I just encountered a situation that was frustrating, time consuming and a big turnoff but also one that let me see things from “the other side” because in the past “the shoe was on the other foot.” The issue: What happens when your company pays to sponsor an event and your competitors show up?

Earlier this week I was asked to “not attend” a seminar series which is part of an ongoing certification process I’m pursuing because an industry competitor (one I’ve encountered exactly once in 18 years) was sponsoring the breakout sessions. Having already paid a large fee and after presenting some reasonable assurances to the organization and the sponsor, I’m allowed to attend.

Several times in the past I’ve had to personally “un-invite” competitors that have planned to come to client education events my firm presents. Usually after hearing these events are ‘proprietary’ the competition respectfully relents. However, I have had people “crash” our seminars and being gracious to those less deserving sometimes is easier than calling the bouncers!

Presently, for my congregation I’m just starting the sales process for sponsorships of a unique event. Having been on both sides of this issue, I’m curious to see how the marketplace will react and what, if anything, they will demand.

As a sponsor of a B2B Marketing event when your competitor shows up in a sense, you’re paying money to gather a crowd to make it easier for them to network and solicit the same business you were going after. Your competition is at “the event” eating food you’ve paid for; drinking beverages you’ve financed and/or learning from the speakers, presentations, seminars that you’ve underwritten.

Ideally, the organizing entity of an event can control or address this without ruffled feathers and well in advance of a public faceoff! If they fail to do so then as the sponsor you can either appeal to your competitor to honor the exclusivity of the event and back out of attending; allow them to attend with a stern admonition regarding soliciting; be magnanimous and graciously welcome them to your event; or simply ignore them and encourage your team to work twice as hard.

To avoid the situation on the front side, some things to inquire about prior to agreeing to an event sponsorship include:

Whether or not your sponsorship allows you to dictate prohibiting anyone from attending?

 Whether or not your sponsorship is exclusive or category exclusive?

If non-exclusive, is there any guarantee of logo placement, activity separation, or classification of sponsorship level that will delineate each company’s recognition?

Is there an expectation of right of first refusal for future sponsorships?

Of course, both events and sponsorships come in all manner of varieties. There is a lot to consider, including the presence or lack of presence by your competition.