Member interview: And now a word about sponsors

Photo Credit: Illustration by Monica Garwood

Anyone who puts on an event knows that costs can add up. Brent Barootes is a marketing specialist with 25 years of sponsorship consulting behind him. Among other events, he has helped the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore, Ont., grow its Ribfest to host more than 175,000 people over four days and serve more than 150,000 pounds of ribs, while raising a total of $3 million for community organizations and charities. Barootes is a member of the Rotary Club of Nanaimo, B.C., and co-author of Reality Check: Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing, a textbook for landing event sponsors. We asked him how other clubs can do the same.

THE ROTARIAN: How did you go about finding sponsors for the Rotary Ribfest? 

BAROOTES: In the past the club had a list of about 30 items they could sell for the event; a banner here, a banner there, naming of an area, etc. Through our inventory asset development process, they ended up with over 250 unique items that could be sold (everything from a banner to a logo on the web title, to naming of a stage, to introducing a band, to being able to sample products), which extrapolated to thousands of assets. Then we determined their audiences (youth, parents and families, high-disposable-income baby boomers) and went to speak with brands that were trying to reach those demographics. This allowed the organizers to determine they should be generating about $375,000 per year, almost two times what they were generating prior with the old Rotarian twist-the-friend’s-arm approach.

TR: What are some other examples of successful event sponsorship?

BAROOTES: The Rotary Club of Calgary, Alta., runs a barbecue event where they feed over 18,000 people and nets from sponsorship and food sales close to a quarter of a million dollars per year. Most golf tournaments or sporting events could not survive without sponsors. Rotary gala events require sponsorship revenue.

TR: What are the reasons for a business to sponsor an event?

BAROOTES: To reach a specific audience. For some it is to drive traffic to their store. For others it is to generate leads. For others it might be to launch a new product. But for a lot of sponsors it’s about employee engagement and providing volunteering opportunities for their staff. Often sponsorship investments come from an HR budget versus a marketing budget.

TR: How do you know what assets you have to sell to sponsors?

BAROOTES: You need to look deep into your event and organization. Take off the blinders. Ask your sponsors for ideas. Everything might not be salable, but don’t write it off when building the asset list. Include every idea you have. Look at digital, look at your club itself. Maybe a sponsor of your event can also be a program speaker at your club.

TR: What advice do you have for Rotarians looking for event sponsors?

BAROOTES: Most importantly, know that what you have is of value. When you believe that what you are selling companies will help grow their business, you will be successful. You need to show return on investment. The second thing is to know what you actually have to sell. Do a comprehensive inventory of assets. You will be surprised at stuff that you never knew was of value.

The Rotarian