The Professional Convention Management Association views its relationships not as sponsorships, but as long-term strategic partnerships.
In the three years since it moved to a strategic-partnership revenue model, the association has tripled its income, explains Deborah Sexton, president and chief executive officer at Chicago-based PCMA. “These partnerships are not just event-driven, but they have touch points throughout the year and they drive considerable revenue to the association,” she says.
Working with Chicago-based consultant IEG Inc., PCMA developed a program where they enter into three-year partnerships with a select group of about 40 companies, which sponsor PCMA activities, programs, and events throughout the year. That’s fewer partners than they had previously, when they might have gotten 100 different sponsors for the annual meeting alone, but the sponsors now get much more exposure.
PCMA’s 12 strategic sponsors commit $250,000 per year (or more) and get exposure on the Web site, at meetings, on products and services, and other areas. They also have a premier-sponsorship level with touch points throughout the year, along with an event-sponsorship tier with exposure tied specifically to an event.
Packages are customized for each partner based on an evaluation of assets that IEG conducted for PCMA. “It’s an outside source that’s valuing these assets, not us,” says Sexton, “so when you go to a potential partner, you can say, IEG valued these assets and this is what they’ve come back with and why.” The evaluation process can take months and is very thorough, but in the end, IEG places a value to sponsors on each asset—whether it’s the meeting, advertising in a magazine, exposure on the Web site, or whatever.
Packages are also customized to meet the specific needs of sponsors. For example, one of PCMA’s strategic sponsors, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, was interested in exposure that met their strategic goal of helping customers do their jobs. So PCMA created an executive book-summary program, which it introduced at its annual meeting in January. Once a month, members get an 8-page executive summary of a popular business book.
Last year, Starwood sponsored PCMA’s Return on Event tool called MeetingMetrics, which was offered exclusively to members. While it puts pressure on PCMA to create assets that are valuable to members and sponsors, the benefits are well worth the effort.
While PCMA signs three-yearwith partners, they meet multiple times annually with each to make sure their objectives are being met. And at the end of each year, a sponsor has the option to walk away if they are not happy. “You never lock someone in if they are having a negative experience,” says Sexton. So far, no one has terminated the and many are re-upping for another three years. “I think that demonstrates that we are delivering.”