Gemba Goes to IEG 2016. Learning & Fun Ensues.

Last week we packed our bags, kissed our honeys goodbye, and made the five-hour trek to The Windy City, Chi-Town, the City of the Big Shoulders or, as most people call it, Chicago. We went to Chicago.

IMG_8149IEG’s 33rd Annual Sponsorship Conference was going down so, naturally, we needed to be there. The event is the “single-best opportunity for properties to showcase their unique assets to new sponsors and for agencies and industry suppliers to demonstrate their capabilities to new partners.” Basically, it’s a mega networking opportunity designed to engage, provide insight, and kindle potential partnerships and sponsors across all industries.

We squeezed a ton of learning into three little days, and we even had some cocktails along the way. Here, our top 3 nuggets of industry wisdom gained from the conference:

1. Put consumer value at the top of your marketing priority list

Among the dozens of speakers and round table discussions was Karin Timpone’s keynote presentation on customers and relationships. Karin is the Global Marketing Officer at Marriott International, Inc., and she discussed the ways in which Marriott has shifted their marketing strategies to incorporate global partnerships that focus more on adding value to their customer’s lifestyles.


This theme of adding value was the red thread that echoed throughout the entire conference. We all know by now that the millennial generation is the most powerful storm of influencers of our time. They crave experience, connections, and consumer empowerment, and their loyalty and commitment are two traits most brands aim to capture. So it makes a ton of sense that more and more brands should shift their partnership strategies to include more personal brand engagement based on experiences and events, rather than traditional advertising.


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2. Sponsors are highly concerned with consumer attitude and brand awareness

The top three metrics sponsors use to measure campaign success: consumer’s attitudes toward collaborating brands (86%); consumer’s awareness of the brand, products, or service (81%); consumer’s awareness of existing sponsorship activation (78%). How are brands leveraging their sponsorships? Social media, public relations, and on-site activation (i.e. experiential engagements).

3. Embrace the big ideas

Our parents have told us to dream big all our lives, so we should all be really good at it by now, right? Eh, maybe not. As marketers, we can always think bigger, faster, and bolder. No idea or goal is too extreme, especially in today’s innovative society where anything seems possible. We’re all capable of producing mind-blowing ideas that have the potential to change the marketing landscape. The struggle, the thing that holds us back, is our fear of failure. If we can get past the fact that failure is inevitable, we can set aside our fears and spend more time exploring our creative ideas.


“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy


In Karin Timpone’s presentation, she gave an example of when Marriott stepped outside their conservative boundaries and took a chance on a big idea. To bring more awareness to their mobile check-in app, all Marriott Rewards Members who checked-in using the app were entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a share of millions of rewards points. The best part – the millionth member to check-in received the flash-mob surprise party of a lifetime when they arrived at their hotel. The party was complete with a DJ, acrobats, dancers, and the gift of 1 million rewards points, and it was all captured on film and shared socially.


The activation was unlike anything Marriott had ever done before. But with over 3.8 million views on YouTube (double the initial target) and nearly 100,000 mobile check-ins every week, their big idea resulted in great success for the brand.

All in all, the IEG Conference shed significant light on the importance of reinventing marketing strategies to incorporate bold, consumer-focused activations. And on a less business-related note, we also had the chance to drink cocktails at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, while networking with friends, new and old. So, to say the conference treated us well is a terrible understatement.

See ya next year, IEG.

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