"It's eat or be eaten, and fewer events are going to be around in the next millennium," Rick Jones, Advantage International's managing director of Europe, said at sponsorship consultancy IEG's annual sponsorship conference. The Chicago gathering drew 1,200 attendees this month.
The $5.6 billion sponsorship industry is still booming, but consolidations are starting to cause the biggest properties to get bigger while midsize events get squeezed out of sponsorship deals.
"Mega-events and events over $40 million are thriving," Mr. Jones said. "At the other end, little grass-roots events under $25,000 are also soaring on local power. But events in the middle-seminational and regional events that cost $250,000 to produce-are suffering. The corporate money isn't there to support them anymore."
LINK TO OTHER EVENTS
One solution: affiliate with similar midsize and other smaller events.
"A children's museum is going to have a harder time getting corporate funds," Mr. Jones said, "but it could affiliate with 25 other children's museums and create a giant property that would interest bigger sponsors."
The event marketing consultant warned, however, of the risks in partnerships among events and sponsors: "Beware while fraternizing with other event marketers. It's no longer the ad agency or the TV guy who's your enemy, it's other events stealing your share."
Selling sponsorships is also changing with the industry's maturation, especially for ripe brands such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and IBM.
"Brand awareness is irrelevant when you're talking about brands everyone already knows like Coke and Budweiser," Mr. Jones said. "What you need to do is use events and sponsorships to convert brand awareness into sales, to generate an economic impact from the connection."
Events that survive into the next century will play broader roles in consumers' lifestyles.
"Technology is breeding a desire among consumers for more hands-on events, but the Internet will be a big piece of the business," Mr. Jones said. "Event marketing's new tools will be integration, synergy and database marketing."