A Winning Solution to the Pay-to-Play Sponsorship Dilemma



I want to address a quick topic today in the area of sponsorships. Over the last year or two, I’ve started to see associations accept the idea of having sponsors pay for the opportunity to deliver content – thought leadership.

What are your basic sponsorship opportunities? When it comes to association sponsorship, there are several foundational opportunities that associations can explore. First and foremost, they can partner with vendors to research critical topics, turning these vendors into research partners.

Which not only generates revenue for the association but also produces valuable content. The sponsorship then transitions from a mere “pay-to-play” scenario to a meaningful collaboration benefiting the association and its members.

However, some of the primary concerns I’ve heard are, “Well, we don’t pay to play” or “We don’t want to pay for commercialism.” Here are a few thoughts that might help you reframe this discussion and help to generate more valuable content, increased revenue for the association, enhance the value proposition for your members, and create a better event on their behalf.
First, identify a topic for your association that you know is critical to your membership. For example, as I know a lot of you are in manufacturing, transportation, food and things of this nature – a resonant topic would probably be “safety.”
After a topic is identified, perform research on “safety” as an issue with your members – their concerns, procedures that work well, and those that don’t. Seek out a vendor or supplier who would like to partner on conducting deep-dive research – for a price.
After the research is developed, content can be generated in the form of articles, presentations at annual events, panel discussions, and webinars – all of which the vendor will be an official partner because they’ve funded the research. Now, the “safety company” is well positioned to help you deliver this topic as a sponsor.
This strategy reframes the vendor as a “research partner” and allows you to garner the revenue from this relationship and your sponsorship programs. You’ve will have established the basis for addressing a key issue for your members, are delivering relevant content for them based on current research, and creating a thought leadership partner in your safety sponsor.
This process enables you to circumvent the “pay-to-play” sponsorship dilemma successfully. Utilize your vendors from the outset by collecting the information, conducting the research, and then delivering. And, they are supporting this effort financially. It’s a win-win.
Hope this approach works for you. Hey, if you like you talk more about it, I’m passionate about this issue in 2019, and I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for associations.


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