60 Minutes to Sponsorship Growth

By Elsbeth Russell • August 14, 2015

Dave Lutz Velvet Chainsaw
Dave Lutz, Velvet Chainsaw

The session “60 Minutes to Sponsorship Growth” featured David Lutz, CMP, who is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw, and Sandra Giarde, CAE, executive director of the California Landscape Contractors Association. The session aimed to revamp attendees’ sponsorship menus and refine their investor-to-opportunity match-up skills.

Most exhibit floor plans are shrinking due to increasing digital activity, Lutz said, explaining that associations need to have a more diversified revenue mix.

Sandra Giarde
Sandra Giarde, CAE, California Society of Landscape Contractors

Ideally, he said, you want a 3-to-1 expo to sponsor ratio or better—that means 75 percent of your non-registration revenue for a conference should come from exhibitors and at least 25 percent from sponsors. You also want at least a 65 percent of companies to renew every year.

Lutz identified four key attributes that exist in the most successful event-based sponsorship models—

  1. Fewer investors, but bigger investments
  2. Benefits beyond eyeballs and logos
  3. Activation plans that span 90 days plus
  4. If the attendee doesn’t win, nobody wins.

Giarde added that to land the big sponsors, you really need introduction from top board members and volunteers. She called this “leadership door opening,”  and explained that you want “power-to-power” introductions, which is something that’s been very important to her personally, as she’s only two years into her role as an executive director.

Both speakers agreed that most associations have way too many items on the menu. They suggested simplifying your media kit to get rid of things that aren’t selling. That review needs to happen annually.

Lutz said that attendees are the primary arbiters who determine what matters and what doesn’t at your events. When you deliver “experiences that matter” to your attendees, everyone wins:

  • It’s a win for your attendees (target market) as you improve their show experience
  • It’s a win for your sponsors as you connect them and advance their positioning within their target market.
  • It’s a win for your organization as the conference revenue and value improves.

Finally, Lutz and Giarde offered three filters to ensure attendee win and premium pricing:

  1. CHOICE—Attendees can always opt in or opt out. Sponsorship (benefits) can’t be forced on them.
  2. ACTIVATION—The attendee consumes or appreciates it, takes it home, shares it and provide alignment with their values.
  3. MATTERING—The attendees feels entertained, engaged, appreciated, and helped personally or professionally by the sponsor…..”Helping before selling.”

Special thanks to Hank Berkowitz, Association Adviser eNews moderator and chief,  for his reporting on this session.


Elsbeth Russell is a senior content strategist with Naylor Association Solutions.