The Philadelphia International Flower Show is breathing new life into its sponsorship program.

While the March 4-11 event lost PNC Financial Services Group as its long-running presenting sponsor at the end of 2011, the flower show signed more than 10 new partners in 2012, surpassing its revenue goal by roughly 20 percent.

New sponsors for 2012 include Bank of America Corp., Einstein Healthcare Network and Sugar House Casino.

The impetus for that success can be traced back to the June 2010 hiring of Drew Becher as president of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. One of his primary charges: To reinvigorate the Philadelphia International Flower Show and build on the event’s positioning as the world’s largest indoor flower show.  

“There has been a paradigm shift in the organization. His vision is to turn the show into something like the Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500 or New York Fashion Week,” said Michael Steinberg, who was hired in Sept. 2011 as PHS’s vice president of business development, a new position.

Below, IEG SR highlights three steps the organization has taken to reinvigorate its sponsorship program.

Step #1: Create stand-alone sponsorship department. Realizing that a sponsorship program cannot be effective without a dedicated staff, PHS last year created the flower show’s first-ever sponsorship department.

“Taking sponsorship out of the marketing department has allowed the flower show to take sponsorship to the next level,” said Steinberg, who heads the department.

The four-person department also manages ticket sales, he added.

Step #2: Take the role of a consultant. PHS has moved away from offering prepackaged sponsorship packages in favor of tailored offerings that help move the marketing needle.

“I try to immerse myself in a potential client’s business to understand what their goals are,” said Steinberg. “Sponsors aren’t buying assets. They’re buying us.”

PHS plans to double-down on those efforts in 2012 and beyond, he added.  “I want to provide more collaboration, more ideation and more activation for our sponsors.”

Step #3: Extend flower show brand. Replicating a tactic used by pro sports teams, PHS is creating new assets to broaden its reach.

The flower show is using the assets to draw new audiences, which in turn help attract new sponsors, said Steinberg.

“We have created new assets to extend our brand and bring in a new demographic, which has allowed us to sell bigger sponsorships and provide more value.”

The show has created the two following platforms, each of which has drawn new audiences and sparked interest from new sponsors. 

  • Man Cave. The flower show this year created the Man Cave, an on-site lounge that featured food and drink, video games and projection screen TVs.

    The lounge helped open the door to new sponsors, many of whom sold food and drink or helped support on-site activities. For example, Chickie’s & Peet’s sold food, HiFi House provided consumer electronics, while Sugar House Casino sponsored table games with professional dealers. Sugar House and the flower show donated money raised from the games to the PHS City Harvest program.

    Sponsors also used the Man Cave to launch new products. Case in point: Realty TV star and businesswomen Bethenny Frankel used the event to launch a new line of Skinnygirl cocktails, while Anheuser-Busch Co. leveraged the Man Cave to support the rollout of Kona beer in the greater Philadelphia market.
  • Einstein Healthcare Network Family Lounge. In addition to the Man Cave, the flower show created an on-site lounge to engage young families.

    Like the Man Cave, PHS created several strategic partnerships to generate interest in the lounge. Those included the Sprout TV network and Universal Pictures, both of which used the event to engage target audiences.  Sprout brought characters from Sunny Side Up and other shows, while Universal brought characters from The Lorax to promote the new movie.

    Characters from The Lorax appeared with Lisa Nutter during a reading of the Dr. Seuss book. Lisa Nutter is the wife of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

    “The event received major press, and it opened the door to a whole new audience,” said Steinberg.

    Like the Man Cave, the family lounge also opened the door to new sponsors. PHS sold title of the lounge to Einstein Healthcare Network.

    “Part of their mission is promoting a healthy environment, which aligned perfectly with our mission,” said Steinberg, noting that the hospital partnered with the event in part to promote a new facility in Philadelphia.

    The hospital network provided additional exposure for the flower show and family lounge through an ad buy in Philadelphia Magazine.