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Good Event Sponsorship: Now and Beyond

Good events are good culture are good business. This is a statement of truth. Partnerships are the most effective and mutually beneficial way to enable events with a powerful return on investment and positive culture. At their best, partnerships raise the brand value of both parties and reinforce their heritage and visions for the future.

Good businesses, the kind that you want to partner with these days, are profitable for certain, but they are also likeable, creative, innovative, energetic, purpose driven, responsible, and sustainable. The kinds of places you would want to work for. These days the money alone is not enough. There is an iceberg effect created from of all of these intangibles that can give all of that which sits above the water stability. Get it wrong, and it runs the risk of sinking the ship.

So… What trends are having a big impact on the partnership landscape here and now?

Thank goodness for innovation 2.0!

Malcolm Turnbull’s ideas boom rescued the word ‘innovation’ from becoming a cliché and gave it something of a new lease on life. The bleeding-edge has never been so mainstream!

But the best news to me is what happens after peak-innovation. Already those in business management are fetishising creativity, and that is great news for the events sector and their ability to build partnerships, perhaps for the first time, on its inherent qualities. Partnerships not built on advertising space rates, bed nights, ‘money can’t buy experiences’, good washing, green washing, merchandise, signage and brand activations; partnerships are built on getting under the skin of what it means to be connected.

This focus on creativity is also taking place throughout adjacent industries as the worlds of enterprise, culture and creativity have never been so intermingled:

  • You find advertising agencies trying to figure out how to be newsrooms.
  • The rise of branded content has seen newsrooms trying to figure out how to be agencies.
  • Our historical institutions trying to work out how to be contemporary & immediately relevant.
  • Artists trying to work out how to be businesses.
  • Management consultants trying to work out how to be designers.

The disruption at play in the creative industries – this merging & cleansing process – is being accelerated and aided by the strong anti-commercial bias of younger generations, not seduced by old ideas of cool generated by brands on their behalf. Young Gen Y’s & Gen Z see codified, commodified and aspirational “coolness” as a straitjacket for creativity. The geeks that now rule the world are far more concerned with making things real, rather than making them cool, and we will have to considerably adjust the way we deliver experiences for them.

At TEDxSydney, the partners and prospects that I deal with are looking post-innovation 2.0 and I think they provide some tea-leaf reading opportunities. So here is a list of how some of these broader forces are playing out on the programs and architectures we are creating, in order to entice their support in this new landscape.

  1. Attracting young talent: For large corporates, the challenge of attracting the best and brightest – when they would rather join a start-up or save the world, than earn the big bucks – is considerable. Partnerships paid for from HR rather than marketing budgets are a relatively new thing. Marketers tasked with HR briefs, seem perhaps even newer.
  2. Content first: Content is both a bi-product and the best answer for the niche at scale and disaggregated artistic production trends – and its dominance is why the media and creative industries are collapsing in on themselves. Our partnerships at TEDxSydney switched from being attendee-first to content-first strategies. We now start culture wide, with a content play, and work our way back down to the attendee experience of the live event.
  3. Reflecting corporate values: Our communities hold incredibly principled stances on corporate misbehaviour. And they expect the partnerships that we make to reflect our values and theirs. Navigating these expectations is tricky without compromising your revenue. But compromising your brand is worse.
  4. Company culture: Partnerships are being used to build staff engagement, as a strategic tool for leadership development and as a way to inspire a culture of intrapreneurship.
  5. Appealing to start-ups: There is an incredible focus at the moment on start-ups and the SME business sector as the powerhouse of the new economy. Partnerships are a great way to make large corporates porous to smaller businesses – to collaborate with, to learn from, and to suck up some of their energy and optimism.
  6. Increasing value: Those of us that work in the cultural sector know that it’s what makes the difference between a boring place, and a place you would like to be. The property industry knows it to – and they are increasingly investing as a way to create texture and interest and to increase the value of their holdings.
  7. “Marker” projects: Lastly – partnerships at TEDxSydney are dominated by ‘maker’ projects. Research, co-creation, AB campaign testing. By inviting the community to participate in a cooperative exercise, we are capitalising on many of the macro trends and creating a whole new partnership architecture that is driven by ‘making real things’ rather than ‘making things cool.’ 

The sponsorship landscape in Australia is rapidly changing. With media consumption disaggregating, interests becoming more and more niche, and people’s tolerance of being ‘sold to’ never lower; events have never represented a better opportunity to reach audiences and engage with them on their own terms. The era of sponsorship sales by logo might be over, but what is coming in its wake is much more powerful and therefore valuable for events and the brands that enable them.

Join Kate on Tuesday, August 16th at 11 AM AEST (Sydney)!register
It’s not too late to save your spot for Tuesday’s live webinar! You can tune in to the webinar, “Beyond Logos: Event Sponsorship that Works” by registering here and get a more in-depth understanding of how to build highly integrated sponsorships that delight event attendees and sponsors, and deliver genuine engagement.

 Kate_tedx_2012_square[1]Kate Dezarnaulds spends a lot of time thinking about what the future of sponsorship will look like. As the Head of Partnerships for TEDxSydney, it is her ability to get to the crux of value for all stakeholders that is the lifeblood of the world’s biggest TEDx event.  At the heart of it all, she says, is authenticity.

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