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Is Your Brand Inspiring

I am intrigued by some new research recently shared by Steve Levy of Ipsos on inspiration in consumer behaviour and how brands should respond to it. Ipsos conducted this eye-opening study, and it got me thinking about what inspiration means to different people and how it can profoundly affect how we connect with brands.

Ipsos asked consumers a simple yet profound question: What does “inspiration” mean to you? The responses varied, but three key themes emerged: new ideas, innovation, and feeling positive. It’s heartening to know that over a third of us experience inspiration weekly, but it’s concerning that one in five of us hasn’t felt inspired in the past six months.

Regarding sources of inspiration, it’s clear that family plays a pivotal role, with 40% of people citing their family as their primary source of inspiration, compared to influencers (5%) and celebrities (4%). To become a source of inspiration, brands must align with consumer values. The research found that brands like Nike, Dove, Apple, and Adidas have successfully done this, and the key attributes they share are honesty, authenticity, and a commitment to giving back.

So, what can smaller or medium-sized businesses learn from this? To stand out, they should strive to be inspiring and personalized and connect with consumers on a familial level. But how can they do this effectively? Ipsos identified six elements of inspiration that resonate with consumers:

1. Overcoming challenges

2. A sense of accomplishment

3. A future-forward orientation

4. Learning, knowledge, and wisdom

5. The notion of creating something

6. A desire to do better and make an impact

Interestingly, the research reveals some generational trends. Generation Z, for instance, is more likely to seek inspiration from brands, with 47% reporting that they do. Cannabis brands also seem to inspire, with 53% of consumers saying they find inspiration there. For Generation X, who often find themselves strapped for time, the figure drops to 25%.

The frequency of inspiration also varies, with 34% of respondents saying they feel inspired every week, 21% monthly, and 45% less often. Surprisingly, despite our fascination with celebrities and social influencers, we tend to look closer to home for inspiration. Family and friends contribute 40% of our inspiration, while influencers only contribute 5%. This data highlights that inspiration is a deeply personal and intimate experience.

As advertisers and brands contemplate these findings, it’s crucial to recognize that inspiration is less about celebrities and more about the people closest to us – our loved ones and acquaintances. This insight challenges the conventional wisdom of relying on famous figures for endorsement.

Certain activities, even if not inherently inspiring, can trigger inspiration indirectly. For example, cooking inspires 35% of respondents (particularly millennials and females), gardening inspires 25% (more common among older individuals and females), and playing sports encourages 14% (mainly Gen Z and males). These activities may not be inherently inspiring but provide fertile ground for generating ideas.

Ultimately, the research reminds us that inspiration often comes from other people’s experiences, which ignite ideas for our actions. Brands like Nike, Apple, Adidas, and Dove have successfully harnessed these principles, focusing on design, quality, advertising, community engagement, and support for women.

Finally, the research asked if a brand has ever inspired consumers. Seventeen percent responded positively, with Gen Z showing a higher inclination. This finding suggests that what matters most is how a brand delivers its message and actions. Brands must provide quality products, innovate, and commit to doing good.

In summary, inspiration is a complex and deeply personal phenomenon with several vital elements. It’s less about celebrities and more about personal connections and shared values. Brands that wish to inspire should focus on aligning with these values and embodying the six elements of inspiration. By doing so, they can become a source of inspiration that resonates with consumers profoundly. So, ask yourself, is your brand an inspiration?

Scaling Mountains

You don’t have to look very far to see them. You don’t need to open your eyes to feel their looming presence as the dread they stir inside you grows. The mountains that marketers face seem to be more numerous every day. Some pop up unexpectedly, while others have been slowly coming into focus as your distance to them narrows. From economic uncertainty to political instability and financial upheaval, hear about a range of challenges that all need to be scaled somewhat simultaneously … and ask yourself, are my enterprise and team ready to climb them, and am I?

I didn’t realize when I set this as the theme for SponsorshipX Whistler 2023 and the opening keynote summary that I was creating a mountain for myself. It was not whether we could stage an event about overcoming challenges. No, selfishly, it was whether I could make a keynote worthy of the theme. This was the first time I was nervous about delivering a presentation in a long time.

Seriously, this was Pepto Bismol nausea. A few days before SponsorshipX kicked off, my stomach was contorted in pain, and the symptoms were so disgusting that they were not fit for this blog. At first, I was worried it was something I had eaten, but I quickly realized I was anxious about this new presentation. It was less to do with creating something new and much more to do with the fact that I had been relying on one keynote – A Conversation About Belonging- over the past two years, which I had delivered dozens of times. I had that keynote down cold, and giving it was second nature.

Now I had to talk about something to do with Scaling Mountains.

So I did, and the presentation I shared with our guests went like this. When faced with adversity, we can learn and develop. There is a significant conversation about this phenomenon right now. It is called Post-Traumatic Growth. To paraphrase the experts, this is a condition where some trauma has shattered your psychological beliefs, and the outcome is a changed self. This self often immerses themselves in a new life purpose. We educate ourselves for change, commit to service, find a higher calling, and disclose secrets to new friends.

Think of Terry Fox in finding compassion in the cancer ward when surrounded by child patients who, despite being very sick, were full of future optimism. Think about how the world responded to George Floyd’s murder or the conviction of Jamie Black to tackle the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous and Metis women.

After reading and thinking substantially about Post Traumatic Growth, it felt like a natural foundation for a discussion. My presentation became less keynote and more of a call for all of us to brainstorm how to use PTG to Scale Mountains. I offered our delegates five thought starters, which I will share now.


ADVOCATE: find a cause, a purpose, or a mission that is deeply important to you or your enterprise.
LIBERATE: We may commemorate Emancipation Day in Canada this week, but ask yourself: are Black people free in this world? Are women? Are queer folk? Companies can help liberate people by fighting for their rights.
COLLABORATE: if the pandemic, invasion of Ukraine, and the current global mental health crisis have shown us, we are all better off when we collaborate. Partnering today could save our business or our lives tomorrow.
INNOVATE: whether facing tight budgets or the uncertainty of AI, we need to innovate. But innovation is not about Technology or Process; it’s about People.
CELEBRATE: I went a little Tony Robbins on the group and asked everyone when was the last time they told themselves they loved themselves. I will ask you the same question. In an era where HR departments implore us to love our teams, you must prioritize self-love. A daily personal pep talk can help you be a better leader, and your teams will benefit from your self-care.

As a person who loves public speaking, it was odd for me to be rattled about presenting to my peers. Ironically, I needed the taste of my medicine and the Pepto to overcome the challenges.

There is a lesson for me – “Practice what you preach.” I may start using that.

I wonder if it will become popular.

Could Bill C-18 Negatively Impact Local Events?

The fallout from the decision by Google and Meta to pull Canadian news links from their platforms has raised concerns about the potential impact on local events, fundraisers, and community sponsorships. Bill C-18, the government’s new legislation addressing the relationship between tech giants and news outlets, has sparked a contentious debate about the future of the Canadian media industry. However, the implications of this bill extend beyond the media landscape and have significant consequences for local businesses and community initiatives.

Public Relations and Brand Building

One of the immediate consequences of Google and Meta’s decision is the impact on public relations and brand-building strategies. Brands rely on earned and organic social media exposure to enhance their visibility and reputation. With the removal of Canadian news links, the reach and impact of brand coverage in domestic media outlets may decrease significantly. This raises questions about the effectiveness of traditional media placements and the need to explore alternative avenues for reaching target audiences.

Furthermore, many brands have embraced the idea of positioning their social media accounts as news outlets themselves. The future of these branded “news sites” becomes uncertain in light of this ban. Will brands divert their resources to non-Canadian outlets to ensure wider coverage? Will they be forced to allocate more budget towards platform advertising to compensate for the loss of search visibility? These are critical considerations for businesses, particularly smaller ones with limited marketing budgets.

Impact on Small Businesses and Startups

The ban on Canadian news links can disproportionately impact small businesses and startups relying heavily on niche or local media outlets. Imagine a potential customer hearing about a brand through a radio advertisement and attempting to search for more information online. If major search engines no longer cover the local media outlet associated with that brand, it becomes unrealistic to expect the consumer to dig deeper. This not only hampers the visibility of local businesses but also undermines their ability to build credibility and brand recognition through word-of-mouth and PR efforts.

Community Events, Sponsorships, and Fundraisers

Local events, sponsorships, and community fundraisers heavily rely on effective marketing and promotion to attract participants and garner support. The ban on Canadian news links can make it significantly more difficult for these initiatives to reach their intended audience and generate engagement. Social media platforms are crucial in spreading information about such events, sharing updates, and recognizing sponsors. Access to these platforms is necessary for the exposure and visibility of local events to be greatly improved.

Moreover, the ban raises concerns about the financial viability of community sponsorships. Many local media outlets partner and collaborate with businesses to support community initiatives. However, if these outlets face reduced visibility and reach due to the ban, they may become less attractive to potential sponsors. This could lead to a decline in funding for local events, impacting their scale, quality, and ability to impact the community positively.

Evaluation and Research

As this ban unfolds, it will be interesting to see the empirical outcomes and evaluate its true impact on local events, sponsorships, and community initiatives. Researchers can examine the decline in social media exposure and subsequent effects on the value for partners and the success of these initiatives. By studying audience behaviour, information dissemination, and the overall health of local media ecosystems, we can gain valuable insights that inform future policy decisions and contribute to a more balanced and sustainable media landscape.

In conclusion, the potential impact of Bill C-18 on local events must be addressed. Major tech platforms’ ban on Canadian news links can hinder public relations efforts, impact small businesses and startups, and disrupt community events, sponsorships, and fundraisers. As we navigate the complexities of this legislative landscape, it is crucial to conduct ongoing evaluation and research to understand the full extent of these implications. By doing so, we can work towards mitigating the negative effects.

Hopefully.

Paris 2024 – Nouveau Games


Recently I was fortunate to be in Paris with the Canadian Olympic Committee and some of their commercial partners for an orientation trip ahead of the 2024 Games. 

Our itinerary featured a dinner cruise on the Seine, while incredibly scenic, will not compare to the spectacle the Paris organizing committee is planning for the Olympics opening ceremony. They have decided to eschew the traditional in-stadium opening ceremony and instead create a flotilla of boats carrying 10,000 athletes through a six-kilometre stretch of the city down the Seine. Three hours after the first boat departs and the French delegation arrives, the final torchbearer will pass the flame to the games-time torch at the  Eiffel Tower. 

In addition to the 10,000 athletes on the river, there will be 100,000 spectators in paid seating, free fan zones for another 400,000 spectators, 80 giant screens displaying the event, and some 35,000 police to keep everyone safe. Mind-boggling.

The Paris 2024 committee is working hard to provide access to people who want to attend the games, as this will be the first Olympics since 2018 where companies and spectators can fully embrace attending, activating, and hosting the Games. The pent-up demand is palatable. Already the organizers have sold nearly seven million tickets. 

The entire presence of fans is an integral part of the Olympics. The pandemic taught us that sport is not without fans in the stands. Live crowds bring the energy, emotion, and home team advantage that no technology we currently have in our grasp can do. In addition, the opportunity for friends and family to cheer loved ones will be a fantastic reboot. Nearly 70% of athletes only compete in one Olympics. Hence many of 2020(1) and 2022 participants lost the opportunity to share the moment in real life with their closest supporters.

The Paris Games will soon hit the one-year-out mark, and the Olympic torch relay will be upon us before we know it. IOC and NOC partners worldwide are finetuning activities and amplification plans to capitalize on this moment of total return post-pandemic. Sooner than we can imagine, billions of spectators will be tuning into broadcasts and following their heroes on social media. 

On the ground, live sites and country houses are in the design and budgeting phase, while the new hospitality programs for the IOC and OnLocation are on sale globally. This innovative concept is another exciting part of the Games where for the first time, individuals with no corporate affiliation can purchase an official Olympic event package that includes hospitality at the venue, tickets, and sightseeing options. The delivery of these packages is through first of its kind e-commerce site, and customers will even receive access to a unique hospitality center, Club 24, located in the Palais Tokyo Salon 24 near the Eiffel Tower. 

Navigating these significant changes will test marketers globally to rethink their Olympic playbooks. The return of fans will provide a boost to those who activate in France, those who have access to the torch, and those who create domestic campaigns to support their athletes. 

How it plays out will require a new scoreboard for evaluation and assessment. But I suspect the innovations we see here will quickly appear across significant properties worldwide. 

Succession

Have you heard what happened during the last episode of Succession?

According to what I read in Strategy Magazine over the weekend, the legendary Noel O’Dea is handing the keys to independent agency Target over to Catherine Kelly. The 45-year-old agency is living proof that the “world needs more Newfoundland,” and Kelly is the right person for the job, according to O’Dea after her twenty-five years with the agency.

Not the Succession story you were expecting from me?

Were you hoping to hear more about my handing the reins of T1 over to Liz Rose and Nithya Ramachandran on January 1st? How have the two of them and the entire T1 Leadership Team seamlessly transformed our business into a complete stack sponsorship innovator bleeding strategy, activation, and amplification for impactful brands?

Hmm. I suspect I am at two strikes, and what you came here for is my hot take on the HBO hit – Succession. Well, I will not scream “I LOVE it” at the top of my lungs as I only watched one episode, the finale, and I can’t say it had me wanting to go back for more.

One of the reasons the show is so successful is that the topic of Succession is one that many of us can relate to. Even those without a business background may have gone through legacy-like situations, including dealing with estate planning, will probates, or even less significant moments, such as who will run the office sports pool.

But really, how many of us can relate to being billionaires?

In entrepreneurship, there are at least three sides to every Succession. First is the incumbent, often the person or persons who started the operation. Second, are the candidates, those who want to ascend to and perceive they have a shot at the throne. Then there are the masses jockeying for position, casting and recasting their support while fretting over their future.

I am in the middle of my Succession and very happy to report it is far from a soap opera. It has been purposeful and intentional and not designed to attract the ratings that an HBO series does. In one respect handing the reins of T1 over has been easier than I imagined because it didn’t coincide with my retiring or exiting the industry. I now focus on business development, networking, future-proofing, and storytelling, to borrow a word from Noel.

However, it has been challenging, and there are some things you need to consider if Succession is on the horizon for you. First and foremost, you must find or develop new self-control muscles and habits you had never previously possessed. This new self-control applies to the small everyday items even more than the big decisions. You will have to learn to let the multiple occasions that occur daily go by without fretting over them. For example, the shades of these balloons may have been your favourite decision to make at past company events, and you may still have the itching; however, your comments on them will be perceived as your inability to put a lid on your hot air.

Who gets hired, who gets fired, who gets paid what? The more significant issues that are very important to the organization you relinquish is how you adapt to not weighing in on them. If choices are being made you disagree with, consider that progress towards the transformation of a company that will be even more fit for the future.

The relinquishing of control is made more accessible through many conversations, frank discussions about value, and a lockstep alignment around financials. Especially financials. Being an entrepreneur is not a fantasy. It can be gratifying, life-changing, and society-making. However, these outcomes can only be achieved if the venture is sustainable and viable. Having a stake in the game is what separates the person who is entrepreneurial from the entrepreneur. This is a tricky tightrope in a succession exercise, mainly when commitment or investment mismatches occur.

In a direct line succession where the new regime has bought out the founders, there is usually less tension around the financials if the financial commitment of purchase has been satisfied. This, too, can become complicated when an additional earnout is in place for the founders or if the seller is financing the buyer. This can be an area of friction in situations even where this is well-documented.

Legacy, reputation, and brand are the most emotional components of any succession process. Often founders feel that the acquiring or succeeding group needs to provide more value or care to clients and customers than they do. This can be exasperating in some situations, to the point where some founders will try to complete their earnout period on an accelerated base. If not, abandon it altogether. It is hard for them to watch someone else mistreat their baby.

As you have been reading this, you may be ready to argue that even a local business succession event could have much of the same drama as a TV show. The well-written script of the transition process is apt to be stained by emotion and tension that inevitably comes through in something so central to human survival.

Who knows. HBO may need a Succession capsule on Survivor to keep as an epilogue. Or maybe I shouldn’t make these suggestions, as I have never seen an episode of Survivor either.

29 Candles

On May 16th, T1 has the honour of decorating our company birthday cake with twenty-nine candles. 

birthday cake with candles number 29 isolated on white background

The flaming passion for this business is even hotter than when I launched it from my home office. That was back when nobody worked from home. My reasoning was economic, not pandemic. 

I am less interested in looking back at the past twenty-nine years and more looking towards the next twenty-nine. Anniversaries, milestones, and birthdays are significant to celebrate and recognize achievement. Yet they can also be a trap. 

The speed at which the world changes. The need for individuals to grow constantly. The shifting desires customers. The headwinds and tailwinds of society all contribute to a need to ensure your compass is pointing North. 

I have done a lot of public speaking in the past three years, where I have stated my North Star changed, primarily due to George Floyd’s murder. When I first launched my business, I would liken much of my motivation to my need for independence. I wanted to succeed or fail based on my own decisions, not others. 

Over time my North Star gravitated to our impact, whether creating great jobs for people, helping our clients succeed, or being part of a great business community. 

About a decade ago, when I discovered I had seven half-siblings I didn’t know about (part of my adoption backstory), I doubled down on the theme that having my own business was driven by a subconscious need to never rely on others. I say this in concert with the comment that I won the adoption lottery, and Ron & Ann Harrison are two people even a stranger could rely on. 

Then came the horrific George Floyd murder, and I deemed that my business became a platform to help those in the Black community I had never adequately supported. 

When I was a kid, the Jeffersons were a favourite show. The theme song ran along the lines of « moving on up to the East Side, to a dee-luxe apartment in the sky. ». The pioneering show told the story of a Black man ascending in society. The Jefferson’s was laced with stereotypes and bigotry, yet funny and unapologetic, the show broke through the day’s programming and set precedents. While the main character, George, could be a bit of an egomaniac and not always empathetic, the most important lesson that has always stuck with me is that you must take control of your future. 

Not everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. Nor should they. Not everyone wants to do the same job for twenty-nine years. Nor should they. But everyone should look at the milestones they are fortunate enough to achieve and give thanks to those who have helped them, reflect on what they have learned, and, more importantly, double down on their commitment to themselves to plot their destiny. 

In doing so, they will have more reasons to celebrate; they will have more to share with those who have helped them and more to share with those who need help. 

From Halifax, With Love

by Mark Harrison

I love Halifax. I have been dozens of times, and the experience magically seems more special each time than the last. Over the past weekend, I was a guest at the East Coast Music Awards, an invitation I eagerly accepted after attending the 2019 event in Charlottetown. (Thanks to the East Coast Music Association for having me!) Personally and professionally, it was time well spent for my soul and brain. I have a few goals in mind whenever I go to an event.

First, we are blessed in our industry to be able to mix and pleasure. How many professions allow you to build friendships, experience new cultures, and gather ideas simultaneously? In a nutshell, that was my weekend at the East Coast Music Awards. I met many people, and in the name-dropping category, it was fun to talk with Heather Rankin of the Rankin Family, a favourite of the generation that loves roots music. I recognized her as a singer-songwriter. However, she is also an actress, comedian and entrepreneur. The Red Shoe Pub is her seasonal spot in Cape Breton and is now high on my list for a family trip.

My brain enjoyed assessing the Red Carpet for the awards show, an energetic activity zone featuring Atlantic Lottery, Libra, Dairy Farmers of Canada, and local breweries.

 It was like a moving sidewalk in a mall of promotions and engagements. I loved the transformation of the dreaded event lineup into an engaging attraction zone for the fans fortunate enough to have a wristband.

One thing I loved about the receptions I attended is the focus was on people connecting and not politicians speaking. Of course, being a great hostess requires preparation, thought, and discipline. But, there is a magical balance between telling people your message and allowing them to live it. Kudos to the ECMA for finding that balance. Galas, receptions, showcases, and activations are all vital elements to any award show, yet the ECMA conference sessions may have the most long-term impact. Designed to build the music industry, guide emerging artists, provide resources for marginalized talent, and network for unknown people, it will amplify the “GDP” of the Atlantic music industry for years to come. Convening to build business is time well invested.

The East Coast Music Awards gala, honoured the amazing Natalie MacMaster with the special director’s award. She performed with her seventeen-year-old daughter to close out the awards show. The standing ovation she received was well-deserved and heartfelt. However, there was no resting on her laurels as Natalie and her daughter turned up in the Marriott hotel lobby two hours later and started to perform again. Surprise and delight never get old, something all marketers can learn.

For Sale

Last week I had the honour of moderating the SMCC Toronto breakfast panel on Sponsorship Sales Do’s & Dont’s.

Our All-Star panel featured Marsha Gaye Knight(CBC), Sharolyn Kenworthy (Bell), Julie Garcia Sjogrim (Canadian Olympic Committee), and Rob Balsom (Nielsen). This fearless foursome dropped some excellent advice for our audience, including:

  • Be passionate about what you are offering.
  • Get to know the person you are dealing with
  • Get to know the company you are dealing with
  • Use different data at different times in the sales process
  • When negotiating, leave all your cards on the table.

After the panel, someone asked me to share my advice if I was on the forum and my top three lessons for business development in the sponsorship sphere. (Or I am using this cheap segue to write a blog because I can’t help but drop my opinion on any topic). Either way, here goes. 

Lesson # 1 – Build Your Brand

The first hurdle for any prospective sponsor is whether they trust you as an individual. Your brand is as essential as the organization’s brand you represent. The buyer is assessing whether they can put you as the seller forward to her boss and whether you are worthy of their endorsement. Is the seller investing in a partnership with the property or a partnership with you? Ultimately it is both, but if the buyer doesn’t believe you can deliver, they will not think your party can provide. 

Lesson # 2- Understand Your Value

Often, smaller properties, amateur sports, not-for-profit, and charities do not understand their true worth to a corporate sponsor. Again, there is an issue with an inferiority complex and a lack of effort to mine their value. If you will not do the work, why should someone else? Smaller properties will never compete with large properties on impressions or eyeballs. Yet they often position themselves as a cost-effective niche alternative to mass. Instead, they should emphasize and validate their worth based on their impact, intellectual property, subject matter expertise, and emotional appeal. While it is more complicated than sharing reach data to validate, the effort is worth the return. Sponsorship can be at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy, and your property can be the central nervous system that powers it.

Lesson # 3 – Solve Problems

A potential sponsor, both the individual and the enterprise, has as many or more problems as you and your organization have. Yes, you need money to tackle many of your concerns, and ostensibly, our industry depends on your securing funding from a partner. The best way to persuade that partner to part with their cash is to demonstrate how you will solve their problems. Pain is a universally more powerful motivator than pleasure. You can understand a prospect’s pain by diving deep to understand their business and asses where you can help solve their issues. 

Selling, business development, and revenue growth is a challenging tasks. It is not for the faint of heart. However, the lesson I left out is the most important. It would be best to sell yourself to yourself every day before you could sell to anyone else. 

Start there, and thank me later!

Underrated Royalty: La Royauté Sous-Estimée

When Shahaddah Jack invites you to snap your fingers, you snap.

When Shahaddah Jack invites you to stomp your feet, you stomp.

When Shahaddah Jack invites you to write poetry, you write.

Shahaddah Jack

When my client at BGC (https://www.bgccan.com/en/) invited me to their 2023 Partner Summit, I had no idea I would meet Shahaddah Jack. Let alone the impact she would have on me, which was only rivalled by the effect created by her mother, Laurette Jack.

Let’s start with Shahaddah. She is BGC Canada’s 2022 National Youth of the Year. She is an aspiring journalist who wants to be in front of the camera, amplifying the voices of others. She is a poet. A bilingual one at that. Plus, she is an author. Her energy, enthusiasm, and beliefs are so powerful. I love the fact that she preaches that your pain is your strength. Your pain is your strength. Shahaddah’s first book- Underrated Royalty, now on its way to my bookshelf, is described on Amazon as follows. 

For decades, we’ve been living in a pandemic of black voices being silenced and filtered. In the mainstream media, there is a trend of black excellence and beauty being told through whispers in the background of stories monopolizing black trauma. Our existence as a community is a statement alone that transcends an endless timeline of racial injustices. Our melanated magnificence that shines in these series of photos and poems is a representation of the legacy that we as a community will leave behind—-Our pain is our power and our beauty is our story.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the inspiration for Shahaddah were the underrated royalty who raised her, her mother, Lorette. Lorette Jack is the Club Leader for BGC Eastview, the de facto mayor of the neighbourhood, and a frontline warrior. So often, when people, myself included, volunteer for boards or talk about making change, we do so from a place of economic and geographic privilege. My bubble of Little Italy, Rosedale for work, and Lawrence Park for squash are far from the reality of Toronto at Blake Street. 

But Blake Street, and all the Blake Streets, are where you will find the true changemakers in this city. Lorette ensures the kids in her club are fed, considered, and safe. She manages parole officers, parents, and peers with equal courage and aplomb. There is no fear in her; if there is, she hides it so well. We should all strive for the courage of Laurette. 

In the middle of the day, several other youths joined Shahaddah for a panel discussion. There were many themes, but the ones that rang the loudest were their concerns about mental health for the youth of Toronto. These young Changemakers are leaders in their schools and see the impacts of today’s society on the next generations. I asked them in the Q&A what one request they would have for a Toronto Mayoral candidate. It was to tackle youth mental health. I hope anyone reading this pauses and reflects when they vote for their elected officials at any level and challenges them to commit to allocating the resources we need to tackle this issue. 

Shahhadah shared several poems with us; they were all snap, stomp, and standing ovation worthy. 

She also asked all summit attendees to take a moment and write a poem representing our current mindset. To reflect on why we were here and how we got here. What happened when we were young?

 I started delivering papers in my hometown when I was eight or nine. I always wondered on those cold nights what the people inside their warm homes were thinking of when they saw me trudge up my driveway. 

I am a fan when someone can impact me when speaking. I am a superfan when an eighteen-year-old can. So in her honour, I will share the twelve sentences; I don’t know if you can call it a poem I wrote at Shahaddahs’ urging. 

The Paper Boy

I am the paper boy. 
I am the boy who brings your paper. 
I am the boy who brings the news. 
 
The news you read inside your home. 
The news you read happening outside your doors.
The news you read is left between them.  
 
I am the paper boy who stands outside. 
I am the paper boy who cannot hide. 
I am the paper boy you won’t bring inside. 
 
The news you read is about my world. 
The news you read is not your problem. 
The news you read is heading next door. 

– Mark Harrison

Community. Culture. Connection.

The theme for the 2023 MLSE Partnership Summit – was Community. Culture. Connection. – strongly resonated with the 600-plus partners and guests attending Scotiabank Arena on April 6th. It was a fantastic collection of attendees representing a large swath of the sponsorship community with the privilege of connecting to influence culture. (See what I did there?)

The Community pillar shone through special guest Joanna Griffith’s conversation about how she has built her powerful brand Knix. As she said, who would have imagined talking about period underwear on the same stage that hosts mega-celebrities? But, Knix and Joanna have earned that right by serving their Community and being an integral part of their brand community. 

The impactful words and lessons of keynoter Jarvis Sam powered the Culture pillar. His ability to weave facts and friction, yes friction, to deliver a lasting message is second to none. Jarvis breaks down the barriers we face to achieving equality in a way that has you wondering why we are still on this journey that Julian Franklin spoke so eloquently about when he thanked Jarvis. 

Connection with your customer is a metaphor for brand power, and MLSE showed this off in spades. Yet the best connections of the day were the ones made between the attendees. So no matter how much tech or social amplification we experience in our business, it all begins with live engagement. 

If you are a mid-size or smaller property reading this, you may have convinced yourself that you can’t pull off a powerful summit like an MLSE can. I would beg you to extinguish those thoughts from your mind. You most definitely should stage such a summit to build your business. Because I like to be repetitive, I will argue that you can use a framework such as What Sponsors Want to program a day that mirrors the fantastic program that MLSE shared. 

  1. Leverage your organization’s EQUITY by showcasing your value proposition to your attendees. One thing I enjoyed that MLSE did was showcase rising stars in their organization. 
  2. Tell a great STORY or five about how you have worked with partners. OLG and several other brands had a chance to have their activations highlighted during the day. 
  3. ENGAGE your stakeholders, which, quite frankly, is the act of hosting the summit. 
  4. Show PROOF as MLSE did, where they demonstrated how their technological activations are driving more substantial results for partners. 
  5. Get your clients PROMOTED. This summit was a thought-provoking day that gave everyone in the room new ideas they could use, whether it be with their MLSE partnership or any other of their programs. 

Community. Culture. Connection.

It could be the next and best three chapters in any book about sponsorship marketing.