Revenue Rehab: It's like therapy, but for marketers
Nov. 9, 2022

Collaborative Not Cookie Cutter: A New Approach to Event Sponsorship

This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by Phil Stanley, Senior Strategist at InVision Communications. Phil lives in the Boston area with his wife and has a son, 28 years old, and a daughter who is 25 years old.  Phil is focused on the B2B...

This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by Phil Stanley, Senior Strategist at InVision Communications.

Phil lives in the Boston area with his wife and has a son, 28 years old, and a daughter who is 25 years old.  Phil is focused on the B2B space and is adept at listening and consulting with his clients to understand their aspirations, goals, and objectives to create unique experiences. Phil is responsible for translating market conditions into insights, recommendations, and positive outcomes for clients.  He has worked with brands such as Splunk, ServiceNow, Intel, Nvidia, Microsoft and IBM.

In this week’s episode, Brandi, and Phil tackle event sponsorship. In their discussion, Phil expounds upon the value of event sponsorship, the need to understand objectives and the ROI of sponsoring events with a focus on being Collaborative Not Cookie Cutter, A New Approach to Event Sponsorship.

Bullet Points of Key Topics + Chapter Markers:

  • Topic #1 Collaborative Not Cookie Cutter [10:14] Phil expounds upon the ‘before and after’ COVID relationship between sponsors and events. He and Brandi discuss his white paper: A Strategic Approach to Sponsorship; a new approach and shift in mindset to the traditional event sponsorship model.   
  • Topic #2 Understanding the ROI of Event Sponsorship [21:42] Phil stresses that there needs to be a shift in roles and duties of event teams in order to fully realize this new approach. He goes on to explain that there needs to be more than just event managers who are solely focused on operations; having team member who truly understands sponsorship and can work closely with sponsors directly is the way forward and away from cookie-cutter tiers and generic experiences.
  • Topic #3 Virtual Events and Collaborative Sponsorship [20:10] Phil shares how virtual event sponsorship is where the cracks really start to show in the traditional tier style sponsorship framework. “The big miss and the big opportunity I always felt was around speaking opportunities and thought leadership” says Phil, when you have a captive audience, this is a unique and very valuable time for sponsors and should be prized as such.

So, What's the One Thing You Can Do Today?

For event organizers, Phil says, reach out to your sponsors and ask questions! Ask them questions like: “How can we help you drive value? What is it that you need?”.  For sponsors, Phil stresses they should look at their entire portfolio of events they are sponsoring so they can truly understand what those opportunities offer and what their marketing needs are.

Buzzword Banishment:

Phil’s Buzzword to Banish is the expression ‘at the end of the day’.  It’s way too overused.


Get in touch with Phil Stanley on:

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[00:05] Intro: 

Welcome to Revenue Rehab, your one stop destination for collective solutions to the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders today. Now head on over to the couch, make yourself comfortable and get ready to change the way you approach revenue. Leading your recovery is modern marketer, author, speaker and Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita, Brandi Starr.

[0:34] Brandi Starr:   

Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Revenue Rehab. I am your host Brandi Starr and we have another amazing episode for you today, I am joined by Phil Stanley. Phil is a Senior Strategist focused on the b2b space. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and also has a son and daughter. Phil is adept at listening and consulting with his clients to understand their aspirations, goals and objectives to create unique experiences. Phil is responsible for translating market conditions into insights, recommendations and positive outcomes for clients. He has worked with brands such as Splunk, ServiceNow, Intel, Nvidia, Microsoft and IBM. Welcome to Revenue Rehab Phil, your session begins now.

[1:28] Phil Stanley:   

Good morning, Brandy. Thanks for having me. This is a pleasure to have a moment to speak with you.

[1:33] Brandi Starr:   

Awesome! I am excited to have you here. And before we jump into our topic for today, I like to break the ice with a little woosah moments that I call buzzword banishment. So tell me what industry buzzword would you like to banish forever?

[1:54] Phil Stanley:    

There are probably several, but the one that probably drives me, keeps me up at night is when people talk about well, you know, at the end of the day we're going to do A, B and C. To me that just drives me crazy.

[2:11] Brandi Starr:   

Okay, so I'm going to have to work on that one. Because I do know that at the end of the day is one of my overuse catchphrases. So at least for this discussion, I will put it in the box and we will not do anything at the end of the day. I'm going to have to come up with another way to conclude my statements. But no, that is a good one. Because it's like, when does the day actually end? It's not like we're actually doing anything at the end of the day, other than maybe happy hour. 

[02:44] Phil Stanley:

That's right. 

[02:47] Brandi Starr:

Well awesome. Now that we have gotten that off our chest, tell me what brings you to revenue rehab today?

[2:54] Phil Stanley:   

My passion really is event sponsorship. I have spent my formative years in event marketing around event sponsorship. And I don't feel as though it has evolved. And I think as a result of the pandemic and the conditions of the pandemic, the isolation amongst our attendees, our sponsors, many of the sponsors did not participate in virtual events. So there's this fragmentation of our client’s ecosystem. And as we get back to being in person, I think there's a real opportunity to create a very different sponsorship model.

[3:45] Brandi Starr:   

Awesome! This is a topic that is definitely a passion for me, and for those who haven't listened to it, Episode 29, I talked to Elizabeth Irvine, and we also talked about event sponsorship, whether it's a value or a waste. Early in my career, I was definitely a team event. And it was something I was known for did, I some really fun activations that were really successful in engaging our audience and driving leads. But over the years, my opinion has shifted a bit to where unless you've got like a huge budget to really make a big brand splash, then it's kind of like, I'll pass like. I can be just as successful showing up at the events as an attendee, and just mixing and mingling and talking to people as opposed to putting a large budget there. Before we jump into that, though, I always like to set intentions, it gives us focus; it gives us purpose and most important, it gives our audience and understanding of what they should expect from our discussion today. So I'd like to have you set an intention. Tell me, what would you like to be different after our discussion today? What would you like for people to take away?

[5:14] Phil Stanley:  

They're really a couple of things and I think what you just spoke about in terms of the value of sponsorships, I think that brands need to really determine what the value is. And I think that they've struggled in really understanding that. I recently saw some research that talked about 44% of marketing executives feel as though they don't understand the ROI of sponsorships. And I think that in and of itself, it really encapsulates the challenge. And in order to determine value, our brands need to outline what are their goals and objectives? What are the business outcomes that they are trying to achieve as a result of sponsorship? And I think that's where a lot of them don't derive value, because they're not very clear about what their objectives are. And then secondly, they don't really enlist the help of the event organizer in reaching that ROI. The event organizers typically have lots of data that they can access that will help the sponsorship. So I feel as though if there's one thing that I could really counsel people on, it is understanding your objectives, and then more clearly and more definitively working with the event organizer to achieve an ROI.

[6:56] Brandi Starr:   

And so I want to dig into that last part a little bit, because in my experience, and I will say it has probably been about 4-ish years since I've really done some event sponsorships, so things may have changed. But in general, I have not found event organizers particularly helpful, unless you are one of the top sponsors. Generally, it is a here's our prospectus, these are your options, it's kind of like a McDonald's drive thru menu. I'll take a number six, you know, and upsize it. That's kind of what it's been. And so even where I have had really clear objectives, and understand who I'm trying to go after, and I'm trying to do my best to make sure that the people that I'm sending are actually going to be able to get something out of the event, I haven't found organizers to be a really good resource, unless I'm one of those top sponsors and spending a ton of money.

[8:03] Phil Stanley:    

Yes. And I think that what you just said is correct. So this problem is not only with the sponsoring company but it also is with the event organizer, and we are working in tandem with both sides of this fence. As far as the event organizer is concerned, to your point, we're really focused on removing that cookie cutter. And so all of our brands, all of our clients are at the events this year, coming out of the shutdown, attendance is down. And in some cases, that's by design. They're anticipating smaller numbers. Perhaps as we're moving into 2023, we'll start to get back to those pre-pandemic levels in terms of attendance. Until then, there is a revenue gap for event organizers. And so we're working very closely with them to say, hey listen, you've got to do a better job at driving revenue. And in order to do that, you have to drive more value. Not only with your top sponsors, but down through perhaps your bronze level sponsors or even just your exhibitors. Because it all goes hand in hand. And in order to drive revenue and value, you've got to offer more, you have to be more collaborative, and it does come down to sitting with the exhibitor up to the top sponsor, and really asking them what is it that you need? What are you trying to achieve? And really, how is it that I can help you?

[9:43] Brandi Starr:   

Okay, yeah, and I love that idea of not cookie cutter. You and I got introduced because you wrote a great white paper which we will link to in the show notes around collaborative, not cookie cutter and really a new approach to the sponsorship. model so that there is mutual value. So share with our listeners a little bit around what you wrote, why you wrote it, some of the key takeaways for those who haven't already read it.

[10:13] Phil Stanley:

Sure, happy to do so. So the approach around the white paper, which was entitled A Strategic Approach to Sponsorship. Part of what we do at Envision is we are very adept at influencing strategy throughout our client relationships. And so we have partnered with another company called Event Marketing Partners and they really are experts at selling sponsorship, and managing those sponsor relationships. So as we were talking with our partners, we really realized that we had an opportunity to reset the sponsorship model. And so we looked at where attendees are coming out of the pandemic. They really did a terrific job in adapting to just being virtual and being online. And even before the pandemic, a lot of b2b buyers were really doing their own homework before they showed up at an event. So because of that, then that requires a different approach when you're on site. Because the event attendee already recognizes that I've done a lot of research, I'm at your event because I'm really looking to make a purchase decision. And so the approach by the sponsor needs to be one of more thought leadership. And so convincing the buyer why they need to make the purchase and why Company A as a sponsor is the best choice. And so when you start to have that mindset, the sponsor then goes from doing an infomercial at the event, as opposed to talking about thought leadership and value. And that's really what the buyers need to hear, especially coming out of the pandemic. Why should I spend my money with you? And so that's where we started thinking about how do we change this model? How do we put the sponsors in a better position to exhibit thought leadership? Put them in a better position to understand what's the mindset of the attendee? Because all attendees are not the same. And so in order to start doing that, you've got to think very differently about why you're at the event? What is it you're going to communicate? What is the event organizer, what are they communicating as the host of the event, because they have the real affinity with the attendee. And so getting closer, and tightening up the ecosystem as an event organizer, that's really what this is about. It's bringing back the attendees and the sponsors back into the fold in a mutually in a mutually beneficial relationship.

[13:23] Brandi Starr:  

Really interesting, I think something that I take away from that, as someone who is a potential sponsor, is there is a little bit of a different mindset shift in what you're saying. Because being that infomercial is historically what you're thinking about, like you're in that crowded trade show hall, you're trying to do your song and dance to just get people to look your way and want to stop and cross your fingers that there's something meaningful there and I'm obviously oversimplifying it; but really thinking about the buyer as someone or the attendee, as someone who already knows whether they need to talk to you or not. And so deepening that conversation, to not focus on how many people can we get to stop, but how do we get the right people to stop. And I think that's something that gets more easily absorbed by marketing. But the people who are boots to the ground at the event are usually our sales counterparts, who historically have been taught sales is a numbers gameit's about the number of people that you can attract. And so it makes me think about, if we've got organizers and the marketers who are making the decision to sponsor shifting the mindset, we got to also be able to pull our sales counterparts along otherwise we're going to all be in one place and they're still going to be trying to do the tap dance with the shaker board like the tax people.

[15:04] Phil Stanley:    

You raise a really great point. The other part of this, I mean, it's getting very complicated in the event world, because you've just talked about sales versus marketing. And the sponsor has an event team, just like the event organizer has an event team. The event teams are the stickiness between marketing and sales. And so we're talking to many of our clients about repositioning the roles and responsibilities within their event teams. So you used to have your event team with their event managers, and they're in there really logistically focused. Well, as we move out of the pandemic, that dynamic has to change, where the event manager has to have more skill sets that can talk to the marketing people, talk to the sales people, and say, okay, we've got an event next month and we have the booth, we're going to grab some leads, but you Mr. or Miss salesperson, you're going to be at this event and we need you to communicate at a higher level. More thought leadership, that can drive the right people at the right time to your booth. Now in talking to the marketing people, we need some tools, the salesperson needs some tools, that's going to attract the right people at the right time. So that can be new event technologies, right that are going to allow people to come into the booth, and maybe create their own journey, have an opportunity. Whether it's touchscreen that allows them to look more in depth at the product or service that they would like to purchase, and then have a conversation with that salesperson. There are ways in which they can draw the right people. And I've been to several events this fall, because we've spent a lot of time talking about what are best practices as we return to live. One of them is digital technology, there are just so many of them out there, that can be brought to bear inside of the booth. And to date we're really not seeing a lot of that. So brands are really going to have to -- it was very difficult this year. Because we went from another wave of COVID this winter, January and February. So people weren't really certain that we were going to be back to fully in-person. So a lot of what took place this year, is they decided we're going to go back to 2019. And so they didn't necessarily change their approach going into this spring, into this fall as they went back to live. We're seeing a lot of that. And so the hope is going into 2023, we can start to say to our clients, hey, we were at your event, we audited your event. And the engagement could have been stronger if you used AR technology, things that are that are cool that people want to take a look at. And we didn't see a lot of it on the show floor, that could be a differentiator for you that draws people in. And once they're drawn in, then your salespeople can do their jobs. And so it goes hand in hand, it just can't be I've got a booth, I've got a lot of shiny things standing here, great imagery. I'm in the right place at the right corner where traffic is coming. It's more than that. And hopefully as we move into next year, we can really push our clients to be a little more engaging with event technology. 

[19:33] Brandi Starr:   

Love that. You I want to jump back to a point that you made earlier and shift gears a little bit because we've been talking a lot about the sponsor and what the sponsor needs to do. Let's talk about the event organizer a little bit and not having their approach be cookie cutter. I know as a marketer, my sort of Dreamworld for being able to sponsor an event is really having everything be a la carte. Let me tell you what I care about, and you roll that together and give me a price for that. I've never seen that anywhere. Generally you can get these packages, and after you pick a package, here's some other add-ons that you may be able to take advantage of. And I think what it does is it forces people into things that are not necessarily their sweet spot. For example, for our company, having the booth itself less effective. I am a speaker, I've been speaking for years, so when we can get a speaking slot, I am both adding value to the events, because I'm always educating them not like selling from the stage. And that is where people, even if we don't have a booth, people come find me and want to hear more about that. Whereas in some cases, there are companies where there's a speaking slot that's a part of their package, so they force someone into that role, who really has nothing to say, they're not a great presenter. So it just sounds like they got a 45-minute sales pitch, which also diminishes the reputation of the event because people feel like I went to all these sessions and just got sold to. So why is it that things are bundled? Is it just because it's easy? How do we get there to this everything is like just pick off these combo menus as opposed to everything being a la carte?

[21:42] Phil Stanley:    

To me it really does go back to that survey that I was talking about earlier on, which is that most executives don't understand the ROI from sponsorship. And I think that's where the event organizer really has to has to step it up and talk to them about ROI. Again, they've got lots and lots of data. And it really does drill down to understanding and communicating the needs of the personas. Those event attendee personas, what do they need from the executive down to the implementer, the technology guy, the person who's going to actually use the technology to drive the sponsors' business. They all have different needs. And I don't think that event organizers have done a good job of really looking at the different levels of sponsorship, and how they can talk, or market to each persona. And for some of the personas, it is a speaking opportunity that you spoke about. And so it really does come down to the event organizer saying, I've got this speaking opportunity. Here's the type of person in your company that I suggest that utilize this opportunity. And why? Because you're going to get in front of these decision makers on your show floor booth. Here's what I suggest in terms of giving the technologist how the product or service is going to benefit, he/she in their daily job. We have these different classes, there are pre-event trainings that sponsors can also be part of. And that's where you get, again, a different person who has a different role and responsibility, who just wants to be in front of the technology and wants to play with it. So that's where you get into the different tiers in different opportunities. And again, we're event organizers. They have to refit their roles and responsibilities amongst their teams, where they need a sponsorship person who really does understand sponsorship, and that the value is not in having tiers and cookie cutters, but rather, the value is in going to the sponsor and customizing the experience to the best of their ability. Now that's not always going to work. If you're looking for 50 sponsors or 75 sponsors, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be able to customize every opportunity. But I think at each level, there has to be some room for customization depending upon the tier and the need of that of that sponsor. And it takes work, it takes collaboration. This by no means, as we set out to develop this white paper, we didn't think that it was going to be the be all and end all in terms of sponsorship, but rather, it's more about the mindset and being around collaboration, instead of just saying, well here, here are the four or five tiers that we offer, take it or leave it. I think that as a result of the pandemic, those days are over.

[25:36] Brandi Starr:     

I definitely hope so. And I know a lot of our listeners are marketers that are leading companies where they have their own customer conferences, or partner conferences. And so what I'm hearing is for marketers that are also hosting events, you've got to invest in having that person that can actually own sponsorship, and really do the research, have the conversations with potential sponsors to understand where you need to package things versus where you need to offer some flexibility?

[26:16] Phil Stanley:    

Yeah, that's correct. You have to provide more opportunities around that flexibility, for sure. 

[26:21] Brandi Starr:   

Yeah. I mean just based on my personal experience, and as a consultant, I work with a lot of different companies. So in talking to them about their strategy, you can actually get people to spend more money that way. I've looked at things where it's like, oh, for 10k, I can get this. And I look at what you get for 20k and I'm like, those things don't really appeal to me, so I'm going to stick with the 10k even if I had 20k in my budget. So if there was that flexibility, let me get this, but these other two things, and I'll give you 20k, because a 10 by 10 versus a 10 by 20. booth for me as a consultant done, it's not going to matter much. That extra 10 feet is just more wasted space that I got to find stuff to put in. But if you add a Q&A session or some of these other things, I'm like, oh yeah, take my money. So I definitely like that. I do think you hit on a gap in that there is not always that role for someone to actually own sponsorship. I've worked for multiple companies that hosted huge customer conferences, and it usually starts with pull out our thing from last year. Do we want to change anything, publish it for this year. There's not someone that really owns it, and has that expertise.

[27:49] Phil Stanley:   

Yes, that's correct. And as I said before, the pandemic really has highlighted the, the need for certain roles and responsibilities within the event team. It's no longer just about event execution. It really does come down to more of an understanding of marketing, more of an understanding of sales. And if you have those understandings, then you're able to bring those two organizations together. Because historically that's been a challenge inside of many brands; marketing doesn't talk to sales and vice versa. And so in order to make events more effective, you've got to bring those two entities into event planning.

[28:40] Brandi Starr:   

Awesome! And my last question, just because we haven't really touched on this much is for those that are still hosting virtual events, because just because we're back in person, virtual is not going anywhere. It was a thing before the pandemic, and I believe it will continue to be a thing. But virtual event sponsorship is, in my opinion, a lot tougher, because you don't have the natural foot traffic of people flowing through the exhibit hall to get to breakfast in a virtual event. So if someone is hosting a virtual event, so thinking about the organizers, how do they make sponsorship appealing and effective for those sponsors?

[29:25] Phil Stanley:    

I would say this is a real pet peeve of mine. Because I was fortunate enough as the pandemic kicked off back in 2020, I worked for a company that did a really great job of converting clients from in-person to virtual. And the biggest challenge in doing that was trying to figure out sponsorship. And the fallacy was thinking that we could go back to the tiers, in the virtual world we could create tiers, we could create branding opportunities, we could try and develop hospitality opportunities that brands could sponsor. The big miss and the big opportunity I always felt was around speaking opportunities and thought leadership. Because people were glued in front of their computers, they were captive audiences. Was it overload and in being in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day? Absolutely. But attendees were investing in virtual events, to unprecedented numbers. And we didn't give sponsors an opportunity to actually talk to them. And I think that was where the big miss was. So as a result of that, as we move back to in-person, sponsors really don't want to have much to do with the virtual components of some of these hybrid events. And so I feel like that's where we missed, and we have to think about giving sponsors an opportunity to actually speak to virtual audiences directly. Again, it can't be the infomercial, it really has to be structured around topics and conversations. And if you could do a panel discussion, where it's about thought leadership, then perhaps that could work. But it is going to take some of these brands to really embrace the notion of providing those kinds of opportunities for their sponsors.

[32:05] Brandi Starr:

Thank you. Well talking about our challenges is just first step, and nothing changes, if nothing changes. In traditional therapy, the therapist will give the client some homework, but here at Revenue Rehab, we like to flip that on its head and ask you to give us some homework. And so I'm a big proponent of having a really clear action items, something that I can take away and do relatively quickly. So I'd like to ask you for what is your one thing, what is your action item for us whether as a sponsor, or as an organizer that we can do to help have more collaborative and not cookie cutter approach in order to drive value?

[32:51] Phil Stanley:  

So I think for the event organizer, it really is reaching out to their sponsors and asking the question. How can we help you drive value? What is it that you need? Is it thought leadership opportunities? Is it more data on our attendees? What is it that you need? Where are the gaps from you, for you as a sponsor? What are those marketing gaps that that our resources can help fulfill? And I think for the sponsor, it is a real, internal discussion amongst themselves as they look at their entire portfolio of events that they're sponsoring, understanding what are the personas that we're really going after? And what is it that we can offer those personas that are going to drive business that are going to drive them into our booths? And I think more of those kinds of questions about what are our KPIs? What are our goals and objectives? I think more of those kinds of conversations really need to be really actualized and then discussed with the sponsor, and vice versa.

[34:12] Brandi Starr:

I love that. That is the key thing there is to have those conversations. So that's our one thing where no matter which side you're on, if you are an event organizer, have a conversation or two or three with some of your sponsors to understand what they need from you. And if you are a sponsor, it is having those conversations internally to really understand what are your opportunities, who you're trying to talk to and what you're trying to get out of it. I love that so much. I have definitely enjoyed our discussion today but that's our time for today. So Phil, thank you so much for joining me today.

[34:58] Phil Stanley:  

Well thank you I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

[35:01] Brandi Starr:

Awesome! And for Anyone that is listening, the link to Phil's white paper is in the show notes. And if you have not already, I encourage you to go back to Episode 29 to continue the conversation around event sponsorship to help you to figure out what is right for your business. Thanks, everyone for joining us today. I hope you've enjoyed my conversation with Phil. I can't believe we're already at the end. See you next time.

[35:31] Outro: 

You've been listening to Revenue rehab with your host Brandi Starr. Your session is now over but the learning has just begun. Join our mailing list and catch up on all our shows at We're also on Twitter and Instagram at Revenue Rehab. This concludes this week's session. We'll see you next week.

Phil StanleyProfile Photo

Phil Stanley

Senior Strategist

Phil Stanley is a Senior Strategist focused on the B2B space. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and has a son, 28 years old, and a daughter who is 25 years old. Phil is adept at listening and consulting with his clients to understand their aspirations, goals, and objectives to create unique experiences. Phil is responsible for translating market conditions into insights, recommendations, and positive outcomes for clients. He has worked with brands such as Splunk, ServiceNow, Intel, Nvidia, Microsoft and IBM