Interview Roberta Vigilance


Roberta Vigilance on Understanding and Leveraging Event Sponsorships.


How did you become interested in sponsorships and decided to focus on this kind of business?

As a former event coordinator, I needed money to fund my events. I realized my events’ audience would be valuable to some of the companies in my community. I approached those companies and told hem how my event can benefit their company based on what I knew and observed. I realized that more and more companies can benefit from my event audience in exchange for them covering the cost of my event. The rest is history; I went on to planning more events and later learned the process of securing companies was called sponsorship.

What is your broad definition of sponsorships?

Sponsorship is a form of bartering, trading value for value. It’s connecting two (or more) entities for mutual benefits.

How does branding fit into the sponsor mix?

Branding is very important. It has to be done strategically. Sponsors have to make a personal connection with the event they are sponsoring. A sponsor should look at an event as though they though about it themselves; they should feel the passion and the purpose of the event.

The difference between sponsorships and advertising?

Let’s take the Superbowl for example; we see commercials competing for our attention. Sponsorship opportunities have more of an up close and personal feel. The sponsor should know exactly who they are placing their brand in front of. Sponsorship audience doesn’t need to be “sold”. When sponsorship shows up at the right events, the audience automatically knows which company or who they will support.

How do you research in terms of whether a sponsorship can meet your goals and objectives? (Demographic metrics such as age, income, geography, etc.)

I think about which company can benefit from my event audience. I also think about which company my audience can benefit from. I like to use sponsorship as a way to resolve issues. Having Tommy Hilfiger as one of the sponsors for my Children’s Fashion and Talent Show during the time the rumor came out that he didn’t make his clothing for black people, is a perfect example.

Expect long-term and short-term benefits for sponsorships to the “Buyer”.

Sponsorship term is totally up to the (event) organizer and sponsor. I’m more of a lifetime commitment [adviser]. Connecting organizers and sponsors to benefit generations of consumers or supporters; however, that may not work for every scenario.

Calculating ROI, is that possible and in what terms, i.e., financial, leads?

There are many ways sponsors can tract or measure ROI. I am glad more and more sponsors are doing this. Instead of acting like advertisers, they are becoming more vigilant and taking their role as a sponsor seriously. An example of calculating ROI (can) be a sponsor gaining recognition as a participant to a solution of a problem. When measuring sponsorship ROI [success], you want to ensure the benefits equal or exceed the sponsorship value.

What should be in a contract?

Definitely what the sponsor is getting, what their benefits are. This is the road map and memory jogger to what to expect form the sponsorship opportunity.

A lot has been written about the emotional connections offered by sponsorships, what is your opinion on this count?

That is what makes sponsorship different from other marketing mix. A sponsor must look at an event as a solution or improvement that will meet their needs or that of communities they are attached to.

What does the sponsoring organization receive besides the money?

I was surprised with I head Donald Trump quote a section in my book that says, “Not Always about Money”. What that means to me, besides cash, make a list of what (your) event needs to meet the expected outcome. Due to prior financial commitments, a company may only be able to sponsor equipment, venue, or other product or service that your event needs, maybe event a guest speaker. The sponsoring organization can build good-will with the community the sponsorship reaches, receive donations, reach donors, and a lot more benefits.

Interview by Sandra Kay Helsel

Events, either stand-alone or as part of a rights holder, such as team community days or end of season functions, bring people together where they are highly engaged and usually with really positive attitudes.

For rights holders, there is a finite amount of time to deliver the event and, in turn, deliver for sponsors. There’s not a lot of wriggle room if something goes wrong. Still, for sponsors, events can be highly attractive because of a large gathering of highly engaged people from their target audience.

Whether you are a rights holder or a brand, all of this presents not just a big opportunity, but also a unique set of challenges in executing sponsorship.

Someone who is well placed to discuss the unique challenges, how to navigate them, and enjoy success, is Roberta Vigilance. Since 1997, Roberta, through her event planning company, Vigilance Style & Grace, has consulted and taught how to plan sponsored events and secure sponsors from local through to corporate brands and Roberta joins us on the show to discuss all things event sponsorship.