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Jan 15th

2010

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Sponsorships that Inspire the Workforce

Olympic Sponsorship and Employee Engagement

On January 12, with exactly one month to go before Opening Ceremonies officially kick-off the 2010 Winter Games, Altius hosted a panel discussion at Cossette West themed “Olympic sponsorship and Employee Engagement”.

Moderated by me (Garnet Nelson), the session featured two excellent VANOC sponsor panelists:

  • Monica Bohm, Director 2010 for BCLC
  • Chris Moorhead, Leader 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Partnership for Teck

Monica and Chris presented their insights on how their respective companies designed and implemented programs to leverage their VANOC sponsorship rights amongst their most important assets – their employees.

Having a fair bit of experience with building employee engagement programs via sponsorship, and being very bullish about the potential in this area, I was a very pleased to see how the session unfolded and wanted to share some key findings, insights and advice from the panelists:

  1. Senior management support is essential.  Whether Crown corporation or private enterprise, engagement plans and programs simply will not ‘stick’ with employees (might not even get off the ground) without sincere and honest endorsement from the company’s top brass.  Executives need to not only back the project financially, but they have to walk the walk and demonstrate that employee participation is okay and encouraged.
  2. The Olympics is not all things to all people.  When designing employee engagement programs, it’s easy to become blinded to the fact that not everyone in the organization may be as enthusiastic about the Games as you are (I’m just using the Olympics as an example – it could be any other sponsorship property). It’s important to manage expectations across the board accordingly, and design your employee programs so that it’s an ‘opt in’ or ‘pull’ participation scheme, and not something that employees might feel is being forced down their throats.
  3. Different levels and types of participation.  Every single staff member will have a preference with respect to how they interact or participate in workforce (or extra-curricular) programs.  On one end of the spectrum, some people will prefer a passive approach whereby they can simply ‘access and observe’ (e.g. exclusive content).  Others will want something with more actual hands-on participation (e.g. opportunity to volunteer).  And somewhere in the middle is a pack of people that would be thrilled to win a prize.  Bottom line: everyone engages differently, so a single campaign tactic probably isn’t enough.
  4. Decide what you want to achieve. At Altius, we always insist that sponsorship strategies and programs align with and support the company’s business objectives.  And it’s no different when building internal plans. It’s important to determine early on what it is that you want to achieve – whether it’s a change to a specific behavior, workplace safety, brand esteem/loyalty, staff recruitment and retention…the list goes on.  Obviously a program designed to reduce absenteeism may look quite different from a program built to recognize a star sales rep.  Determine what you want to change or strengthen, and then build plans accordingly.
  5. Real, meaningful opportunities.  It goes without saying that employee engagement programs must be designed and implemented in such a way that it is a natural extension of the company’s values, ideals, and corporate culture.  You can’t expect to invest in a sponsorship, slap a few logos on your company’s intranet site, give out some event tickets to employees, and then think that you’ve moved the needle with respect to motivating your workforce (I mean, receiving a size medium silk-screened t-shirt with the company’s logo emblazoned on the front might be a nice gesture, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that it’s at all meaningful to the receiver).  Even before the first key-strokes that will eventually become your internal engagement plan, find out what is important to your employees.  Being dialed into their needs will allow you to build engagement programs via sponsorship that actually work.

Follow me on twitter at @scoregarnet

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