A Letter from the Outgoing Chair – Steven Lewis

It has been an incredible six years since I joined the SMCC Board, and an amazing last two years as your Chair. We have been through a lot together – a pandemic, a war, a Twitter takeover, and events being cancelled or postponed. However, if 2022 is any indication, our industry is back and stronger than ever. Events are fully up and running again, fans are back in seats, and our organization is healthy and on-track thanks to all of you. 

Not surprisingly, however, our membership dipped during the pandemic, but I am happy to report that we have recovered and surpassed the levels we were at in 2019 before the pandemic. Thank you to Redstone Agency, George Dudas, and the Business Development Committee for their hard work in ensuring our membership base continues to grow. Membership growth in 2023 will be a goal we continue to strive for. 

I would also like to recognize our Foundational Partners, as none of this would be possible without them. They represent the three pillars of our industry: Brand, Agency, and Property. Thank you to our Brand Foundational Partners: Canadian Tire, CIBC, Scotiabank, and Rogers; thank you to our Property Foundational Partners: Live Nation and MLSE; and thank you to our Agency partners: Cinco, Nielsen, Wasserman, YouGov and XMC. In 2023, we hope to build on the momentum of the last 2 years and drive even more value for our Foundational Partners. 

In 2019, we established a strategic partnership with the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA). I am also happy to announce that our partnership with the CMA has been renewed for another year. Together, we created a joint strategic initiative, the Sponsorship Council. This council meets eight times a year to create thought leadership pieces to help raise the profile of the sponsorship marketing industry. Thank you to Mark Palmer for continuing to lead the charge on SMCC’s partnership with the CMA. 

This past year, our events team and volunteers produced over 20 events as we shifted from digital, to in-person and hybrid event formats. We were very grateful to be back in-person, but the pandemic also taught us how to produce better and more engaging digital content, which helps drive additional value for members across Canada. We will continue to offer digital content going forward, particularly recording our Breakfast Forums. I would like to thank Sion Ishmael and the entire Education Committee for curating one fabulous panel after another. 

Our signature event is the Sponsorship Marketing Awards (SMAs). I’m proud to say that in 2021, our first-ever virtual event was nominated in the Best Virtual Award Show category at the Canadian Event Awards. In 2022, we were fortunate to return to in-person at the Globe and Mail Centre. We had 57 submissions and over 300 attendees across the country. I’m confident that our 2023 SMAs will be even bigger and better than ever. The 2023 SMAs will recognize all of our great work in 2022 and will shift back to the Spring timeframe in May – dates will be shared soon. I want to thank all our sponsors for this year’s SMAs: Our Presenting Sponsors: Cinco, Live Nation, and Rogers; our Event Sponsors: Canadian Tire, COC, MLSE, NBA, Nielsen, NHL, RBC, Visa, Wasserman, XMC, and YouGov; and finally, our In-Kind Sponsors: Molson Coors, Coca-Cola, Guru, Offshore, Our Story, Silk, Sobeys, and Zero dB. Lastly, a big thank you goes to our SMAs Co-Chairs, Christina Raheja and Rebecca Shanks, our Judging Chair, Josh Epstein, and the wonderful group of volunteers that helped make this event possible. 

Our regional chapters worked hard to stay active and engaged throughout the pandemic. Some highlights include Calgary and Vancouver, which hosted in-person socials, as well as Montreal and Vancouver, which hosted in-person watch parties for the SMAs. I would also like to highlight Calgary, which once again held its annual and much-loved Stampede event, and Vancouver, which hosted an incredibly well-attended event in May focusing on the important and timely topic of events and reconciliation and “What Indigenous-Lead truly means”. I want to thank our volunteers, and mention that the Montreal Chapter is currently seeking volunteers to help make that region grow and thrive. 

Regarding marketing and communications, the Marketing Committee has been dedicated to optimizing communications and social media channels. Last year, we implemented a weekly newsletter that has since transitioned to a more fulsome monthly newsletter. We are also working with our Foundational Partners to drive new content and more value for our members. In fact, you may have seen marketing insights from YouGov and Nielsen, which you can find on the new Research page on the SMCC website. Finally, the Marketing Committee worked very closely with the DE&I Committee to make sure that we were aware of events of importance, culturally and otherwise, so that we could communicate in a timely, relevant and topical way with our membership. 

And speaking of DE&I, this has truly been a focus for our Board. We have overhauled our SMAs Judging Committee, we reviewed and completely re-worked our Activate! Mentorship Program, and we built a speaker series and Breakfast Forums that host panels that reflect the audience that we serve. As an organization, we still have much work to do, but we are making progress – and I want to thank Julian Franklin and the DE&I Committee for all the work they do to make a difference at the SMCC. Our Activate! Mentorship Program continues to be a successful and meaningful offering. This year, we welcomed 37 mentors and mentees into the program, and the feedback has been remarkable. For the 2022/23 mentorship cohort, we implemented a new rule to help diversify the program: if someone had been a mentor in the program for 3 or more years, we asked them to step down and make room for new mentors. We are so excited about this program, and it will be renewed for 2023, so keep an eye out for communications on that front. 

As an organization, we are very lucky to have over 70 volunteers who contribute immensely to our mission, vision, and help to push our strategic plan forward. We thank you for your continued support. Volunteering for the SMCC is a really great experience that helps you meet peers within the industry, and I encourage you to reach out to any of us if you are interested in getting involved. 

The last six years – and most definitely that last two as Chair – have flown by. When I became Chair, I worked with the Board to create a strategic plan to help guide us and all our initiatives. This plan included our vision, mission and strategic imperatives: 

Our vision is to live in a world where sponsorship marketing is recognized as a vital, highly effective and significant component of the marketing mix; 

Our mission is to grow the sponsorship marketing industry in Canada by helping brand marketers, agency partners and properties leverage the power of sponsorship marketing through education, collaboration, and access to best practices; and 

Finally, our strategic imperatives were to grow our membership base, add engaging content that provides value to our members, and to be inclusive. 

I’m confident that we have lived up to the expectations of the plan we enacted, and I believe that the SMCC, despite the pandemic, has never been in a better place. We have grown our membership base to over one thousand. We have added additional in-person programming, digital content and insight-led research, and we have incorporated a DE&I lens into everything that we do. We have also created KPIs to ensure that we can be held accountable for our actions, and I’m thrilled that we have overachieved on virtually every metric. 

With all of that said, I simply want to say a heartfelt thank you. A thank you to the entire Board, to the team at Redstone, and to you, our members, for helping to make the SMCC strong, healthy and trusted as Canada’s sponsorship authority. 

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