How Sponsored Events Fulfill Warhol’s Prediction of Disruption

By Thought Leaders Archives

You didn’t have to rub shoulders at Studio 54 to know the power of gatherings or events. That's still true today in virtually every business sector.  For all the connectedness and easy access to information that we have in business, more events than ever have sprung up; not so much because event content is proprietary or original, but because of the fact that we are inherently social beings.

Executives at brands and agencies are so busy today that the days of taking meetings and con calls all day from the publisher and vendor communities has been reduced due to more pressing issues.  Companies still have “Media Days” wherein they give various potential vendors the opportunity to pitch their stories face-to-face -- after an RFP that they receive, which details the desired specs of a potential investment. However, the days of working with a small handful of trusted “partners” have been disrupted by the crushing pace of technology, resulting from startups which are offering solutions that challenge if not antiquate what used to be the “usual suspects,” which got 80% of everything.

Legendary artist Andy Warhol knew the power of branding.  Who else was able to take icons, ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Marilyn Monroe, and turn them into art?  But everything old is not new again, especially as it relates to business or industry events, which we believe are the “New 15 Minutes,” to borrow from Warhol’s famous declaration more than 40 years ago that “in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Andy’s prediction epitomized disruption at its core, since it separated itself from the other 23 hours and 45 minutes on a given day.  Media companies have leveraged this for fun and profit for the last several years, as detailed in this 2013 New York Times article, Media Outlets Embrace Conferences as Profits Rise.  Since this was published, events have exploded in virtually all business and publishing segments, most notably ours; the advertising sector.

So it begs the question, “How does a marketer of any type evaluate the increasing number of sponsorable events being pitched?”  That’s not as easy as it might seem.  The reason is that an event sponsorship of consequence comes with myriad elements that are essentially mash-ups of other things that were once stand-alone media investments.  And some event’s 15 minutes have a longer tail than others.

Take for example, the Taste of Home Cooking School Road Show (TOH).  Launched over 40 years ago by Trusted Media Brands, Inc. (TMBI; formerly known as the Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.), today each TOH sponsor receives a multitude of elements, including in-event content, in-event videos, demonstrations and signage.  The sponsor is essentially the “Main Attraction.”

However, their sponsorship packages go much further.  They include the opportunity to set up networking booths to interact with attendees at almost all of TOH’s 200 events each year, plus use of the TOH email database of its attendees for post-event email CRM, content and advertising in its sister magazine’s digital, mobile and social outlets – as well as research for sponsors to find out what attendees thought and opportunities for sponsors to distribute coupons, samples or other tchotchkes that go into "goody bags."  It’s essentially a 360-degree program which takes experiential media to a new level.

As a media evaluation, the wholesale/retail relationship to events can be amazing.  If one breaks down the individual value of each of these elements, the collective value can reach to over 40% more than what the individual cost would be.

That’s not to say that events are easy.  They are not. They require a support team on each side of the deal. The event producer and the sponsor must have event teams who know how to leverage each element properly.  We believe one needs a “generalist-like” approach to sizing up the value of events.  With so many to choose from, the key to determining which event to sponsor is by looking at the event producer.

Some producers offer the world and frankly hope that the sponsor doesn’t have the support on their side to take advantage of all the deal elements.  Having attended, spoken at, sponsored and/or produced literally hundreds of them by now, I know that an event offers participants – including attendees, speakers and sponsors -- the opportunity to shine, but only if the sponsor is sophisticated enough to know the value of each element that the deal comes with and has the team to make sure they get what they are paying for.

There are other things like exclusivity, sampling, signage location, quality of database, where you are on the agenda, the profile of the attendees and what other sponsors will also be on the stage with your brand or spokesperson or CEO which will determine if an event is truly worthy of the 15 minutes that Warhol said is coming to you.

Some people absorb information better from hearing it; others from viewing it or reading it.  There are some of us who are better show-people than others.  Look at your events team and see if you have the right stuff.  After all, they didn’t let everybody into Studio 54, did they?

Full disclosure: Taste of Home Cooking School is a client of Madison Avenue Consulting.

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