What to do When Your Sponsors “Go Rogue”

A friend whispered to me, “do you know what some companies are doing? They’re not sponsoring or exhibiting at association conferences and expos. They’re registering as attendees, networking with clients and prospects during the day and hosting dinner meetings!” 

I responded, “this isn’t a big secret. It was the topic of discussion at a Partnership Professionals Network Idea Exchange 10 years ago.”

What’s an association to do?

While associations can’t stop companies from meeting with members and having their own events during the association’s conference, associations can incentivize companies to be more collaborative.

For example, consider offering top-tier, year-long corporate sponsors:=

  • A room for their reception in the headquarters hotel (that the association reserves as part of its contract with the hotel).
  • Coordination of the timing of the sponsor’s reception so members don’t need to choose between a conference session and a sponsor’s reception.
  • Serve as the liaison between the sponsor the hotel’s food-and-beverage staff (though the sponsor pays for F&B).
  • List the sponsor’s reception in the conference program and app.
  • Provide signage to identify the sponsor’s reception room.
  • Arrange for an association Board member or other VIP to stop by the reception.
  • Provide a small meeting room in the convention center or conference hotel for company team meetings and/or small sales meetings with members.

This offer will enhance the value of year-long corporate sponsor packages and can result in higher sponsor fees. Also, when other companies see that top-tier sponsors are getting valuable benefits, interest in the association’s sponsorship program grows.