Media buying and sponsorships are archaic and hence tiresome processes, untouched by the winds of technology. Leading up to even the biggest banner events are days and nights of cold-calling, and unproductive drop-ins; backstage on D-Day, are sponsor companies bellowing at exasperated organisers about how their saree brand is being advertised to teens. And in worst case scenarios are absconding brand managers and cheques with the balance amounts worth perhaps the entire rent of your venue. Hitesh Gossain thought this working relationship between events and sponsors holds great potential to turn into a business, if the right events are united with the right sponsors. Onspon.com was his solution- a marketplace where advertising brands can meet the perfect events and festivals to get the exposure they desire.
Hitesh studied in Agra till his 12th grade and then moved to the hilly state of Uttaranchalwhere he completed his engineering from Pantnagar University.He then went on to procure his MBA from IIM-A. He was the youngest manager at Marsand the youngest General Manager and member of board at M&A in Singapore. He had had a rather illustrious, and rather well-paying, he adds, career.
Sitting in his air-conditioned room when life was luxurious and certain, he was brainstorming with his team at work afterorganising the biggest event in its category, about how,contrary to everyone’s expectations and how they had taken the process for granted, getting sponsors turned out to be a gargantuan task. The same day, Hitesh had a mindshare with a brand head - and was told that they would have probably sponsored that event but they 'thought' it would have been out of their price league. “So, here I was - coming across both sides of table - who were just separated by a thin line of information asymmetry - and that’s when I thought of Onspon,” says 38-year-old Hitesh of his eureka moment.
The problem was simple –uniting the best events hosted by top brands and organisations, with the best sponsors who stand to benefit equally from the deal.
The solution is a technology-based simple marketplace model that aggregates and curates the best events available for sponsorships and neatly dissects them, as per brand needs, to present to the right brands. The backend algorithms are all-round brand decision-making parameters, that advertisers and sponsors usually take into account before shaking on it with an event.
“The idea is to help them understand how to do it - and do it in a scalable manner. Hence, the plan was to have maximum events listed and the maximum brands to view them. Thus, we created two teams - one to seek events and the other to seek brands,” explains Hitesh.
By listing their events on Onspon, the events get inon thedatabase of brands or their agencies that are looking to advertise and collaborate. The basic listing is free. There is also a premium package, which comes with host of features like automated event dissipation, enhanced visibility, custom PPT creation, event story creation on video, social media amplification, etc. Besides the listing fee, which is fixed, they also collect a cut, or a fund raising fee, which corresponds to the sponsorship amounts raised.
As they are a marketplace, they have two distinct audiences:
The sponsorship seekers are the event organisers who could be anyone from organisations, smaller outfits who do events right from big ticket sports leagues to community events like Durga Pooja, industry bodies and exhibition organisations who organise industry conferences and exhibitions, and lastly, colleges, for college festivals and other events.
Their other audience is brands, or the sponsors, in the form of their brand managers and media managers, who take the final decisions on money deployment for brand. There are also the brand’s media buying and advertising agencies, which are signed up on the portal.
As they were trying to disrupt a very archaic media sales setup, there was a lot of resistance by the agencies who are the brand’s custodians, on media-procurement decisions. “Event sponsorships happen to be non-traditional media. Here my experience of working with one of the biggest EMC organisations came handy. We created a structure where agencies benefit tremendously from our algorithms and use it to recommend their clients the best partnership opportunities - which as almost impossible earlier,” says Hitesh.
Currently, Onspon has put together a database of 13,500 event managers and 450 brands, all rollovers, and facilitated transactions worth over Rs 37 crore over the last year itself, clocking revenues of over Rs 1.2 crore.
Event sponsorships is a $56 billion market globally, but the event management market is a $600billion space. There are multiple small time consulting companies which do it on project basis. However, there isn't anyone with a marketplace model. There are a few global peers like sponsormyevent.com , sponsorist.com, sponsorhub.com, etc. On a product enhancement level, there is IEG, which is the biggest consulting company for sponsorships globally.However, India is a very different market where the average value per event is lower and the sheer numbers are massive. “The brands also are keen on engagement matrices which can be established only at a certain scale and hence, we think we are poised to create significant traction in this space,” opines Hitesh.
They even raised an angel round of Rs. 1 Crore led by Swan Angel Network, and some other HNIs. Teasing what’s next, Hitesh says,
As sponsorships are the single biggest problem area, the earliest need is sponsorship. However on a long tail approach - all value drivers in event development space will form a part of our value offerings.