As one of the world’s most insightful accomplished sponsorship professional with proven ability to establish win-win deals and partnerships between events and sponsors, self-taught, Roberta Vigilance planned dozens of sponsored-events and secured sponsors for each event.
In 1997, on welfare, working and volunteering, raising a child after loosing the father, managing life, and during returning to college, Roberta planned her first event as a solution to help up and coming models and talents gain access into the fashion and music industry.
She established Vigilance Style & Grace, an event planning company in 1999. Roberta did not have the money that was needed to plan the events. After trial and error, Roberta learned the sponsorship language and partnered it with her experience in B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) sales to secure sponsors. By securing sponsors, Roberta saved her company hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars in event sponsorship simultaneously helped sponsors achieve their goals and objectives.
Roberta strategic problem-solving, ingenuity, and inquisitive nature have all earned her the reputation as an innovative sponsorship industry frontrunner around the globe.
Roberta believes sponsors that target communities should partner with the communities in which they sell their products and services. If brands continue to take money and resources out of communities and don’t put anything back, how will communities survive? They won’t. She doesn’t believe communities should have a feeling of entitlement from sponsors, instead they should learn how to establish win-win partnerships.
She is the first African American and African American woman author to write a non-fiction book on event sponsorship, and is also the first person to bring event sponsorship awareness to communities that lack money and resources so they too will have the funding that is needed to implement events that they are passionate about.
Roberta was born and is located in the United States of America and was raised in Guyana, South America, and has a sense of humor, enjoys watching sports with friends, and loves music!
Roberta explains some of the benefits she provided to sponsors:
Sponsor – Tommy Hilfiger
Benefit – Changed brand perspective during time of racist rumor
I initially met with Tommy Hilfger (TH), through point of contact Ko-Shawn Henry, for an endorsement deal for rap artist Rah Digga, member of famed musician Busta Rhymes group Flipmode Squad, after speaking with then management Mona Scott, during the time I was working on the Men & Women in Hip Hop Calendar. I saw TH models on billboards that had the same slenderness or shape as Rah Digga but different skin color and thought she would make a sensible addition more so because her skin color resembled the huge supporters of TH’s brand, and that it was missing from the billboard. Green in business, that deal did not follow through after my meeting with Tommy because of my lack to follow-through. Jump forward years later, there was a rumor that was rapidly floating around that TH did not make his clothing for black people, it was during the time I was learning through trial and error how to plan sponsored-events and secure sponsors. I needed sponsors for a children’s fashion and talent show I was planning for families in the community I reside. I contacted Ko-Shawn and asked him if TH would sponsor my event in exchange for the opportunity to let his huge supporters know that what is being said is a rumor and not facts. The brand agreed. If I knew then what I know now, TH would be number 1 brand today among their huge if not hugest supporters because I would have been thinking long-term.
Sponsor – King Bravel Records (Jamaica)
Benefit – Cross-over audience from one genre to another genre
King Bravel Records was a local record label that produced international reggae musicians. I asked this company to “indirectly” sponsor my entertainment seminar in exchange for crossing their brand over to hip-hop musicians. Again, green in business, I had no measuring system in place to prove the failure or success of the sponsorship. In addition, I didn’t follow-up.
Sponsor – Rite Aid
Benefit – Brand as more than only filling prescription
I needed funding to give a cash prize to the winner of the best costume during a children’s costume party, my company planned for surrounding community where I reside. As a Rite Aid shopper, I realize they are more than just a pharmaceutical company, the sold costume, birthday and other cards, food, and many household products that serve an entire family. I wanted to families in the community to notice that and showcase the brand’s involvement in the community. A Rite Aid store approved the sponsorship.
Roberta is the author of How To Secure Sponsors Successfully and step-by-step guides to planning sponsored-events and teaches an event sponsorship training course.
Check out Roberta’s interviews.
Hey, Roberta here, hope all is well!
Let me just say, I’ve indirectly and directly experienced a lot of “stuff” during my lifetime, more than the average.
Out of those experiences, I gained a lot of understanding: I understand why professionals and organizations plan events for audiences that lack necessities such as shelter, food, justice, love, and opportunities, also the reasons they want to live, work, and play in peaceful harmonious environments – because they’ve either been through something themselves or have empathy.
I like to refer to sponsorship as a form bartering, exchanging value for value.
You give your sponsor benefits and you receive money and resources.
Communities cannot thrive without sponsors, and sponsors cannot thrive without communities. I truly believe if they read How To Secure Sponsors Successfully, both would thrive from generation to generation. After you read it, let me know if you agree with me.
Here’s how I got started in event sponsorship..
I was working as an account executive selling websites, attending college for small business marketing and management, volunteering on a celebrity calendar project, and managing being a new and single mom after losing the father of my son, and simultaneously establishing Vigilance Style & Grace (VSG), an event planning company.
While working on the celebrity calendar project, I realized that the movers and shakers were the ones who worked behind the scenes with the celebrities – the ones who made a celebrity a celebrity.
I was also part of a college club when I became aware that many clubs had students who wanted to become singers and models (talents). VSG was created for talents who didn’t want to sleep their way into the industry when at that time it seemed like a prerequisite.
Equipped with a purpose, passion, and no experience, I jumped into planning events. I did not consider money was needed to fund the events. Before sponsorship came into my awareness, I asked companies in my community to invest in my company’s events in exchange for connecting them with their target market and audience – and got all yes!
Excited and confident, I approached corporate brands. Gatekeepers showed me the exit door faster than I realized I was saying something wrong. After experiencing consecutive rejections, the word sponsorship or sponsor came into my realm. I have no recollection of how it came to me. The word came, but not the process.
I changed up my vocabulary and kept the benefit which was to connect sponsors with their target audience, and that’s how I entered the world of event sponsorship.
My company planned and coordinated events, from showcases, seminars, open-mics, and contests to fashion and talent shows, for adults, teens and children; and secured sponsors for each one.
Here are a few lessons I learned while planning sponsored-events and securing sponsors:
Lesson: Plan for unforeseeable events.
After spending money promoting (Entertainment Industry Network Seminar) my first event and sending out invitations to the guest panel, the venue canceled my event.
Lesson: Overcome no’s.
In 1999, V.I.S.I.B.I.L.I.T.Y was huge and Sean “Puffy” Combs was not only one of the biggest public influencer in the music industry (hip-hop genre particularly) but the greatest street promoter – to give you a visual of what his promotional skill looked like, think of the bright lights at Time Square in New York City. It was only natural to invite Mr. Combs as a guest panel to share his wealth of knowledge; unfortunately, he was unable to attend.
Lesson: Be persistent.
My company’s event purpose was more determined than the disappointments.
Lesson: Sponsors fund events with products, services, and money.
Instead of money, Kinko’s printed the items I needed to promote my sponsored-event.
Lesson: Bounce back quickly: The show must go on.
The day following my second event, I was implementing a Children’s Fashion & Talent Show sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger Jeans which featured in The New York Daily News. One of the event sponsors pulled their in-kind sponsorship after I placed their name on hundreds of flyers.
Lesson: Do not ask companies to invest in your events if you are seeking sponsors.
Roberta Vigilance is the author of book edition, How To Secure Sponsors Successfully.