The pandemic’s impact on businesses has led to higher competition for sponsorship money. Being able to offer sponsors content placement and provide performance data can help associations win coveted sponsorship dollars, experts say.
The pandemic’s lingering economic effects continue to have associations looking for nondues revenue in every spot possible. One area that organizations look to is sponsorship. While event sponsorship was always big, the pandemic has left that more nebulous. In order to stand out in today’s environment, two experts suggest looking at ways to provide sponsors a platform for their content and then showing them how much members engage with that content to stand out.
Bruce Rosenthal, a corporate partnership strategic advisor, said competition for sponsor dollars is fierce in today’s environment.
“When we look at any trade or profession, there are numerous associations in that space, so companies have numerous choices—both national and the state affiliates,” Rosenthal said. “There are so many associations competing for the same sponsorship dollars.”
Rosenthal noted that sponsors also are using social media and their own webinars to reach potential customers, meaning associations are competing with internal marketing for dollars as well. Rosenthal and Jeff Schottland, CEO of digital content solutions firm Lead Marvels, contend that associations can stand out as good sponsorship candidates by highlighting sponsor-written content and thought leadership.
“One way the association can rise above is to think more about how to offer digital content marketing and thought leadership strategies that corporate sponsors and advertisers are demanding,” Schottland said. “[Sponsors and advertisers] want to be the thought leader, and they want to receive leads. It would benefit associations to think: How can we develop these solutions to remain competitive?”
KNOWLEDGE HUB CAN SHARE CONTENT
Rosenthal and Schottland point to the launch of the American Public Transportation Association’s Knowledge Hub, as an example of a way a site can feature sponsored content on a variety of topics.
When it comes to allowing sponsors to include content, associations sometimes worry the content won’t be appropriate for their members or will be useless sales pitches. While that is a valid concern, Schottland and Rosenthal note that there should be multiple layers and filters to make sure content is vetted. When that’s the case, sponsored content can provide valuable insight for members that they wouldn’t otherwise get.
“There is so much going on now with COVID, with globalization, with diversity and equity issues, it is difficult for associations to provide all the content,” Rosenthal said. “A lot of what we’re talking about is not just to meet the needs of sponsor companies, but to meet the needs of members. [Associations] need more information on more topics, and [they] often don’t have the bandwidth, the staff, or the money to produce all that content.”
Schottland notes that including a content hub on an association’s website not only has an advantage for the sponsor but also for the organization. “[Members] are not going to another website to find that information they need,” he said. “They are turning to the association as the one-stop shop.”
If an organization isn’t keen on content from sponsors, Schottland said corporate partners can also sponsor research or other thought leadership produced by association staff.
“Do it in a collaborative approach,” he said. “Here is the association white paper, e-book, report, or survey results in partnership or sponsored by ABC vendor. They can position themselves, the association, as the thought leader but also generate some sponsorship dollars.”
In addition to allowing partners to sponsor content, it is key to provide metrics about how that content is performing. Schottland said metrics to include are time spent on site, page views, leads, and conversion rate. The conversion rate is how many people who visit the page where the content is download the content. So, if a 100 people visit the page and 50 download the content, that’s a 50 percent conversion rate.
Data helps the sponsor know if their content is connecting well with members or if they need to do something different. The overall picture of content performance is useful to the association. “They are seeing what content is resonating, what the topic of that content is, and can use that market intelligence to shape their next event or next product,” Schottland said.
Rosenthal noted these metrics are what companies typically get when they sponsor for-profit endeavors, and associations can compete better if they offer that same info. “If the association provided all the metrics as well as for-profits, I think these companies would go to the association,” Rosenthal said. “They really value the affinity with the association.”