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Sports Partnerships Will Benefit from Return to In-Person Meetings


Just before Anheuser-Busch was named Sports Sponsor of the Year by Sports Business Journal last week, TicketManager hosted two online round-table discussions with the company’s director, sponsorships, Lisa Woodward.


In discussing numerous aspects of managing one of the largest partnership portfolios in the world, Lisa mentioned that A-B hosts an annual get-together for its sponsored properties—a total of 110 pro sports teams in the U.S.—in each of the leagues where it has sponsorships. (Its virtual NFL summit occurred later that same day.)


Whether it’s a corporation bringing together its sponsored properties, the more common scenario of a rights holder hosting a summit for its corporate partners, or an industry conference, in-person gatherings of people involved in sports marketing are critical to our collective success.


Although the same might be said for other fields—and admitting I may be biased having hosted the world’s first and largest sponsorship conference, along with many client sponsor summits, workshops, etc.—I believe our industry benefits more than most from opportunities to directly share best practices and exchange information.


Why?


· Compared to many other disciplines, sports business practices lack publicly available information to use as comparative data. Transparency can only be found by paying for data from those who collect information on deals, valuations, etc. or by building the type of trusted network of peers that can be forged through meeting them in person.


· Most of us didn’t go to school for/don’t have formal training in sports marketing. Conferences and in-house events serve as continuing education and help to reinforce professionalism in the field.


· Literally serving as on-the-job training, these events are particularly beneficial to the steady stream of practitioners—especially on the brand side--who move into sponsorship or other related positions with little or no direct experience.


· With the exception of the largest players, most sponsorship and partnership professionals don’t have a cohort of in-house colleagues to seek advice from, bounce ideas off, etc.


· Sponsorships are communal by nature, i.e., each sponsored property has multiple partners, creating myriad opportunities for cross-promotions, shared activations, co-op marketing, etc. However, experience shows that many of these possibilities go unexplored unless and until cosponsors are brought together and nudged to brainstorm by their property partners.


· Although the trade media that covers sports business does an excellent job of documenting deals, trends, personalities and more, media stories, case studies and other published materials only go so far. The ability to engage with and ask questions of the people behind the stories of success (and failure) can’t be matched.


· And while virtual get-togethers serve as a good substitute when meeting in person isn’t possible, the personal connections and detailed information-sharing that takes place when people are physically together can’t be replicated on a screen.


The pandemic denied us these opportunities for the past 15 months and I for one am excited to see them coming back and especially to be working on TicketManager’s return to in-person events, starting with the Partner Summit scheduled for Spring ’22 in New York City. More details will be coming soon.

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