Why It’s Wrong to Treat Your Sponsors Equitably

In the Event Business Not Everyone Deserves a Trophy for Just Showing Up

Don’t try to level the playing field when it comes to event sponsors.

An email arrived the other day and asked a question about the equitable treatment of sponsors. It seems that a volunteer was preparing an ad for the local newspaper and wanted to include all the sponsors, listing them in alphabetical order.

Recognizing sponsors is a good thing. Acknowledging major sponsors in the same manner as minor sponsors as well as in-kind contributors will get an event in trouble in the long haul.

Offering every organization the same exposure will most likely result in your major sponsors downgrading their level of commitment in the future. Why pay more when you can pay less and get the exact marketing value as the next rung down the ladder?

Let’s play this out:

  • If I’m a major sponsor, I should receive gold star treatment. My full-color logo should be larger than a business that gave less money. I also may have negotiated exclusivity – the right to be the only company in my particular industry.
  • Minor sponsors should receive silver level treatment. Perhaps their logo is displayed smaller or used in black and white. This firm should never outshine the company that gave more money.
  • In-kind contributors are those wonderful people and companies who make smaller donations of products, services or money. Some want nothing in return. Some have had their arm twisted by a friend who is an event volunteer. Some are happy to get their name listed in the program. Others feel it is their civic duty to give back to the community. In some cases, these donors want to be affiliated with the event even if it’s in a small way. They’re usually not looking for much in return.
  • Listing everyone equally gives short shrift to the various financial donations made by each sponsor level.

My first thought is that this alphabetically-inclined event volunteer must be involved with youth sports. You know the types where every child receives a trophy just for showing up. That logic doesn’t work in the corporate world and especially for sponsors. It penalizes those that gave more. The smart thing is to reward those according to their level of support.

When you start treating everyone the same, event organizers will soon be asking themselves, “Why doesn’t our corporate community support our event?”

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