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Flying My Sponsorship Geek Flag at the IEG World Conference

By Paula Beadle

I was pleased to participate in the IEG World Conference again this year. The conversations between the sessions were as insightful and inspiring as the conference speakers. I’ve attended several IEG conferences during my career, and it’s the familiar faces I look forward to seeing the most. Coming together with like-minded people who speak the language of sponsorship energizes me.

I remember attending my first IEG conference 25 years ago. I participated in every session I could, sat in the front row, took notes and asked questions—I remember thinking that I had become the student my parents had hoped for. I could have gone on for days. (Yes, my sponsorship geek flag was flying high.) That first conference inspired my career in sponsorship, and the subsequent IEG teachings and conferences played a major role in my success.

I was thrilled to once again present at this year’s conference. My desire to support, coach and contribute to the success of those newer to sponsorship is stronger than ever. I always welcome opportunities to share my experience, and I’m grateful for those who are interested in my story. I’m particularly thankful for those who mistakenly walked into a room where an enthusiastic speaker was unwilling to let them leave and they politely took a seat.

My IEG Presentation: Shifting Your Sponsorship Sales Approach

In retrospect (and at the encouragement of audience members), my presentation may have been better titled “Shift Your Sales Approach from Philanthropic to Sponsorship” or “Be Better, Make More” or “How We Generated $16.4 Million” or “Be a Shifter.”

You may not have seen my presentation. It took place in a small room at the end of a long hallway, at the end of the day, with a group of enthusiastic Seattleites. Next year, I’m hoping for the big stage with lights and a microphone, but until then, here are the key points.

Understanding the Differences and Similarities

Understanding what’s different and similar between philanthropy and sponsorship is critical to your success. Your revenue development approach must align with the organization and the opportunity you are presenting.

Decision makers
Decision making process
Budgets and resources

Working across departments
Support strategic initiatives
Care about what customers care about
Protecting the brand

These may seem obvious, but to my surprise, many of the brands I work with often say that confusion between philanthropy and sponsorship is one of their frustrations. People looking for a contribution call the marketing or sponsorship department, and people looking for a sponsorship call the foundation. The words philanthropy and sponsorship are not interchangeable, and by using them correctly you show your value and experience.

Why Sponsorships Are the Way to Go

What we know for sure about companies that sponsor events rather than contribute to them:

  • They are more invested.
  • They see value in the ideas.
  • They are responsive to storytelling.
  • More funds are available.
  • They want more integration.
  • They are more engaged and will do more.

Shifting the Conversation 

It can be challenging to shift the conversation from a philanthropic approach to a sponsorship approach. Here’s why:

  • Sponsorship is less understood than charitable giving.
  • The organizational culture doesn’t support sponsorship.
  • It takes more effort and time, and it’s more difficult.
  • Partners are often not ready to shift with you.

What You’ll Need to Make the Shift

There are some key things you’ll need to make the shift from a philanthropic approach to a sponsorship approach, including:

  • Philosophical agreement
  • A compelling story
  • Supportive leadership
  • New ideas
  • A sales discipline, managed as a sales effort

I’m thrilled to be part of an extraordinary team committed to fostering future sponsorship trailblazers. We are planning the inaugural Sponsorship Mastery Summit this September in Seattle. If you are looking for the same kind of insights and inspiration that I found at my first IEG conference, join us by visiting to learn more.

About the author: Paula Beadle is the president of Caravel Marketing. She is a results-driven trailblazer with a proven record of creating order out of chaos. By developing and managing innovative sponsorship initiatives, generating incremental revenue, and successfully coaching thriving teams, executives and boards, Paula has helped numerous organizations discover and achieve their goals.