2021 Message from the Board

Steven Lewis,
Co-founder and President of XMC,
Chairperson of the SMCC Board

What a complicated but exciting time for our industry!

Sponsorship is inextricably linked to events and who could have imagined that events would be cancelled. Or if they did take place, they would do so without fans. And it’s those fans at those events that allow for the connection points between consumers and brands through the shared passion points of sport, music, culture, and cause.

As an industry, we have had to adapt to survive.

Agencies like mine have had to focus in on strategy, analytics, and digital initiatives while event execution waned. And from a theming standpoint, we pushed up our clients’ efforts in cause focus over entertainment as that’s what mattered to consumers.

Properties had to pivot to drive value for sponsors where physical experiential was not longer an option.

Brands had to rethink their partnerships…how to leverage them to drive ROI through an opaque backdrop.

The SMCC lives and breathes these machinations in lock step with our constituents. As the trusted sponsorship marketing authority in Canada, the SMCC is comprised of representatives from each of the agency, property, and brand sides of this industry. 

When I started in the role of Chair of this organization one year ago, I knew I was coming in at a challenging time – and here we are, one full year later. Although we are on more stable footing, the winds of uncertainty continue to oscillate around us.

But our goal as a Not-for-Profit representing this industry was to make progress in the face of that uncertainty. To do so, the Executive Committee of the SMCC (which includes Lisa Ferkel, Eric Nachman, and myself) created a strategic plan that was approved by your board of directors… a plan where we could identify what was important to us and a plan that we could measure ourselves against.

I’m delighted to share that through the efforts of our Board of Directors, committees, and sub-committees, we have made great progress in achieving our goals, both in short-term over the past year and moving toward our vision for the future.

So, let’s take a closer look at our Strategic Plan and how we did:

  1. Our Vision as an organization… is to be part of a world where sponsorship marketing is recognized as a vital, highly effective, and significant component of the marketing mix.
  2. And 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.
  3. As your board of directors, we were guided by 3 Strategic Imperatives:

First, we wanted to Grow Our Base. A successful NFP needs to have a healthy and expanding membership which is critical for long term sustainability. We increased our efforts on business development across the country, and employed a two-pronged approach centred on retention and net new adds. Our Activate!Mentorship program draws people into our industry and helps them become the next generation of leaders. I’m happy to say that we welcomed 40 mentors and 40 mentees in the 2021 program, and we are excited to see how the program will evolve in 2022 with the new addition of stewardship from Francis Dumais.

Growing our base means creating opportunities for participation and we are lucky that we had over 70 volunteers contribute on our various committees this year.

Finally, we can’t grow our base without thinking nationally. And I want to personally shout-out our regional leaders from the board for keeping the energy high across the country. We look forward to continuing to build momentum in BC, Alberta, Quebec and across this great country so thank you to Jenn Johnson, Tania Richards, Francis, and a shout out to Bill and Arthur for everything you do!

Second we wanted to add good content across all platforms, which not only adds value to members and an opportunity to put the spotlight on Foundational Partners, but also, it further establishes the SMCC as the trusted authority on sponsorship marketing in this country. I’m pleased to report that through the great work of our Education Committee, the SMA Committee and our agency partners at Redstone, we held 12 virtual events this year at the National level including the Sponsorship Marketing Awards and today’s AGM that have been well-attended across Canada. Included in that total are 9 webinars featuring an impressive 52 speakers, one third of which were from diverse backgrounds.

This year we have implemented a weekly membership newsletter that highlights what’s going on at the SMCC and in the industry at large. The newsletter allows members to make the most out of their membership with the SMCC by notifying them of upcoming events, contributing to the new industry news section of the newsletter, and keeping up to date on sponsorship job postings.

Finally, our third imperative was to Be Inclusive. A big focus in the 2021 Strategic Plan has been ensuring that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are at the forefront of everything we do. This past fiscal year, we formed the DE&I Committee, and the team has hit the ground running and has accomplished a lot to ensure that the SMCC is an inclusive and diverse organization. You’ll be hearing from the chair of that committee shortly.

So, let’s look at how we did in 2021:

It’s no secret that it has been a challenging time, but we are thrilled that we have been able to retain our members. Many organizations have been contracting, but our membership has remained stable in comparison to 2020. And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our foundational partners as they are integral to the funding and support of the SMCC, enabling us to host events, workshops, and various offerings for our members across the country. So, a special thank to our Foundational Partners, most of whom have already re-upped for the long term with us:

    1. Canadian Tire
    2. CIBC
    3. Kruger Products
    4. Live Nation
    5. MLSE
    6. Rogers
    7. Scotiabank
    8. Wasserman, and
    9. XMC

As we look ahead to 2022, we will continue to put a focus on acquiring new members and growing our national presence with the help of George Dudas and the entire Business Development Committee.

The SMAs are our signature event each year and the reality is that the level of activity in our industry was not even close to full steam. However, we hit our submission goals and came close to achieving our attendance goals despite operating in a “Zoom burnout” environment. This success is a testament to our co-chairs Christina and Rebecca, our Judges and Judging Chair Josh Epstein and the support of board members Lisa and Arthur along with our many volunteers. A huge thank you is also owed to our event sponsors such as the NBA, RBC, the NHL, Visa and the COC.

It was our goal to continue to diversifying of our board in our recent election. It was a board goal to see female directors at 30% and BIPOC representation at 15%. Achieving 100% of target on both metrics involved widening the funnel and encouraging more people to join us and help shape our path forward. Although we hit this target, achieving a state of true inclusion at all levels of our industry is and always will be a work in progress.

Overall, I couldn’t be prouder of our accomplishments in 2021 and look forward great things for our industry in the future.