Understanding that in 2021, oil reached its highest levels in seven years. Unemployment is at the same level as it was pre-pandemic. We saw record levels for the TSE, although late year dipping and sell-off was expected as a correction, but we are still ahead.
All this leads to predictions of a future strong economy, although we will continue to have an inflationary effect on our spending dollar and continued COVID effects. This means that brands will have to continue to build deeper relationships with consumers, and brand loyalty will be essential to that growth. That is where sponsorship marketing is the master!
The 2021 Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study showed good expectations going forward. Less than 18 per cent of industry respondents felt the pandemic was still a major concern. Over 1/3 of industry respondents feel that sponsorship dollars will rise, brands will look to get closer to their audiences in a more meaningful way, and experiential marketing like sponsorship is that channel for them!
As we are now into 2022 let’s see what we can expect in the world of corporate sponsorship from the corporate meeting planner’s perspective as well as the sector as whole. Here are my top three predictions.
1. By fall 2022, we will be back on track to operating sponsorship programs at pre-COVID levels. That means festivals will resume at full capacity, face-to-face (versus virtual) galas will be back in vogue, as well other events and experiences such as conferences, meetings and fundraising events that are associated with sponsorship. Professional sport will return earlier (as it already has in Q3 and Q4 2021), and our amateur and collegiate sport worlds will return to pre-COVID numbers of participants and events by fall 2022. There will still be some trepidation in summer 2022 on the part of both event planners and the public especially with the dawning of new variants. Until we pass summer 2022, there will be some holdback. That is why the real measuring stick will be September to December 2022.
2. The “return to normal” by fall 2022 will not be a “return to pre-COVD normal,” but will be the “new normal.” Our new world, for the successful organization / meeting / conference / event—and we are already seeing this with pro sports and others—will have integrated considerably more technology. It will integrate the virtual world and the digital world into everyday programming, and sponsorship will need to retain these features. Where we could produce a play and broadcast it to people outside our market who pay to attend and enjoy will be an important element for sponsors versus just reaching the 500 “bums in seats” each night of the “personal experience” production. (This goes for meetings, galas, sporting events, conferences, etc.) What we did during COVID that worked for sponsors will need to remain. Those that retain these learnings and engage them going forward will reap the rewards of additional revenue, while others that plan to return to “the pre-COVID world of assets and engagement” will be bewildered why there are no dollars for them.
3. By the end of 2022, we will see sponsorship agreements include many more measurable ROI elements. Sponsors will demand metrics and accountability. With the use of new technology and the March 2020 to fall 2022 experiences, there is enough technology to deliver substantially better ROI. With a shift to digital experiences integrated with live on-site, we know digital metric delivery is tantamount. Sponsors will demand more overall for their dollars, but they will be willing to spend more with those that can deliver results. There will be an accelerated shift to ROI for sponsorship investments even greater than after the 2008-10 recession. There will be a move from “philanthropy” style sponsorship to true sponsorship marketing. Brands have given unconditionally during two years of COVID and now they will need to get ROI for those gifts. Properties will need to be prepared to deliver results and to be good negotiators.
Brent Barootes is president and CEO of Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists, a national coast to coast consultancy assisting sponsorship buyers and sellers to maximize their individual profitable ROI.