By Greg Price
Taber Recreation Board got an update on the progress of Sponsorship Connections in securing sponsorships dollars of town-owned assets to help offset the rising costs of recreation.
Sponsorship Connections is the firm the town hired back in November 2011, in which now three years later, are still wondering if it was worth the investment.
As reported in March’s recreation board meeting, Sponsorship Connections proposed to extend the terms of its contract by six months to re-focus its efforts and look for a dedicated Taber account manager. Sponsorship Connections would also extend the terms of a current contract that was set to expire in June 2015 to a new contract completion date of June 2016. The extension would not involve any additional charges or fees.
Via speaker-phone conversation at the Taber Recreation Board’s Oct. 2 meeting, Sponsorship Connections managing director Dave Higgins filled in his organization’s progress since then.
“We have secured a sponsor since then and we are up to three sponsors total with the sponsor being confirmed being (Alberta Treasury Branch). They signed on about a month ago,” said Higgins. “They have joined the Agrispirit Fund which is a one-time grant and Taco Time which is in the second year of their agreement which is more of an advertising focus.”
The total value of sponsorships secured by Sponsorship Connections as of the recreation board’s meeting between the three entities is $19,000.
“We fully expect the funds coming from ATB and Taco Time to be renewable for next year which is our anticipation,” said Higgins. “There is one other prospect who has declined since I was last on call. So that brings our total since we started this project to 24 different companies who have declined and there are currently nine prospects on what we call our active list that I continue to pursue.”
Of the 24 clients that have declined, recreation board member Garrett Simmons inquired if there was a general theme emerging of why they have declined sponsorship deals of town-owned assets in the program.
“The general theme always seems to be we get many funding requests at this time and this doesn’t fit our objectives or our budget,” replied Higgins. “Sometimes it’s budget, sometimes it’s been that not a priority market for us and we can’t justify the dollars.”
Since requesting the six-month hiatus to refocus its efforts, Higgins informed the recreation board it has secured a client in which it believes “drastically enhances our ability to sell for Taber.”
“They are specifically in the agricultural industry and they are a national organization. A big factor that came into it on whether we wanted to take on the project was the idea it was going to help out Taber,” said Higgins.
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 when the company was first hired and finished the first phase of the agreement.
Sponsorship Connections identified over 200 unique inventory benefits for the Town of Taber based on the three areas of review. Some were physical such as signage or logo inclusion, others were intangible such as associated goodwill and access or alignment to the town.
Phase two of the agreement had costs at $3,000 per month for the first 12 months of a three-year contract plus miscellaneous expenses such as food and travel, which would be an upfront payment of the $144,000 Sponsorship Connections, through Partnership Group, would be expected to generate during that period. Also commission would be paid out to the contractor during the three-year period of sponsorship sales.
Projections that have been a far cry from the actual $19,000 that has been secured in three years of work by Sponsorship Connections.
“This is going on and on and we are seeing a little bit of money trickling in, but we would like to see something more happen,” said recreation board chairman Luke Wijna. “And I think everyone here is thinking the same thing. We’ve gone through our third budget since we’ve started this thing and we’ve had to keep increasing our fees. This is the reason why we did this (enter into the agreement). Registration fees have kept going up and up and up and when is enough? We have to get to a point where we have to start bringing in money. I can’t say I’m still happy and seeing the faces of the other volunteers here and councillors in here in the room and I think they are thinking the same thing. I know if I had to run for an election on promises, I think I would lose pretty badly in this community right now so I hope you guys come up with something.”
During discussion period after the speaker phone conference, many recreation board members questioned the exact strategies Sponsorship Connections were using where businesses are perhaps thinking it is a donation as opposed to a business strategy for greater exposure for the company.
“How long are we going to keep letting them go on and on. He may be getting from a lot of big companies it’s not in their budget, but we know from the money our businesses have put out in this town, they do have it in their budget,” said Danielle Hansen, recreation board member. “So they are either not liking the approach he is taking, or something is not working.”
Simmons replied he saw no harm in letting Sponsorship Connections continue if they are reeling in the bigger fish of corporate sponsorship that may have a more provincial, national or international focus.
“You saw how we (Taber) were able to raise money for a spray park in no time at all. If we had a co-ordinated effort among all sporting groups, we could get something substantial,” said Simmons. “I have been to almost every small hockey town in this province and I see naming rights for almost every facility except for ours. When we asked them why they were having clients say no and (Sponsorship Connections) said it was because companies were giving out too much funding as it was. This isn’t a funding request, this is a sponsorship program and they are approaching people where hopefully it’s a mutual benefit. If he himself is not understanding that, I’m a little concerned.”
Councillor and recreation board member Randy Sparks added the Town of Taber has a huge investment in this program (over $100,000).
“The Town of Taber backed the recreation board on this and has a huge investment here. Unfortunately, this investment has not some back to fruition the way we were hoping it was going to happen,” said Sparks.
“Three total sponsors over how many years? That’s very poor performance. It’s been frustrating to me and Luke and whoever has been on this the entire time because we were hoping this would be much more successful.”
“It seems to me their pool has not changed one bit, it’s been at 65 (potential sponsors) and it’s been 65 since the get go. Throwing out a number like ($19,000) over a number of years, that’s very poor return of investment for the money this town invested in getting this going. It’s disappointing, but I hope things will get better.”