Should vendors be investing in analyst conference sponsorships in 2009?

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgIt their Q4 and full year 2008 earnings calls, both Gartner (2/5/09) and Forrester (2/11/09) commented on how the recession is impacting enterprise end user attendance at their events. Example statements:

Gartner CEO Gene Hall “As discussed on our last earnings call that business has been impacted by corporate travel restrictions which have made it more difficult for our clients to attend our events.”

 Forrester COO Charles Rutstein “As you might expect, the events business has been softer than it has been historically. That’s largely tied to people’s travel budgets being down.”

 Both Forrester and Gartner projected Event revenue declines for 2009 due to both decreased attendee ticket sales and lack of vendor sponsorships.

So that brings up an important question for IT and telecommunications vendors:

            Should you be sponsoring analyst events in 2009?

If the analyst firms are expecting fewer attendees – i.e., potential prospects – why should vendors waste money sponsoring an event? Remember the fee to the analyst firm is only part of the overall event cost to you and often not even a large percentage. Significant resources (e.g., labor bandwidth and budget) are spent on preparing booth displays, staffing the event, special side events like receptions, and so on.

Some vendors may automatically sign up just because they have always sponsored a particular event.  Others may not take advantage of a potentially useful sponsorship because 2009 is a year of cut backs.  A better approach is for vendors to seriously evaluate the pros and cons of sponsorships in 2009. For example, having a higher profile at an event because your competitors declined to sponsor could more than offset the lower attendance by IT managers. In this case, the opportunity is more of a quality than quantity play. On the other hand, if the analyst firm is only keeping the event on the schedule because the cancellation fees would be so high then the vendor has to seriously consider whether there will be even a minimal number of attendees.

One important point to keep in mind is that vendors should not worry that lack of sponsorship will hurt the relationship with analysts. Analysts are not compensated based on vendor sponsorship of events.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Keep an open mind about sponsoring analyst events
  • Set up a tiger team of cross discipline participants (e.g., marketing, lead management, AR, PR and so on) to conduct a complete analysis of the opportunities
  • Negotiate hard with analyst firms over sponsorships, it’s a buyers’ market

 SageCircle has announced a SageCircle Special Webinar: Impact of the Recession on the Analysts and AR – Time for Ruthless Action. In this 90-minute webinar we will look at the last recession in comparison to this recession, the impact of this recession on the analyst ecosystem and what steps analyst relations (AR) programs need to take to ensure that their companies continue to work effectively with the IT and telecommunications analysts during this recession. Next scheduled session is Tuesday, February 17th. It is also available for in-house sessions for vendors who wish a private presentation and Q&A.

Bottom Line: SageCircle is not going to suggest in the limited space of a blog post that vendors should or should not sponsor a Forrester or Gartner event in 2009. Every vendor’s situation is unique. However, we strongly recommend that vendors do not automatically spend the money on conference sponsorship simply because “we always sponsor.” 2009 is an appropriate time for vendors to do a zero-based analysis of the real business value of sponsorship.

Question: Vendors – Have you done a serious evaluation of the value of sponsoring analyst events? End users – Would you think less – or even notice – of a vendor that did not have a booth at a Forrester or Gartner event?




  1. […] Should vendors be investing in analyst conference sponsorships in 2009? « SageCircle Blog "One important point to keep in mind is that vendors should not worry that lack of sponsorship will hurt the relationship with analysts." — an incredibly naive view, in my opinion. Many vendors indicate privately that they are afraid to not sponsor a Gartner conference because of how it might damage their relationship, and therefore their future rankings. With Gartner and Forrester making such huge revenues from their conferences, failure of a vendor to put up the 10's of 1000's necessary for a sponsorship (plus their own booth and staffing costs) will impact the analysts' bottom line, and has to have some impact on the relationship. (tags: analysts) Posted by Sandy Kemsley on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, at 12:01 pm. Filed under Links. Follow any responses to this post with its comments RSS feed. You can post a comment or trackback from your blog. […]

  2. Interestingly enough, I have not seen Gartner, Forrester etc change their strategies greatly as to how they are marketing their conferences this year. No big changes in agendas/content, likewise for new/OOB thinking on what new/better value they can provide attendees (both vendors and end users). Biggest change so far is that some conferences have been roadkill given the economy. Analysts I have spoke with so far say that they won’t treat/assess vendors who have “bow out” for a period….

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