Key ingredients to a good Partnership Summit

Screenshot 2015-09-25 07.48.07Most properties conduct some form of a partnership summit.  I’ve attended, hosted and presented at dozens of them throughout the years.  Some are good and others are easily forgettable.  For those of you who play the role of host, it is not easy to plan and even more of a challenge to get the right people to attend.  A typical sponsor may be involved with 20 to 50 properties at any given time.  The bigger sponsors may be tied to 100 or more.  It is unrealistic to think a key decision maker is able to attend more than a handful of partnership summits at best in a given year.  Therefore, it really needs to be attractive and worthwhile.  The following are some best practices to consider when planning your next partner summit.

  • Ask your partners what they are looking for beforehand.

You will most likely get a variety of answers, but hopefully this will provide a consensus to build the summit around.  Some sponsors are interested in networking or B2B whereas others are looking for more education on industry trends or best practices.  A simple survey from your sponsors will help guide you.  A post summit survey is also a good idea.

  • Scheduling is key.

Time is precious so take into account how much you are asking for.  An overnight trip may be beneficial for a destination summit and allows for more relationship building.  However, this may also limit the number of decision makers who will attend.  A single day event within normal working hours at an easy to reach location may be just as effective and is likely to generate a strong turnout.  Some teams rotate a single day summit one year with more of a destination overnight format the following year.  Be sure to provide enough lead time with a formal save the date.  It is also important to determine the best time of year to host a summit so partners might be able to turn some of the ideas and relationships into part of their activation plan.

  • Content is King.

The biggest mistake I see is when the property makes it all about itself.  It is nice to get the inside scoop from the GM or a state of the union from the team president.  It does make partners feel important and a lot of them are also fans.  However, this should be kept to a minimum.  Sponsors want to see what other companies are doing.  They want to hear from industry experts about the topic of the day.  Don’t be afraid to bring in outside speakers who are well versed in something your partners are interested in.  Involve your partners and let them present.  Do something thought provoking.  If everyone walks away with a new idea or feeling like they learned something along with a few new contacts, then consider it a success.  Balance the business with socializing allowing for a good mix of both while keeping in mind why they are there.

  • Help fuel the networking.

name tagMost people who attend these summits list networking high on their list.  Try building in activities to help nourish this.  One of the best ways to do this is by separating everyone into smaller groups for a project or activity.  For example, 6 people all representing different companies are tasked with developing a cross promotion around the team involving each sponsor.  Then each group presents their idea to the rest of the attendees.  This not only forces people to meet each other, I’ve actually seen real promotions evolve from this.  Another good icebreaker is a ‘speed dating’ exercise where everyone spends a few minutes with another guest and then rotates.  At a recent Golden State Warriors summit they combined this with wine tasting, which was a big hit.  Assigning seats at dinner with a team representative present at each table also works well.  Anything to help make introductions and foster conversation is great.

  • It’s the little things that make a big difference.

This is where a good event planner earns their keep.  Everything from the save the date, invitation, transportation, location, venue, food, decorations, welcome note and parting gift makes an impression.  This is the ideal place for the power of the team to really shine.  Create a brand experience whether it’s at an off-site or at the arena/stadium.  At a recent Portland Trail Blazers summit, the room was filled with team imagery including pull up banners, a branded podium and team colored table settings.  Make sure the food and service is first class.  Give the guests an easy parting gift to travel with or better yet something to bring home for their kids since they are away.  Make it as simple as possible for them to attend.  Ask former and current players or coaching staff to attend.  Include a handwritten welcome note when the guests check in to the hotel.  All these little details add up to a memorable experience.


To do this right requires time and dedicated resources (people and budget).  It is not something to be thrown together last minute.  Keep in mind trade may be an option (e.g. hotel rooms, travel, etc.) too.  If done correctly, a good partner summit will help build and strengthen relationships while driving business for you and your partners.


Jason Klein is the founder of 88 Marketing and consults with brands and properties to help maximize their sponsorship marketing efforts.  He can be reached at and @88Marketing