Event Cancelled? What should sponsorship sales professionals be doing during lock-down? 6th April, 2020

It’s an unprecedented time for the world and every industry. Just when we thought that we had found the light at the end of the tunnel regarding Brexit, and businesses finally had some clarity about the future of the economy, COVID-19 has thrown us the biggest curveball in a generation.

In the lock-down period there are already some clear industry winners such as home entertainment, online communication services, delivery companies and, of course, supermarkets. But there’ll be a heck of a lot more that lose out, and the events industry (worth £42.3 bn in the UK), is unfortunately one of these.

Rights holders that depend on one-off event experiences (e.g. festivals) who have had to cancel, will be the hardest hit and most will have an uphill battle to keep any current or prospective sponsors’ from pulling or pausing their investment. The majority of sponsorship sales professionals working on these types of events are in a state of limbo.

If your event has been cancelled this year, what can you as a sponsorship sales professional proactively do to make sure you come out the other end in as strong a position as possible?

React – During this uncertain period continuing to push your event/opportunity to prospective brands would be distasteful and, in some cases, insensitive. However, doing nothing is certainly not the answer. You don’t want to be that person who pops up asking for money after the dust settles. Instead, use the time to try to understand the effect the current situation has had on your prospect. It’s not the time to be selling, but it’s a fantastic time for everyone to build personal relationships. The virus has provided us with the biggest icebreaker of all time, so use it – and actually get to know your prospect beyond the suit.

Rethink – Whilst you are doing your best to maintain and create new relationships where possible, the interruption also provides an opportune time for all sponsorship sales professionals to rethink their current value proposition. Generally, as salespeople we tend to agree a strategy at the very start of a ‘sales phase’ and fail to take a step back from it until the event has been delivered. Use the time wisely to analyse how overall business decisions throughout the year may have affected your propositions and of course the potential economic impact of the virus.

Refresh – We are often so busy trying to strike whilst the iron is hot that we tend to neglect the tasks we perceive to be tedious and not to be directly aligned to getting deals over the line, for example; neatening up your prospect lists and call notes, searching through old emails/contacts who may have moved onto new roles, re-designing your proposals and essentially giving all elements of your work a much-needed face lift.

Research – Constant research and staying up to date with the outlook of every single industry is common practice for most sponsorship sales professionals, but now more than ever that research is pivotal in identifying the brands you should be approaching at the end of the lock-down period. As mentioned above, there are already some obvious winners, but bear in mind every other sponsorship professional will likely be lining up an approach to the Zoom’s, Tesco’s and PlayStation’s of this world, so it’s important to persist with your value proposition and not simply reach out to brands who are ‘doing well’. Remember, sponsorship should be positioned as a vital component for any business to reach their objectives, not as a luxury purchase if a brand has spare budget.

Recharge – As long as you’ve set yourself up to hit the ground running when life returns to normal by taking the above advice, we would suggest that you take advantage of the left over time in which may have before been spent on commuting or after work drinks. Instead use the time to revisit passions/hobbies you never got around to. Learn that language you always said you would, practice that musical instrument under the bed, read those self-improvement books or focus on health and fitness. The sponsorship sales game is a tough one, so recharge and come back stronger.

If you are looking for advice on the sponsorship industry, we would be more than happy to offer our expertise, please email [email protected] to get in touch.