saying, “Hey, look who our sponsor is and go buy their stuff.” Online marketing is so much more subtle. Find ways to bring attention to your sponsor that helps drive interest and inspires reciprocity. Make it a contest. Ask people to enter via Twitter. The most compelling 120 characters wins tickets for two. You push out the ticket giveaway via social networking. The sponsor is a hero. You get new faces in your audience. Win, win, win.