I’ll be the first to admit that when we launched our community events sponsorship program our interest was primarily transactional in nature: we were looking to extend our limited marketing budget and gain local exposure at some high visibility events. We entered into agreements, negotiated brand placement, sponsorship levels, and advertising guidelines. We often received free tickets to sponsored events, and were included in the volunteer banquets and parties.

While we entered into these agreements with a clear vision of what we were hoping to achieve, with an eye on receiving fair value for the goods and services we provided, it was at the volunteer parties and organizer events that we became aware of an unexpected benefit – one that we never factored into our calculations – that has been the most rewarding for me personally, and our business as a whole. We’ve become part of a community.

It was a quick transition, from our role as sponsors to members of a community. We found that a large number of the events we targeted for sponsorship drew from a relatively small pool of leaders, organizers, and volunteers. We kept running into the same people: transitioning their area of expertise from one event to the next. We were drawn in by the passion that lies at the core of volunteer-driven events: these grand undertakings that are driven by love instead of profit. We were drawn in by the camaraderie and community spirit.

I recall attending one of our first sponsored events, the Edmonton Fringe Festival, and walking the grounds with the intent of ensuring our banners were placed properly for maximum visibility, and that our logo was – as promised – prominently featured on the volunteer t-shirts. Everything was as we expected. What I didn’t expect was the sense of ownership and pride that I felt, seeing our logo displayed. We weren’t some cold, distant corporate sponsor: we were a part of the team that contributed to the success of the event. We were helping ensure that lost children were found, events started on time, supplies got to where they were needed, and that people felt safe and secure. Our sense of responsibility reached beyond our small contribution: their success was our success, and ours was theirs.

We’ve now become inextricably tied to our sponsored events: we keep in touch year round. We feel the excitement stirring early in the new year when the planning begins in earnest. We look forward to the first meetings in spring. We are no longer a corporate sponsor. We are part of a community.

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