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Using Your Voice to Inspire the Community & Support Your Sponsors

By Austin Hahn

We’ve seen lots of brands and event properties step up in the midst of this crisis. Breweries and distilleries across the country are making hand sanitizer to help with shortages, Uber is urging their riders to stay home in order to prioritizing offering their services to essential workers, and colleges like the Ohio State have provided a list to fans of all their sponsors who are still open and even identified which ones offer delivery services. Everyone is playing a significant role in supporting the defeat of COVID-19 and are experiencing tremendous impacts, but perhaps the best thing brands and event properties can do right now more than anything, is preach a unified message to ‘Stay Home.’

With a significant percent of the population under a shelter in place order, millions are still avoiding the call of health experts and community leaders to stay at home, and in doing so, are disrupting current efforts to curtail the virus. While we’re no experts on the science of this disease, it’s abundantly clear the medical experts believe the best way to stop this is to stay home and avoid spreading it and/or catching it.

Michael Lewis, a renowned author who’s written a number of best sellers including Money Ball, Blindside, and the Big Short gives us the clearest reason why so many Americans are ignoring these warnings to stay at home in his newest book, The Fifth Risk. Lewis interviewed National Weather Service experts who study how people respond to tornado warnings and found it’s not that people don’t hear warnings to take shelter, it’s that they simply don’t think it will happen to them. It’s the same mindset many American’s have right now about COVID-19. We ignore the warning from experts and think we’re invincible to it.

Lewis also notes that experts who study Tornado response found one way to get people to take tornado warnings seriously was if they heard the warning from someone they trust, particularly someone they trust within their community. Now more than ever, brands and event properties need to take a community leadership position in echoing medical experts’ advice to stay home. Brands and event properties command massive digital audiences and have the opportunity to unite together around a unified message and be the trusted voice our communities need right now.

Recently in Seattle, the biggest brands and event properties used their collective voices to send a unified message to the community. We applaud the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners, Sounders FC, The Seattle Storm, Seafair, The Bite of Seattle, and the WA State Fair for banding together to ask our communities to help flatten the curve and giving us hope for a brighter future when we will all celebrate together at our favorite events.

We fully understand as event professionals that staying home is not what our profession is about. It’s a message that makes any event PR department cringe, but if we use our voices to get others to stay home right now, our industry will have a shorter road to recovery and a brighter future.

Ticket refunds, sponsors opt-outs, keeping valuable staff employed, event rescheduling are all going to be very difficult issues we have to face in the coming weeks. I have no doubt we will face these future issues with resilience and grit, but the first concern of everyone one right now should be making sure we are healthy. Brands and event properties have a responsibility to our communities that extends beyond their bottom line. We can play a significant role as trusted organizations in telling people to stay home. If we do, we may be able to get others who aren’t, to take these calls seriously, and in doing so may save lives and our industry. Once we do that and get through this, we can then start to do what we do best, bringing people together again.

About the Author: Austin Hahn is the Director of Partnerships at Caravel Marketing. Austin is a sponsorship marketing outsider with over seven years of experience in the sports and entertainment industry. Austin solves business problems by bringing brands and properties together around sustainable sponsorship solutions. He isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo of conservative sponsorship thinking.