Not to long ago, I had a conversation with a great CEO and friend, Craig Purser, who heads up the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) about how his organization approaches this event. NBWA has had fantastic success with Fly-Ins for a very long time attended by 750 and 1000 folks annually.
He shared some insights I hope are helpful to you:
First and foremost, the Fly-In shouldn’t take a back seat to any of the other association events. The Fly-In must be profiled as a prominent event for the organization. NWBA places as much emphasis on the importance of this opportunity as their annual meeting and other programs. Over time, the Capitol Hill Fly-In has become a NWBA signature event.
Therefore, Fly-Ins must be promoted with the same position as a legitimate sponsorship opportunity. Sometimes, I think organizations just add this event as an add-on. Take the advantage of promoting its unique position. This effort requires a commitment to really establish credibility as a feasible, networking event where major business development can happen.
Second: It’s essential to stress the demographics of the attendees. Obviously, the advocacy aspect of the event’s value stands at the forefront, but reinforce to potential sponsors the value of the people attending the event.
Board of Directors, company owners, and decision makers in the industry attending the Fly-In will be more attractive to your sponsors. Most likely these are the most high-profile VIPs of the industry. That’s the play. Showcase the demographic of the attendee as much as the functionality of the advocacy programming. And, be sure to customize opportunities to cluster potential clients with whom your sponsors will want to connect. For example, a board of directors meeting or other high-profile gathering.
Third: Capitol Hill Fly-Ins are an excellent venue for the “nontraditional sponsor.” Your suppliers, vendors, and manufacturers have venues that are very appropriate for them, including the annual meeting, the trade show, next generational event and regional programs. They are accustomed to sponsoring these events and those kinds of programs.
Your organization should reach outside the common circle to the next tier of potential sponsors who would be attracted to the Fly-In event. If the demographic is right and business owners are present, banking groups and others in the financial industry may find this opportunity very attractive.
These prospects see the value of a certain demographic and the Fly-In offers a less-cluttered playing field. It’s may be more difficult for non-traditional to find value in the annual meeting as “all the air is sucked out” of the program by those legacy supporters. Fly-ins are often a very cost-effective opportunity for that first-time sponsor.
Final thoughts. Establish the credibility of Fly-In as a signature event. Stress your demographic and some form of customization with that demographic to attract potential sponsors. And, finally, seek out the nontraditional sponsor to be involved in the Fly-In. Chances are good they have advocacy issues to discuss with folks on Capitol Hill. I know this is a tough place for associations to sell sponsorships, but I also believe it’s a great opportunity. Go for it!
Additional content on Advocacy and Selling Sponsorships: Advocacy and Membership: Two Ships Passing in the Night and Implementing a “Boutique” Sponsorship Program