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Sponsorship initiative has heart in the right place

Posted on April 16, 2014 by Taber Times

The ship that is the sponsorship initiative the Town of Taber has taken on looks like it is continuing to take on water ever since it made its maiden voyage by signing on the dotted line with Partnership Group/Sponsorship Connections back in late 2011.

There were plenty of long faces at the Taber Recreation Board’s April meeting during a teleconference involving a representative from Sponsorship Connections, where feedback seemed to be high on excuses over the lack of progress in which the town has invested six figures worth of taxpayer dollars.

If there is to be any finger pointing at this point, it should not be at the recreation board who made the initial recommendation to hire the company, town council who rubber stamped it or administration who has been keeping the lines of communication open with Sponsorship Connections. Saddled with rising costs of recreation and ever decreasing rates of cost recovery besides putting it on the users themselves, people who are passionate about recreational opportunities for youth and adults alike no matter their socio-economic background, looked for a solution. Simply hiding in a bunch of coats hoping everything will work out by doing nothing was not an answer.

Corporate sponsorship of town-owned assets is nothing new. And it’s not just for your NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL-like stadiums found in large urban areas. Travel across Alberta and you see many facilities belonging to towns just as small as Taber with business entities splashed across it generating revenue to town coffers.

Recreation board members back in 2011 had their dreams of affordable fun for all families and maybe using some of the sponsorship dollars to fund a recreation master plan. A noble vision obviously shared by town council and administration at the time.

Unfortunately, at least to this point, that dream has not been realized and the town has not come close to recouping its initial investment.What keeps being said over and over again by Sponsorship Connections on the lack of progress is staffing issues for Taber’s dedicated account.

Companies all across North America have seen employees come and go in which their financial dealings have not come to a screeching halt. If simply one or two employees leaving Sponsorship Connections causes this much of a problem, perhaps they bit off more than they could chew with the internal capacity they claimed to have handling various accounts. The excuse drips with irony given what a representative told the Taber Recreation Board back in January of 2012 as noted in the Taber Times. Partnership Group warned those on hand at the recreation board that where many organizations drop the ball is on the fulfillment side of sponsorship agreements.

“It’s one thing to sign a deal — it’s another thing to ensure that deal is getting done and that you have the internal capacity to manage those relationships and ensuring you are delivering on what someone just paid you money to do,” noted the representative.

The Town of Taber entering into an agreement with Partnership Group/Sponsorship Group is no different than hiring a contractor to pave a road or build a water plant. You are supposed to deliver the quality product you claim to be capable of. According to Sponsorship Connections’ own asset evaluation, the company pegged town facilities at $545,635 with a revenue projection of $190,972, ancillary assets at $465,300 with revenue projection of $162,855 and naming rights and events at $130,500 with revenue projection of $45,675. Sponsorship Connections identified over 200 unique inventory benefits for the Town of Taber based on the three areas of review.

Even if these projections were considered lofty and there are struggles in securing sponsorship deals, even earning a quarter of those projections would give the town a break-even proposition on its investment. If the spray park and Cornfest volunteer committees can do it, it is a little tougher to hear excuses from a for-profit company that is supposed to have expertise in the very avenue of sponsorship revenue generation.

Some have argued that the main expense for Sponsorship Connections has already been spent through the first phase of asset evaluation, but if the town is not willing to dedicate town staff to use that information to pursue sponsorship avenues themselves, then it has to be looked at as an all-in cost proposition.

Hopefully the reprieve the town has granted Sponsorship Connections in extending the contract timeframe at no extra cost will allow the company to get its house in order and deliver on its contract with the town. Hopefully those goals are loftier than just searching for sponsorship dollars within town limits.

We all want affordable recreation for everybody on our way to healthier bodies and minds. But there comes a time where excuses have to end and results begin.

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