Co-sponsorships Gaining Bang For The Bucks

Some companies — searching for more ways to stretch their marketing dollars —are taking sponsorship of marketing events to a higher level.

More than simply contributing money in exchange for their name to be printed on a banner or brochure, companies with synergistic but non-competing businesses are collaborating to play an integral role in the meeting.

One such company is Accenture, the large management-consulting firm, which actively sought co-sponsoring opportunities beginning about three years ago and now participates in about 10 to 15 such events annually, according to Robbi Ott, the company's director of marketing service for global events, in Charlotte, N.C.

"As budgets got tighter, we realized that it meets our objectives to do events with alliance partners," said Ott.

Co-sponsored events have become particularly popular with management-consulting firms, according to Ott; their business is, after all, to stay abreast of best-business practices.

Ott couldn't cite the total return on investment from co-sponsorships in terms of money saved or a specific number of additional meetings the company has held. But she did say, "I can think of times when we wouldn't have done an event if we hadn't taken a co-sponsorship approach."

She added, "I'd much rather someone approach me to participate in an event than pay for a sponsorship. It's much easier to get approval for a co-sponsored event."

Accenture's participation in co-sponsored marketing events comes in various flavors.

For example, it and four other companies have joined together to host a client-appreciation reception during a users conference in Boston this May sponsored by SAP, a leading provider of computerized customer-relationship and other back-office business systems.

The five companies have invited about 1,000 people to the reception, out of about 10,000 at the conference. The reception will be at the historical Roxy nightclub and is "a typical client event — lots of good food and music," said Ott, who is managing the logistics along with Accenture's partners.

Over and above the savings derived from sharing expenses with four other companies, Ott said the co-sponsored reception likely will pay off by attracting more invited guests than if Accenture held the event on its own. Accenture's partners in the reception are Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Mercury, a technology consulting and management company.

"Co-branding the event brings a lot more visibility," she said. "This is better than doing it on our own."

Accenture also brings in partners for events that it primarily sponsors.

For example, five companies joined Accenture to sponsor a high-end meeting for about 150 people last month at Amelia Island Plantation, just north of Jacksonville, Fla. The group was made up of senior managers, all of whom are involved in projects to deploy Seybold business software at their companies.

The companies — Seybold was a co-sponsor — participated in devising the meeting content, which included speakers, client showcases and forums.

As might be expected, companies can strike a myriad of deals to co-sponsor events. They might simply split the cost evenly, or some co-sponsors might contribute more money than others. Co-sponsors also may supply goods and services in whole or in part instead of contributing funds, according to Ott.

However the deals work, Accenture now routinely pursues co-sponsorships.

"We look for every possible opportunity to partner whenever we do an event," said Ott.

Contact Marshall Krantz at [email protected]