Member Spotlight: Gail Alofsin
TITLE & ORGANIZATION
The Director of Corporate Partnerships at the Newport International Boat Show
Newport, Rhode Island, USA
FOUNDING SMA MEMBER SINCE
Tell us about the Newport International Boat Show.
I joined Newport in 1988 when it was the Newport Yachting Center – and we had nothing to do with yachting! It was a blank canvas on the waterfront, four acres, and only one event. I canceled a band at that event to get $1,000 in my budget to attend my first industry conference, and the rest is history.
Now, our primary event is the Boat Show, which is basically a four-day summer camp with these magical nights on the waterfront – this year it’s September 14-17. There’s something special about the energy at the Show. Good events capture all five senses – the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves, the taste of the lobster rolls, all of that. But there’s a sixth sense you have to capture, and that’s the energy.
We’ve done 2,000 events and raised millions in sponsorships since I started. Back then, I had no idea how small we were – I acted like I fit right in with the big events and sponsors, and it worked!
What’s your approach to sponsorship marketing?
I approach it with this idea of “give first, gain second.” If I want a sponsor and they say no, or vice versa, that’s not the end. I follow up, which has been in my DNA since I was seven years old. I went door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies and my mom would put me at the table with a crayon and I’d write a thank you note for even seeing me, even letting me stop by … and guess what happened? They’d come back and buy a box!
How do you build long-lasting relationships?
I just think you have to have generosity in your DNA. If what we’re selling doesn’t work for someone, OK! Maybe it’ll work next year, or in the future. But regardless, let’s get to know each other. I’ll occasionally provide tickets to some of those folks so they can come and enjoy the event to get an idea of the work we could do together, but most of all just to experience it! It pulls people to you rather than pushing yourself on them. It’s probably contributed to our sales success, but that’s not why I do it.
Your advice for sponsorship marketers today?
You must go in leading with your heart and being authentic to what you are building. So many of the lessons I’ve learned came from people I met at industry events, and I think it’s important to be trained by an organization like SMA. And you must have fun – when you can be drenched in rain slickers in the pouring rain trying to set up for an event and you’re all just laughing and having a great time, that’s when you know you’re doing it right.
What other event would you love to work if you had the time?
The Super Bowl! Or Bonnaroo or Coachella. Something really fun and dynamic.