Friday, October 1, 2021
By Jeffrey Schottland and Bruce Rosenthal
How to Position Association Sponsorships as a Competitive Necessity
Competition for association corporate sponsorships is intense. Companies have dozens of choices of how to spend their marketing dollars, and sponsorships are just one of those options. Keep reading to learn how associations can position their sponsorship programs to stay competitive!

Competition for association corporate sponsorships is intense. Companies have dozens of choices of how to spend their marketing dollars, and sponsorships are just one of those options.

Furthermore, even when association sponsorships are part of a company’s marketing strategy, there are often many dozens – or hundreds – of international, national, and state/regional associations that represent the company’s target audiences.

How can associations position their sponsorship programs to be a competitive necessity for companies?

Interviews with companies that sponsor trade and professional associations consistently reveal that these companies want three things from the relationship:

  1. To be featured as a thought leader
  2. Business development opportunities
  3. Brand differentiation

One way an association can position itself to meet the needs of prospective corporate sponsors is to:

  1. Create opportunities for companies to provide educational content to members (AKA featuring as a thought leader)
  2. Provide companies with data and contacts (or “leads”) based on content clicks and downloads (AKA business development opportunities)
  3. Make these content dissemination opportunities available to only a select group of companies (AKA brand differentiation for sponsors)

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), faced with finding ways to meet the needs of its members and business members during the pandemic, implemented a creative strategy: content syndication.

The association launched the “APTA Knowledge Hub,” a digital content platform that allows business members to syndicate thought leadership content and promote it to APTA members. Companies that use the platform to promote their content receive business leads from those users who engage with and download their content.

Jack Gonzalez, senior director of marketing and sales at APTA, pointed out that members can benefit from APTA’s “always on” Knowledge Hub platform. Members have access to timely and relevant educational content and business members can promote their value proposition and receive as leads members who engage with their content.

APTA’s Knowledge Hub is successful in helping business firms feature themselves as thought leaders and obtain business development opportunities with leads.

To achieve the third component of the sponsorship value proposition – brand differentiation – associations could create a knowledge hub like APTA’s and provide unique positioning and possibly exclusivity for the association’s corporate sponsors.

As we noted at the beginning of this article, there is a lot of competition for sponsorships. There is another aspect of competition: Sponsors and prospective sponsors are in some cases becoming direct competitors to associations by creating their own educational content, reaching out to association members via social media, and presenting content 24/7 on digital platforms.

Associations can position themselves as a competitive necessity for companies by featuring companies as thought leaders; creating business development lead generation; and providing brand differentiation for sponsors.

About the Authors

Jeff Schottland is the CEO of Lead Marvels. Lead Marvels partners with associations to provide incremental, non-dues revenue streams through its digital content hub solutions. For more information, Jeff can be reached at jschottland@leadmarvels.com or via LinkedIn.

Bruce Rosenthal is a corporate partnerships strategic advisor, consultant, and educator for trade and professional associations. He focuses on increasing revenue, adding member value, and fostering organizational sustainability. For more information, Bruce can be reached at bruce@brucerosenthal.com or via LinkedIn.