Have you seen a post like this on social media lately?
“Hey everyone! I am so excited to announce I am accepting sponsors for my upcoming whiz-bang event. Not only do you get to have 10 minutes on my stage, but you’ll get free tickets to the event and more. But you need to hurry. Since I am limiting these sponsorships to just 5, I am sure they will be snapped up quickly.”
Well, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t seen any like this. Lately it seems everyone is posting something like this to get sponsors.
Pay to play has been around for a long time (and even considered illegal in some circles – which should tell you something about this practice already). When it comes to sponsorship, this model only benefits one person – the sponsee, and frankly I even question that!
If you have attended my free training on sponsorships, you already know the best sponsorship deals come from creating a win-win-win for everyone involved: the sponsee, the sponsor and the audience/target market. And these pay to play opportunities sound like they meet those criteria, but a closer look reveals the truth.
Let’s break this down for the three parties that are affected by this type of sponsorship:
The Sponsor, that is the person who is paying to be on stage at the event (and other wonderful bonuses!)
I know this can sound like a dream come true to many people. In fact, I know of a coach who says this is the way she became so successful: by paying a sponsorship fee to share the stage with a “big guru”.
But a closer look reveals the flaws in this ‘great opportunity’. Here are just some of the issues:
- The audience probably isn’t a great match for what you do. The audience is there for the sponsee, not you. You’re the sideshow act, so chances are you won’t make those conversions.
- Audience sizes at live events are dwindling. Ask anyone in the event planning business, it’s getting tougher and tougher to get butts in seats. (And many of the events with hundreds in them are ‘sold out’ because of all the free seats given away. But that’s a Cherry Bomb for another day!) So what may seem like a great deal to reach so many people, may not be what was promised.
- You probably won’t get a prime time spot to speak. Let’s face it: most people who do live events in the coaching world do it to convert people to big ticket programs. In order to convince people to buy, you need the prime speaking spots. As a sponsor, you will be sandwiched in before a break or the big ‘aha’ moment when no one will care what you have to say.
- Ten minutes is nothing. If you can convince anyone to buy from you in ten minutes, why the hell would you pay to sponsor an event to speak? You wouldn’t need to! Getting to the sale is about building a relationship. Most people cannot do that with authenticity in ten minutes. I know that some of the event hosts offer to help you and support you on stage, but remember they have a hidden agenda – and you are not a priority.
The Audience, the people who have had some expenses to attend event (even if their ticket was comped)
These are the people who are affected the most by the pay to play sponsorship method. Here’s what they face:
- Commercials with no way to opt-out. The reason they came was to watch the show, not a ten minute pitch. If they could fast forward through the sponsored portion, they would!
- Really bad speakers that put a downer on the event. The issue with pay-to-play sponsored speakers is there really is no vetting for quality. (Although many say there is – but this is more about getting the payments in by the event host.) What it means is that the audience gets speakers who may not be good presenters or whose pitch does not relate to them at all!
- Other things to do. Usually these speakers are positioned just before or after a break, which means even if the speaker is wonderful and the offer is great, it will be missed because the audience is distracted!
- Pitchfest central. There’s nothing worse than a pitchfest speaking event. I don’t think I need to say more about that!
Now you can already see why this practice of sponsored speaking is a bad move, but the event host makes out like a bandit, right?
The Event Host, the person being sponsored
- You look like you don’t care about your audience. When you use the pay-to-play sponsor model, your audience inevitably suffers, and that’s disrespectful to the people who have come to see you. And they may not come back!
- You look like you don’t care about your sponsors’ needs. Your job as someone who receives sponsorship money is to make this work for the sponsor. By offering this one-size-fits-all approach, you seem out for one thing: the money. If you do sponsorship correctly, you can have wonderful long-term relationships (several years) with the same sponsors.
- Your call for sponsors is so tacky, you give the impression your whole event will share the same tackiness. Think before you make a call out to sponsors like this. You should be personally handpicking sponsors based on whether they are a good match for your audience. In addition, you are limiting your ideas of sponsorship. There are big companies willing to invest in you, but they aren’t going to reach out to you, you need to do the work!
The whole approach to this mode of getting sponsors is a lose-lose-lose proposition.
Sponsorship done right is a win-win-win. As an event host, imagine the difference:
- Getting your event completely underwritten through sponsors (like I did!) – not just with ‘coaches’ but with major companies who have more money to spend
- Having an audience that appreciates the sponsors you present to them (in a more natural way than the 10-minute speech model) – and think you are the resource connector instead of the person looking to make an extra buck
- Securing happy sponsors who want to work with you not just for this one event, but for everything you do for years to come (it happens when you do it right!)
All of this requires not only respect for all parties involved, but taking the time to develop real, thoughtful relationships.
When you do the pay-to-play sponsorship model, you are trying for a cash grab. Although that may be great for the short term, you might want a better approach.
Because when you do the work to build relationships, everyone succeeds. And isn’t that why you really wanted you get your message on a bigger stage to begin with?
And if you missed my free training on creating that win-win-win in sponsorship, I am offering it a few more times. Register for it here.