What Do I Do About My Event Sponsorship During COVID-19?

Jun 23, 2020 | Agency Blog, Branding, Copywriting, Digital Media, Events, Public Relations

Utterly confused about what to do in regard to your event sponsorship right now?

Feel like you have whiplash from the confusing messaging and trends coming out daily?

With some brands assuring everyone they will continue on with their event right up until the last minute, and some promoters refusing to officially cancel events to avoid refunding fees and ticket prices, and knowing how quickly things can change in a New York minute, you’re not alone if you’re confused.

FOMO is real. And no one wants to cancel their live event too early, because “what if things change and we go back to normal?” But the reality is no one knows what tomorrow is going to bring and it’s likely best to err on the side of caution, at least through the end of the year. If the event is canceled or postponed indefinitely, what happens to the partnership agreement? How do all parties work out the best thing for everyone – the promoters, the sponsors and partners, the attendees, the support staff, the vendors?

 

As a sponsor, hopefully the event promoters have been proactive in reaching out to you and keeping you updated with the evolving plans for the event, the potential to transition to virtual, and what the projected ROI effects will be for you. If they have not, reach out to them so you can help lead the conversation – even if the event is scheduled for late this year or early next year.

What is the current Plan A, Plan B and Plan C?

1. What is the current Plan A, Plan B and Plan C?

The outlook on live, in-person events of any size continues to be cloudy in the immediate and near future, at least through the end of the year. Over the past three or four weeks, I’ve seen many events canceled or postponed for the summer.

Just this past week, I’m starting to see events nearer to the end of the year moved to 2021. A responsible promoter will have a plan and backup plans ready to go by now. If they don’t, you need to seriously consider pulling out. If they do, make sure you discuss the details.

2. If the event is still a go, what is being done in light of COVID-19?

  1. What precautions are the sponsors and properties taking? Masks, gloves, temp checks, additional sanitizing, social distancing, contact tracing, even testing? What are the potential legal ramifications if someone contracts COVID-19 at your event? How are these precautions going to be enforced?
  2. When will a final decision be made?
  3. What arrangements are being made for confirmed attendees who no longer feel safe attending?
  4. If a government law or mandate shuts you down unexpectedly, what is your plan for handling that?

If the event is still a go, what is being done in light of COVID-19?

Does it still make sense?

3. If the plan is to transition to virtual, does it still make sense for the attendees, the vendors and you, as a sponsor or partner?

There are live elements that cannot be replicated in a virtual world – do not let people convince you otherwise. How will the virtual event run, from start to finish?

4. What adjustments will be made for sponsorship contracts and fees?

It’s an issue already. IEG conducted an industry survey that showed a disconnect between brands (sponsors) and properties/event promoters on how to handle these agreements. It found that 64 percent of properties (teams, leagues, music promoters – those selling sponsorships) believed the lost exposure could be made up and only 45 percent of sponsors agreed. Eleven percent of properties planned to prorate or refund partners whereas 31 percent expected to receive them. (I believe at least another 67 percent of partners think they should receive a prorated refund but are too nice or too cynical to say so.)

You deserve to recoup some of your fees – even in this situation – and you should not be afraid to discuss this.

The lawyers can certainly work out the terms of the contracts with “force majeure,” “acts of God,” “natural disasters” and whatever else. But if you are at that point, it’s a bit disingenuous to say you’re a partner or in a partnership. That is not how you should be treating a “partner” or a sponsor, for that matter. As a promoter or property, their focus should be on the long-term satisfaction of their partners. Holding a partner to a contract to recoup one year under these circumstances is short-sighted. It does not foster a trusting relationship or suggest concern for the long-term and when things come back. Have an honest conversation about your concerns and expectations.

What adjustments will be made for sponsorship contracts and fees?

How is the promoter treating attendees?

5. How is the promoter treating attendees?

You are a sponsor because you want to be associated with a positive experience and leave people with a positive feeling about your brand. If the event promoter is taking a hard line on refusing to offer full refunds immediately, not making above-and-beyond commitments to people’s safety (mental, financial, physical, etc.), or not treating COVID-19 concerns seriously, you need to bring it up and potentially attempt to break your agreement.

Don’t be like a major promoter in the U.S. that is refusing to cancel its events and electing to postpone things indefinitely with no concrete plan for millions of attendees throughout the summer. I can speak from personal knowledge that fans are so unhappy with money being tied up and not getting answers that they’ve started a class-action lawsuit. You do not want your brand associated with that type of frustration.

What is the current Plan A, Plan B and Plan C?

1. What is the current Plan A, Plan B and Plan C?

The outlook on live, in-person events of any size continues to be cloudy in the immediate and near future, at least through the end of the year. Over the past three or four weeks, I’ve seen many events canceled or postponed for the summer.

Just this past week, I’m starting to see events nearer to the end of the year moved to 2021. A responsible promoter will have a plan and backup plans ready to go by now. If they don’t, you need to seriously consider pulling out. If they do, make sure you discuss the details.

If the event is still a go, what is being done in light of COVID-19?

2. If the event is still a go, what is being done in light of COVID-19?

  1. What precautions are the sponsors and properties taking? Masks, gloves, temp checks, additional sanitizing, social distancing, contact tracing, even testing? What are the potential legal ramifications if someone contracts COVID-19 at your event? How are these precautions going to be enforced?
  2. When will a final decision be made?
  3. What arrangements are being made for confirmed attendees who no longer feel safe attending?
  4. If a government law or mandate shuts you down unexpectedly, what is your plan for handling that?

Does it still make sense?

3. If the plan is to transition to virtual, does it still make sense for the attendees, the vendors and you, as a sponsor or partner?

There are live elements that cannot be replicated in a virtual world – do not let people convince you otherwise. How will the virtual event run, from start to finish?

 

What adjustments will be made for sponsorship contracts and fees?

4. What adjustments will be made for sponsorship contracts and fees?

It’s an issue already. IEG conducted an industry survey that showed a disconnect between brands (sponsors) and properties/event promoters on how to handle these agreements. It found that 64 percent of properties (teams, leagues, music promoters – those selling sponsorships) believed the lost exposure could be made up and only 45 percent of sponsors agreed. Eleven percent of properties planned to prorate or refund partners whereas 31 percent expected to receive them. (I believe at least another 67 percent of partners think they should receive a prorated refund but are too nice or too cynical to say so.)

You deserve to recoup some of your fees – even in this situation – and you should not be afraid to discuss this.

The lawyers can certainly work out the terms of the contracts with “force majeure,” “acts of God,” “natural disasters” and whatever else. But if you are at that point, it’s a bit disingenuous to say you’re a partner or in a partnership. That is not how you should be treating a “partner” or a sponsor, for that matter. As a promoter or property, their focus should be on the long-term satisfaction of their partners. Holding a partner to a contract to recoup one year under these circumstances is short-sighted. It does not foster a trusting relationship or suggest concern for the long-term and when things come back. Have an honest conversation about your concerns and expectations.

How is the promoter treating attendees?

5. How is the promoter treating attendees?

You are a sponsor because you want to be associated with a positive experience and leave people with a positive feeling about your brand. If the event promoter is taking a hard line on refusing to offer full refunds immediately, not making above-and-beyond commitments to people’s safety (mental, financial, physical, etc.), or not treating COVID-19 concerns seriously, you need to bring it up and potentially attempt to break your agreement.

Don’t be like a major promoter in the U.S. that is refusing to cancel its events and electing to postpone things indefinitely with no concrete plan for millions of attendees throughout the summer. I can speak from personal knowledge that fans are so unhappy with money being tied up and not getting answers that they’ve started a class-action lawsuit. You do not want your brand associated with that type of frustration.

If you are feeling nervous about having this conversation with your partner, don’t stress. Just call Vela and let us handle it for you.

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