10 Steps to a Successful Corporate Sponsorship Program

October 15, 2021
By Dan Kowitz and Bruce Rosenthal

The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) has created a corporate partnership relationship with Medtronic that provides significant value for members and AMSN, as well as Medtronic.

AMSN CEO Terri Hinkley, EdD, MBA, BScN, RN, CAE, said, “We weren’t seeing much growth in sponsor revenue and I realized we needed a new strategy, a strategy that involved partnerships with a select group of companies that serve our members.”

Hinkley added, “while the pandemic could be perceived as a barrier to expanding partnerships, we saw this as an opportunity to strengthen AMSN’s and Medtronic’s support for medical-surgical nurses who are caring for acutely ill patients.”

Here is how AMSN changed from platinum/gold/silver conference sponsorship packages to a program that offers year-long, customized Premier Partnerships.

1) Interviews with AMSN’s sponsors revealed that the several-day AMSN Annual Convention did little to fulfill the marketing goals of some companies. AMSN created a new business model; the Premier Partner program is a year-long collaboration between AMSN and companies.

2) Research showed that some of AMSN’s conference sponsors derived minimal value from transactional benefits – like booths, ads, and signage – at AMSN’s convention. AMSN added to its offerings for Premier Partners a wide range of opportunities that would help members and position companies as thought leaders. For example, opportunities for Premier Partners include content dissemination; co-created content; surveys; focus groups; executive roundtables; research; social media campaigns; and more.

3) To ensure that the new Premier Partner program was in alignment with AMSN’s mission and values, AMSN’s staff identified members’ primary needs. This was in 2020 – the early months of the pandemic – and med-surg nurses needed information and resources to better care for their patients.

4) The next step for AMSN was an exploratory conversation with Medtronic’s leadership. The call was not a typical “sponsorship sales call” based on a prospectus. It was a discussion to identify Medtronic’s business and marketing needs and how Medtronic could support AMSN’s members. According to Michael Noble MBA, Principal U.S. Field Marketing Strategist, Respiratory Compromise at Medtronic, “this was a unique value proposition we saw in the AMSN Premier Partner program. AMSN proactively reached out to us, at Medtronic, and asked how we can better partner in supporting each other’s organizational goals. I consider this as a best practice for societies and vendors as it truly shows a two-way partnership.”

5) Based on the AMSN and Medtronic discussion, AMSN developed a pre-proposal aligned with Medtronic’s business and marketing needs and the needs of AMSN’s members. AMSN and Medtronic had another call to discuss and fine-tune the partnership proposal.

6) AMSN developed a full Premier Partner proposal for Medtronic and had another discussion with the Medtronic team to be sure the proposal was in alignment with Medtronic’s business needs and AMSN’s mission.

7) To finalize the partnership, AMSN created a contract agreement based on the terms and deliverables in the proposal. The partnership was official!

8) Now that the Premier Partner agreement was signed, this was just the beginning of the partnership. AMSN’s staff set up a process of servicing the partnership like a marketing agency would service a client. An account executive is in charge of monitoring the partnership with Medtronic; others on the AMSN staff have responsibilities for delivering the benefits.

9) AMSN went one step further in servicing the partnership like a marketing agency. AMSN’s staff created a private project management website exclusively for Medtronic to show and track Medtronic’s Premier Partner benefits, analytics, meeting notes, key dates, etc.

10) The first year of the partnership began in mid-2020; Medtronic and AMSN recently updated and renewed the partnership for a second year.

Was this a long process to establish the new Premier Partner program especially with the pressures of the pandemic? AMSN’s Hinkley explains, “this is a time-consuming process and AMSN doesn’t have a large staff, however, the benefits of partnership make it very worthwhile. Creating the Premier Partner program has added extraordinary value for our members and – by extension – value for our association.”

Medtronic’s Noble added, “the AMSN Premier Partner program has helped our company achieve visibility and thought leadership throughout the year and showcase our commitment to patient safety. Medtronic’s partnership with AMSN has been a sound business decision.”

Dan Kowitz and Bruce Rosenthal help associations increase revenue and member value from sponsorship programs. Dan is Founder & CEO of JSB Partnership Consultants. Bruce is Principal of Bruce Rosenthal Associates, LLC. They are Co-Conveners of the Partnership Professionals Network.