The Sponsorship Report launches Selling Sponsorships – Strategies for Success® in Toronto


Selling Sponsorships goes on the road. First, Ottawa, then rotating through Calgary and Vancouver.


Launch of Strategic Sponsorship Marketing; The Canadian Summit® in Toronto Jennifer Hilborn and Sarah Varley close their presentation, “Selling the Sizzle, Not the Steak”, with a powerful video. There’s not a dry eye in the house. Seriously. You had to have been there.


At Selling Sponsorships in Vancouver, we launch “The Two Minute Pitch” an interactive elevator-pitch session that has been often copied, but seldom matched.


We lose audio for the final session of the day. Fortunately, it’s Stephen Pruitt from the University of Kansas, who holds the audience in the palm of his hand as he demonstrates how the stock market responds to major sponsorship investments. Then he goes off-script (he can’t help himself, he says) and concludes with a brief piece on how his beloved Republican Party has shot itself in the foot for the upcoming Congressional mid-term elections in the United States, a discussion that extends well into the evening at the post-conference reception.


For most of the audience, it’s their first meeting with the incredible Collin Douma, who will for some time hold the record for most appearances at our conferences. These were still the early days of social media, and Collin was fresh from a meeting with Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) on the subject. Collin’s presentation on the emerging power of social media left people slack-jawed. And with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that he was absolutely spot-on right.

Gary Schwartz from Impact Mobile drives his bicycle into the lobby of the Sutton Place Hotel, arriving just in time to deliver his presentation.

Ersilia Serafini from the Clean Air Foundation and Gary Schwartz from Impact Mobile (metaphorically) beat conference organizer Mark Sabourin about the head with the 5 kg binder of paper that he has prepared for each of the attendees. Henceforth, Mark promises, forests will not be denuded to support the conference. Presentations will be made available online. And they are.


We discover The Grand Hotel and Suites, an absolutely delightful boutique hotel in downtown Toronto with a compact conference area, great guest rooms, incredible staff and about as good a kitchen as you’ll find anywhere. We’ve been there every year since.

Two words. Or is it three? Kim Skildum-Reid. She blows the doors off the joint.


John Lopes, at the time CMO of Andretti-Green Racing in Indianapolis. His biography can make you feel that your life on this earth has been a complete waste of time. He opens the conference with probably the loudest presentation we’ve ever done. When you’re talking about motorsport, it’s simply not possible to be restrained.

We launch Pimp My Deck!, an interactive session that allows properties to receive a gentle but honest critique of their sales deck, delivered by a leading expert. We always warn that it’s not for the faint-of-heart. There’s a chance that a well-intentioned stranger will tell you that your baby is ugly. But ask anyone who has ever taken part in this session what they think, and you’ll find the verdict is unanimous. That session alone is worth the price of admission.


We launch Pay it Forward in partnership with Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy (now Hilborn eNEWS). It’s a bursary program that provides complimentary admission to the conference to five deserving charitable organizations, who apply for the program through an online portal.

We welcome the incredible Bernie Mullin, President of the Aspire Group in Atlanta. Probably one of the most sought-after sponsorship advisors on the planet, Bernie is both superbly insightful and gracious with a session on how to make your fans the centrepiece of your activation program.

The always entertaining Scott Moore, then the Executive Director, CBC Sports, goes off-script with a tale involving himself, Geneva, humourless Swiss police, a flagpole and two-time Canadian pairs champion Debbi Wilkes, later to become a colour commentator for CBC. Of course Debbi Wilkes, now Director of Business Development for Skate Canada, is in the audience as the tale is told.

We launch our Social Media Speed Dating session to close the conference. A great concept. Everyone who attends calls it the high point of the conference. Unfortunately, half the house chooses to skip the session and book off early. We resolve to do better in 2011.


Paul Barber, the daring CEO of the Vancouver Whitecaps, takes us inside the thinking behind the franchise’s launch, now held up as one of the most successful sports launches ever. We didn’t know it at the time, but this turned out to be one of Canada’s last opportunities to hear from Paul in that capacity. He resigned effective February 2012 to pursue other opportunities, and in April resurfaced as a special adviser to the owners of Coventry City FC in England.

A great panel discussion on multicultural marketing led by Ray Kong of Ipsos Reid and featuring Jim Tobin from Scotiabank, Dave Hopkinson from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Jody Larose from Jody Larose Sponsorship & Marketing Alliances Inc.

WestJet joins the Pay it Forward program, allowing us to offer complimentary air fare to out-of-town bursary recipients.

We make certain everyone knows why they must attend the Social Media Speed Dating session at the end of day two. Everyone who attends calls it the high point of the conference. Unfortunately, half the house chooses to skip the session and book off early. We resolve not to do it again.


Three former Olympians in the house (one of whom was a welcome surprise). Curt Harnett (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996) and Ian Bird (1988, 2000) were scheduled presenters. Adam Van Koeverden was a very pleasant surprise, joining us to support friend and colleague Justin Kingsley.

And what about Justin Kingsley? For an hour, he had the audience eating out of his hand with a brilliant presentation on the link between sponsorship and storytelling.

When we invited Philip Spedding to present, we didn’t know this would be his first conference presentation in Canada. Having seen his presentation, we’re honoured to have been the first to bring him to these shores, and we’re confident we won’t be the last. Philip carefully and meticulously dissected the unexplored and unexploited (in Canada anyway) opportunities inherent in arts and culture sponsorship. As if that weren’t enough, he included the “Eyebrows” video. Sorry. You have to see it to believe it.

Things like this happen all the time at our conferences, and respect for privacy will usually compel us to stay quiet, but this one is now a matter of public record: One morning we couldn’t help but notice an intense conversation in one of our unused conference rooms between Michael Merrall of High Performance Marketing and Steve Ilkiw from PwC. From that meeting, Michael has confirmed, emerged title sponsorship of the Greater Toronto Area’s first GranFondo cycling event, the PwC Epic Tour, which hit the road running (or spinning) less than a year later. We’re proud to have played the role of midwife.


Lady Gaga and Kinky Boots. Courtesy of presenter Libby Biason, we hold two draws for a pair of VIP tickets to an exclusive evening with Lady Gaga. Courtesy of Sponsorship Toronto, those tickets aren’t drawn out of a humble fishbowl, but rather a pair of knee-high stiletto-heeled gold sequin boots. Then, at the close of the conference, we hold a draw for the boots. We even have a surprise visit from Lady Gaga herself, or perhaps a very good Gaga impersonator (we’re still not sure), near the opening of the conference to announce the prize.

CIBC sponsorship VP Monique Giroux has the unenviable task of following Lady Gaga, and she holds her own quite handily with a candid presentation of CIBC’s approach to Canada’s richly diverse demographic. Attendees also get an inside look at Canada’s biggest sponsorship story of 2013 – Canadian Tire. AVPs Matt Coorsh (pro sport) and Kim Saunders (amateur sport) sit down with host Mark Sabourin for a casual and enlightening conversation about the brand’s aggressive sports sponsorship strategy.

Newfoundland and Labrador is well represented at this year’s conference. Penelope Rowe from the Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador introduces causes and their partners to the concept of social return on investment. It’s a metric that could easily redefine how cause sponsorships are measured. One way all sponsorships are measured (or should be) is on the service the property delivers to its partner. Rob Mullowney of the St. John’s IceCaps gives a presentation on sponsor service that several attendees have described as the best they’ve ever experienced. Of course, from the IceCaps you should expect nothing short of overdelivery.


The launch of Ask the Expert. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for attendees: a private and confidential consultation with a top sponsorship expert, in this case Jody Larose. We ask attendees to bring a problem, “what’s keeping you up at night,” and to put it on our shoulders. Or, more specifically, Jody’s. Consultations are by appointment and available exclusively to Sponsorship Toronto attendees. They take place in a private setting behind a closed door. Vegas Rules apply: what’s said in the room stays in the room. But what’s said outside the room tells it all. “Worth the price of admission,” we hear. Several times.

So needless to say, we’re doing it again!


After a day-long buildup on November 3, some might call it over-the-top, the time comes for our big reveal. Cue video.

No sound. Attendees are treated to exciting footage of Sydney, but no background music, and only the lip-readers in the audience understand that Kim Skildum-Reid is announcing that she’ll be coming to Toronto for two workshops January 19 and 20, 2016, hosted by Sponsorship Week. #epicfail.

“That’s probably the most insightful question I’ve ever been asked.” So said Bell Canada VP Loring Phinney when, after a deep dive into Clara’s Big Ride, he was asked “How did it change you, personally?” His answer was pretty good, too.


We start the year off with a bang! There are a number of adjectives that can be applied to Australia’s Kim Skildum-Reid. The ones you often hear include Provocative, Outspoken, Skilled, Entertaining . . .  

After hosting Kim for two days of workshops, we’d like to add a few more: Brilliant. Dynamite. World-Class.

Kim is a captivating keynote speaker, but in our opinion, the workshop is the element in which she shines brightest. In two workshops, one aimed at sponsors, the other at sponsorship seekers, Kim challenged conventional wisdom, dared attendees to view sponsorship through several different lenses, equipped them with the tools they’ll need to turn their sponsorship programs around, coached them as they worked through their individual challenges, and then unleashed them onto the sponsorship landscape. 

The verdict was almost unanimous: The most valuable workshop they had ever attended.


The popularity of 2016’s Kim Skildum-Reid workshops, coupled with mounting evidence from post-event surveys, tell us it’s time to rethink Sponsorship Toronto — the two-day 20+ speaker conference that has served as the centrepiece of Sponsorship Week. Attendees tell us that even with a superb roster of presenters, there is limited value to be gained from a 45-minute presentation, and that even the sum of a day’s worth of presentations does not add up to the value that today’s sponsorship pros expect. 

So we reinvent Sponsorship Week, replacing the two-day omnibus conference with a series of day-long workshops that take a deep dive into the important topics that are driving success in today’s sponsorship marketplace.