Is Tomorrow Here?

MH3 —  February 2, 2018

I would like to invite you to the future. I would like to an extend an invitation for you to experience tomorrow. I would like to host you in a reality not yet real.

This may seem impossible to you, but it’s not. Because on March 15th I will be predicting the future of Sponsorship Marketing. To be precise it will be March 15th at 1:30 PM GMT. That much I know for sure, because that is what the schedule of the Irish Sponsorship Summit website tells me so. At that precise moment I will be sharing with hundreds of delegates my conference opening presentation entitled What’s Trending Next.

So what does the future hold? Where will our industry be in a year, a decade, or even in just one month. What trends will drive how we plan, develop, activate, and evaluate sponsorships. What Is Next?

Before I answer that question, I have a fundamental one for you. It’s a question that I need you to consider deeply or deeply consider. It is a question that I not only direct to you, but I direct to your entire organization. It’s a question of philosophy and strategy. While simple, I suspect your reaction will be anything but.

How much emphasis do you place on understanding the future?

Let me ask it another way. If you think about the energy and resources expended by you and your colleagues on any given workday, where is the focus? Is it on the past? Are you reaping the rewards of past efforts? Are you enduring pain from past mistakes? Are you solving for the latter while simultaneously benefiting from the former?

Perhaps your time and energy are solely focused on the present. By present, I don’t mean what is happening today, I mean everything you are working on today. Every program, plan, campaign that has been approved and is currently being developed.

Back to my question: how much energy do you spend on the future? Seriously. Are you developing long-term plans? Are you looking for contingencies? Are you painting the future landscape that you want to live in? Are you designing the environment you want your brand or property to grow in? Do you have a clear or even a vague sense of what the future landscape will look like?

I am a big believer in constant learning. Learning can come from looking at your past and identifying what worked well. But the rear-view mirror of life has a limited view. It has no peripheral vision whatsoever. Better learning comes from looking outside. It can only come from traveling to different places, from engaging with different people, from digesting other’s points of view.

That is my question of you. The unanimous answer to this question is always “Not Enough.” Mine included. We can never spend enough time looking ahead and trying to assess what is around the corner. The present is a heavy anchor and can often be overwhelming.

But I am trying. The fruits of my efforts will be what I share on March 15th. Spoiler alert – I am opinionated. But I will bring an opinion built on a framework that will communicate why I believe what I believe. The foundation of that framework is built on hundreds of conversations and connections that I engage with regularly. The daily dozens of articles (online and offline for the record), that I consume –  Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, ESP Sponsorship Report, Adweek, Sports Pro, Leaders, Stratechery, The Full Monty, WARC, Front Office Sports, Sport Techie, Charity Village Vibes.

Probably one of the most valuable pillars of this foundation are my travels. In the two years leading up to this presentation I will have attended a ridiculous number of conferences and events: CESNBA All-Star Game, NHL All-Star, South by Southwest, IEG, C2, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Canadian Sponsorship Forum, TIFF, Junos, Calgary Stampede, Korean Olympics, American Football Coaches Conference, Ipsos Back to School Event, AdWeek New York, Advertising Age Small Agency Conference, XLive… as soon as I press publish on this I will remember two more.

In addition to all of this ongoing learning I am purposely seeking out articles and cases regarding trends, the future, and what’s next. If you have thoughts, articles, or papers I should read, please forward! Even if it is just your best three guesses!

The trends such as Globalization, Market of One, Tech Impact, of course, will be a part of the discussion. But so will preparing yourself for the future. What types of skills will the future sponsorship marketer require? What will the client or the relationship manager of the future look like?

What new shapes will the definition of sponsorship take? Who will be the dominant player become – the property? The sponsor? The consumer? The public sector?

Will the currency of sponsorship continue to evolve? Literally or figuratively? Don’t you think that change is for certain? Hasn’t Blockchain made sure of it? Perhaps the currency of sponsorship will revert backward?

The best part of predicting the future is that you can never be wrong. The worst part is you can never be right. However, what you can be is provocative. You will not be able to sit through my presentation without disagreeing with some of it, being frightened by other parts, and being ready to race back to your virtual desk immediately to start revamping your career path.

That is one prediction I can promise you will come true on March 15th in Dublin.


Mark Harrison Future of Sponsorship Marketing