Managing Your Sponsorship & Experiential Marketing Initiatives During and After the COVID-19 Crisis

NOTE: The following is based on a webinar Lumency President & CEO, Ian Malcolm, gave to the World Federation of Advertisers on March 26th, 2020

We are in a crisis.

There is no doubt these are unprecedented times.

Credit: IMI International, used with permission

The consumer’s current mindset is one of fear, uncertainty.

Consumers are looking for voices they can trust.

What does your brand stand for?

This is the time to be building your brand. It’s what your brand does and says in these ten weeks that will be remembered for the next ten years.

It’s time to focus on Helping moments vs. Selling moments.

What’s your Social Purpose during and coming out of the crisis?

Creating emotional connections between brands and consumers and demonstrating brand values is what Sponsorship and Experiential does best.

We are thinking about everything through the lens of the 3 Rs:

Credit: For Short/Mid Term COVID-19 Planning Approach – Saatchi & Saatchi

Here are our thoughts and recommendations on what actions you can take now, and what to expect in the near future:

1. Re-Evaluate

Timeline: Rolling 21-28 Days

Create A Rolling 30/60/90/120 Consolidated View

  • Track all of your ongoing projects and map against anticipated delays:
  • Focus on revised dates versus original dates:

You can download the 30/60/90 Excel template by clicking here


  • Understand how your sponsorship contacts contemplate value loss
    • May be inadequate
    • Specificity of language (less specific is better now)
    • Contemplated remedies (easier to get to a value if it’s been pre-negotiated)
  • Force Majeure
    • Reference to Pandemic
    • Reference to other realities (i.e., stay-in-place order)
  • Conduct valuation on assets or value not being delivered, by asset line-item

2. Respond

Timeline: During the Crisis

Communicate with Your Partners

  • Demonstrate solidarity/support
    • Make this an opportunity to strengthen relationships
  • Have a varied approach around value loss (one approach will not fit all property relationships, be consistent across groupings of properties
    (i.e., teams in the same league))
    • Refunds/Holds/Deferrals
    • Unlock new value during the crisis
  • Understand their risk mitigation protocols in advance of Rebound

Content/Digital First

  • Your brand sharing property’s stories through your social/digital platforms
  • Ways to connect with the property’s fans/patrons/guests/attendees while there are no live events

Old KPIs Won’t Work

  • Reset your expectations
  • Communicate within your organization
  • Focus on engagement

Support Fans/Patrons/Guests

  • Give them access through content
  • Act like a fan, demonstrate commitment and support – especially be a voice of hope and community

Ground to Agility

  • Find a way to be flexible and adaptive in your contingency planning, and be ready for post-crisis
  • You can’t do it all, do what matters most
  • Be aware of demand/supply crunch on production partners as all brands get back in after the crisis and plan for this now

3. Rebound

Timeline: After

Nobody Will Get Feb/Mar/Apr Back

  • Consumers won’t have more capacity to consume events, entertainment and sport
  • Consumers may have less disposable income, less opportunity to connect with the properties they love in the same way – think about how you can enhance and add value for those consumers

Changes in Consumer Behaviour

  • Short, mid and long term will be different
  • Need for psychological safety will extend past physical safety norms
  • Local, small, community-based
  • Expect attendance at live events to be down 25-30%
  • Consumers will seek quality, familiarity, trust and safety

Broadcast vs. Live

  • For tier 1 sports, we’ll likely see broadcast/OTT increase while attendance drops
  • Be ready for events with few or no attendees
  • Live webcast for festivals will be more important

Time to Optimize Your Portfolio

  • Post-crisis, you may have less to invest and/or higher expectations around ROI
  • You may find you need less; consider sponsoring less, with a stronger commitment to activation (above a 1:1 ratio)
  • Some of your smaller property partners won’t have survived
  • Consider what you renew or add over the next 12 months (prioritize grassroots)

New KPIs

  • Focus on middle-funnel metrics initially (familiarity, consideration),
    then lower funnel
    • Brand I can count on, Brand that supports my community,
      positive sentiment, Brand I trust, Brand I recommend

Consider How/What You Leverage

  • Your connections pipe won’t be wider
  • You may have lower budgets to fund activation
  • Be choiceful: 360° activation wheel (prioritize trade, social/digital, CSR, employee)
  • Encourage properties to collaborate, even merge (i.e., two festivals merge for 2020 into one, a number of festivals sell a multi-festival pass, your CSR partners and your sponsorship partners find ways to work together in support of their communities)

Agility is more important than ever in the new normal.

Rapid Deployment

Build a Rapid Deployment process and use it when programs require a shorter approval to launch timeline due to live event uncertainty/postponement/new last-minute opportunities.

Strong Rapid Deployment process:

  • Creates alignment and understanding between brand, agency partners, property partners and vendor partners
  • Ensures all parties are aware of critical dates
  • Creates a sense of “we are in this together for shared success”
  • Defines where timelines need to be compressed
  • Provides space for creative ideation and approvals
  • Program scope of work approvals (SOWs, POs, Contract Review)
  • Production prioritization
  • Brand/Property/Agency feedback and response expectations
  • Sets expectations for communication frequency

Lumency is here to help. Please reach out if there is any way we can support your brand through these challenging times.


Managing Your Sponsorship & Experiential Marketing Initiatives During and After the COVID-19 Crisis