Event Fulfillment Report: Finishing This Year and Initiating Next

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Remember when you procrastinated over research papers and discovered clever new ways to delay testing your hypothesis for that science fair project in junior high? Turns out, we’re all still in school; nearly every event organizer or performer feels their skin crawl and breaks out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of the phrases “event fulfillment” or “after-action report.”

Besides the actual sponsorship contract, the event fulfillment report is probably the most important document your air show business will produce, yet — shockingly — very few members produce one. “I think there are a number of reasons people don’t deliver after-action reports,” says Steve Kapur, GEICO Skytypers Squadron Marketing Officer. “Often, they are thinly staffed and have so many other priorities that they’re ‘shooting the closest alligator to the boat’ and never feel they have the time.”

Cleveland Air Show Marketing Director Kim Dell agrees: “Most of us are exhausted after an air show and have worked so hard to make it through the event that the last thing we want to do is work on a report.  But it is the final piece to the sponsorship process.”

The process begins when you’re finalizing the contract and have defined — with input from the sponsor — how success will be measured, whether it’s media exposure, market share increase, or client entertainment, to name a few typical criteria.

“Sponsors are business people first and foremost. They make their sponsorship decisions based on access to an audience they want to reach and delivery of causal factors they know will drive purchase. It’s important to agree with them – up front – how you will be measured,” explains Kapur. “Then, it is essential that you track the results and report back to your sponsors what you delivered. It validates the decision they’ve made to sponsor you and reassures them you’ve got their interests front and center in your plan.”

Most events and performers provide a basic summary outlining preliminary attendance and media exposure with a thank you letter 24 to 48 hours after the event. The closing line to this one-page letter should be the anticipated date of a detailed report, which includes a full accounting of all deliverables outlined in the contract.

For sponsored acts, knowing the sponsor’s goals is absolutely critical.

“There are several factors that we report to GEICO. We have an earned media program that we use to track impressions generated by the show and the value of that media exposure if they had had to purchase it,” says Kapur. “Another area that is important to GEICO is our work as ‘brand ambassadors.’  This is more difficult to quantify, but we spend time each day interacting with and signing autographs for air show guests.”

Capturing data and demographics typically appeals to all sponsors. Marvona Welsh, Logistic Manager for the CAF Red Tail Squadron, agrees. “All throughout the year, we keep stats on the number who attended the event: the numbers who registered, children vs. adults; the number of groups that came through the exhibit; and size of market,” explains Welsh. “For our report to potential sponsors, we also include the cities and states we have visited so far, but they are provided with the numbers who have been through the exhibit…again, children vs. adults and totals.”

Data Mining Gold

Preparing a comprehensive report bursting with details takes dedicated time, often a little sleuthing and some data mining, especially if you didn’t plan on how you were going to capture the information prior to the event.  Did you conduct a demographic survey during the event? Did you include psychographics? Did you ask attendees if they recognized the sponsor? Did you take photos of the banners and where they were displayed? Do you have photographic documentation of sponsor flights, chalets and seating? Did you snap screen grabs of advertising on websites or social media outlets?

“It’s happened to all of us at some point, where we saw a story online or a sponsor ran a promotion, but we forgot to grab an image during the event,” says Dell. “If you wait until after the event or the end of your show season, it will be too late, because it has either been archived or — worse — deleted.”

Website analytics have improved dramatically over the last few years, yielding a treasure trove of information, not only for sponsors, but also providing insight on how to shape and adapt your marketing plan. Tools such as Coremetrics, WebTrends or even free Google Analytics can define the event or performer’s reach, what or who is driving traffic, hot spots on the website, time on site, views and basic demographics.

Social media analytics are still evolving, but showing substantial improvement, even within the last year.  Facebook recently released a new page, “Insights,” which gives page owners actionable items to improve content and page engagement including when someone doesn’t like your posts.

The majority of performers and shows now consider Facebook a critical tool in their marketing plans while Twitter, Pinterest and others trail behind. “We make an effort to like the pages of the events we do and ask that they like us back.  That way, we can share information,” explains Welsh. “We use Facebook to advertise when we are set up in a public location, and the hours.  We try to take pictures of the exhibit or Mustang by some local icon, then create buzz because we just arrived in that city.”

Facebook and Twitter have also provided another affordable way for events or performers to run contests/sweepstakes promoting the show, as well as a sponsor.  Shows have created campaigns using admission tickets or even a “Best Seat in the House” or “crew for the day.” “It’s important to share these results with the sponsor,” explains Dell. “This would include the total number of ‘likes’ or ‘tweets,’ impressions and demographics.”

Beyond Binders

Each sponsor should receive a customized report that begins with an executive summary that includes the basic overview and moves into a custom portion. Specific sponsor photos and videos should be included along with a detailed report of benefits delivered.

What happens when volunteers neglected to hang a sponsor’s banner or forgot to deliver the public address announcements? Address the issue and present a solution on how it will be remedied next time. Maybe you promised the sponsor that 100,000 people would see their banner and only 20,000 people attended the show. If it was raining or traffic was backed up for miles, acknowledge it and be more conservative next time.

“We should also realize that these reports are not just judgmental, they’re diagnostic, too,” says Kapur. By creating the report, you can identify elements in your plan that didn’t work, and, by changing them, improve your results.”

All of this information can be printed, copied and consolidated into a three-ring binder, as long as you share tangible and quantifiable results in a manner that best tells your story. However, in the digital age sponsors expect a more robust report, with actual television commercials, radio spots and additional material in a PowerPoint or Keynote document, shared on a flash drive.

Thirty days after the event, meet face to face with the sponsor and review the fulfillment report with special attention given to how you delivered beyond the contracted benefits. “When we accept money from sponsors, we need to be stewards of those funds and realize we are creating partnerships. And partners care about each other’s success,” says Kapur.

Whether a sponsor is using the traditional cost-per-thousand advertising calculation or evaluating return on investment, embrace the fulfillment report as the easiest way to sell more sponsorship either through renewals from existing sponsors or as part of a case study to prospective sponsors.

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Deb Mitchell is a former broadcast journalist who ran the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia Beach, Virginia for several years and helped create the Air Show Buzz website.