Tips on conducting a successful sponsor get-together:

Schedule it away from other events. Although it may be tempting to hold a summit in conjunction with an event to make it easier for sponsors to attend, the experience of most properties that have taken that approach is that sponsors are too involved with activation, hospitality and other sponsorship elements to fully engage in a future-looking discussion.

Event-based sponsorships should have summits at least several months prior to the event to ensure that sponsors have enough time to implement any cross-promotional activity that may result from the meeting.

Share success stories in invitations. To encourage participation from as many companies as possible, properties should highlight success stories from previous summits in sponsor invitations.

Respect their time. Summits should be one- or two-day affairs that require no more than a one-night stay for those who are traveling a long distance. A half-day meeting often can suffice for local properties.

Prep sponsors in advance. To ensure the meeting runs as efficiently as possible, properties should make sure that their partners understand the purpose of the meeting. Let them know they will be expected to share their objectives, activation plans and any challenges they may be facing.

Sponsors also should be encouraged to share success stories, results and best practices from other sponsorships. “That spawns tons of ideas on how sponsors can work together,” said Crista Bailey, Capital Sports & Entertainment account director, events.

Invite related agencies and relevant third parties. Representatives from sponsorship, promotion, PR and other firms that help manage and execute a client’s sponsorship should be part of the dialogue.

Properties should be careful not to clutter up the meeting with too many attendees, but it also may be useful to have targeted vendors, licensees or other related groups on hand. For example, the Ski and Snowboard Assn. invites athlete agents to its summit. “We want them to hear where we’re headed so they and our athletes can work in the same direction,” Morris said.

Although it can be helpful to sponsor attendees to meet with suppliers who can provide products and services for activation programs, such as Utix, summit organizers should impress upon vendors that they are there in a supporting role and not to aggressively sell the corporate partners.

Promote attendance by key property personnel. Properties should include their CEOs, executive directors and other leaders in the summit. Their involvement demonstrates the importance of the meeting and the sponsors to the organization.

Properties also should include other staff members with whom sponsors will interact, such as PR, marketing and operations directors. In addition, if there are athletes or celebrities tied to the property, their presence can lend a great deal of weight to the meeting.

Consider an independent moderator. Bringing in an outsider with knowledge of sponsorship can serve to heighten the perceived importance of the event and change the dynamic of the discussion for the better, say many who have participated in summits.

“An independent moderator should be mandatory at all summits,” said Bob Cramer, president of sponsorship agency Genesco Sports Enterprises, who estimated that he participated in “hundreds” of summits while serving in his previous position as vice president of global sponsorships and event marketing at MasterCard, Inc. “They can help create an open exchange of ideas on topics that might not be brought up by the property.”

Focus on content, not entertainment. While golf outings, deep-sea fishing trips, concerts and other activities often play a role in sponsor summits, they should never take priority over the summit’s objective.

“A bad summit is all about being schmoozed, entertained and hearing a one-way monologue,” Cramer said. “Good summits have a well thought-out agenda and two-way dialogue.”

The need to focus on content over entertainment has taken on even more significance in the wake of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (IEG SR, Nov. 6, 2006) and increased oversight on corporate spending.

Follow up with an action plan. Properties should provide participants with a menu of activation ideas, lists of promotional inventory available through other sponsors, and summaries of each partner’s plans and objectives to make post-meeting follow-up easier.