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Working with Clubs and Sponsors

Planning any event requires a diplomat. When organizing a drive or show there are many people that will be part of the project that need to be communicated with, satisfied, and rewarded for their hard work. The more entities that are involved, more demands and complications are placed into the venture. This is a double-edge sword because the larger your event, the more people and groups are needed to make it successful.
What I have found as that all groups have their specific expectations. It is important to take inventory of those and be sure to meet them in all aspects of the experience. Many expectations on you will be made by your own presentation of the event. Be sure to communicate the scope of the activities clearly. In your event you may be involving a number of car clubs, each with own territory and political dynamics. Every club has a territory and a niche. You may have two or more clubs in a certain territory. It behooves everyone for event planners to be cognizant of local group's role and to assure that everyone is given their due. You can't please everyone, but you can please many.

1. Territorial protocol

When traveling though their territory it is important to contact the local club(s) and let them know you are coming though. In most cases they will be excited and may wish to join in. Why is this important? Goodwill toward man. When an area has two or more clubs, try to talk to everyone so no one feels left out. The more the merrier.

2. Local stops and clubs

If you are planning a stop, it is courteous to ask for a local club's advice and their involvement, but inappropriate to demand it. You can choose not to involve them at all, but you are cutting yourself short if you do. If you are organizing activities with a local club, always allow them to be in charge of their activities. You don't want to be seen as the bully coming onto town to give orders. They may ask for your guidance as to where they can help and to what extent they can participate. You will need to be very communicative about your needs as they relate to schedule, logistics, and availability. This takes tact but if done right, can reap results far beyond your expectations. In MAA events we have had earth moving experiences at the hand of many local car clubs.
If there are two or more clubs vying to be exclusive hosts it can be difficult. When a city has two or more competing clubs there is often a history behind it. Try not to take sides unless there are truly motivating factors such as logistics, expertise, and ability on their part. Sometime you must look out for the integrity of the event.

3. Always reward contributors

Often, you will have built a relationship with people who have helped make the event successful. If you have done your job in selling the event, they will be happy to have been a part of it. Always, always be sure to recognize publicly those people and groups who have hosted you. You want your hosts to look back on the event fondly. If the event is organized enough, plan to have plaques or gifts to present them for their hospitality. It can be anything that says, "Here is a token of our gratitude". Even T-shirts, hats and other regalia to give out is a kind gesture. Participants can even get into the act by bringing along personal token gifts. One fellow I remember was a Highway Patrolman from Canada and gave away lapel pins of a Mustang patrol car with his department insignia.

4. Communication!

When involving clubs or individuals who are planning to be part of your venture always be up to speed with them and assure that you are on the same page. It is embarrassing for you and them when you don't meet up on the same plane because you didn't bother to call one last time and verify plans just beforehand. It has happened where one of my convoy events came to town and nobody was there. I called around and they thought we were coming tomorrow - my fault. Another time we had scheduled events with a local club. They had a different time set up than we had printed in our guide book. It was awkward and caused a lot of confusion. Cell phones are cheap, use them!

5. Sponsor Protocol

Sponsors are another group of people that must be treated with utmost care. They can add a lot to an event by supporting with cash, materiel, logistics, or PR. This can be as simple as a prize for a raffle, an ad in your newsletter, or as big as you can think of. Sponsors do this for a reason - marketing. They want your participants and spectators to buy their product. They want their brand name to be out there. In is imperative for you as an event promoter to make sure your sponsors get their money's worth. You see race car drivers in interviews talk about their sponsors when asked about racing. While you may not need to go to that length, be sure to do what ever it takes to satisfy their needs. If you do this, they will be there next time.
When soliciting sponsors, always be respectful and inviting. In my profession I get solicited for money from my company by clubs and schools on a regular basis. It amazes me how many people call and demand, not ask, but demand we better be a sponsor or it won't look very good. This tactic is a turn off for a prospective sponsor. You need to be gracious in your approach while giving as much motivational information as possible, quickly. It is helpful to have a flyer or letter outlining your event, its significance and its expected draw (participants and exposure) to fax or email to a prospective sponsor so they can digest it in their own time. Follow up but don't be a pest. They key is to demonstrate the worth of their donation in return of exposure.


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