Promotional Sourcing

How Far Ahead Should You Plan for Corporate Events?

Planning timelines for corporate-sponsored events have changed. A fractured global supply chain has created product shortages and higher costs. A strategic sourcing partner can help manage this.

An ongoing supply chain bottleneck has changed the definition of success for corporate-sponsored event planners and hosts. For a successful event in 2022 and beyond, lines of communication need to be open, and event calendars should be reviewed earlier than they may have been. 

Corporate event planning timelines have always relied on several factors, including size and scale. It used to be that 3 to 4 months was an ample timeline for getting everything together to host a successful event. And even one month of planning and execution could have been doable in many instances.

Those kinds of timelines have now become unrealistic and downright unfulfillable. Why? The reasons are widespread: Ongoing labor disputes with workers affecting everything from manufacturing and supply to distribution and availability, COVID protocols, the war in Ukraine, rising fuel costs, container shipping bottlenecks on both coasts, and more. They have also brought about a dramatic increase in prices for nearly everything.

The “new normal?” The sooner you get started, the more time you have for planning, and the better the likelihood is that you can still host the spectacularly successful event you envisioned.


Marketing Supply Chain and Event Planning Today

 Timelines for production and materials have become more challenging to nail down. The basic timelines from suppliers tend to be anywhere from a month to three months, depending on the project specifics. Product options can change based on the manufacturer’s decision to reduce product selection. Add in design time, artwork acquisition, proofing/quality control, delivery, and anything else, and it becomes even more time- and labor-intensive.

Consider a simple 2K Run/Walk event for a non-profit. Such an event will likely need flyers and brochures, sponsor forms, imprinted hats and shirts in various colors or sizes, logoed water bottles, banners, signs, ribbons/award plaques, swag bags, and more. That's a lot of promotional products to juggle.

Or let’s say your event is an annual charity-hosted fundraising dinner. If your event is in a large venue, you might need engraved invitations, event programs, place cards, monogrammed paper napkins, or directional signage. There may be a need for posters and fliers to recognize individuals being honored, donors and supporters, or to express your corporate sponsor appreciation.

A similar, or perhaps longer, list could be involved with a tradeshow or opening a new branch office.

If managing multiple suppliers yourself, you’ll be juggling a variety of timelines for each of their products. You will need to coordinate these differing ship dates to meet your event deadline.

Guidelines from the event-planning industry now advocate for lead times of as much as a year in advance for larger-scale in-person events. They recommend allowing at least two months when planning even the smallest events.

Event hosts should also prepare for higher costs. Industry leaders suggest adding at least 30% to whatever your event’s annual budget might have been previously.


Understanding Marketing Supply Chain Challenges

It is essential to understand that the entire marketing supply chain, including print and paper, has been disrupted since the onset of COVID-19. Everything from paper to ink to apparel has been disrupted.

As noted by Millcraft COO Greg Lovensheimer during the 2021 State of the Paper Industry Update, raw materials are still hard to come by, and many paper mills continue running at roughly 60 percent capacity. They also face continued workforce challenges.

Add to this the fact that there are not enough trucks to bring in raw materials or distribute their products once they are manufactured. Because of it all, some types of commercial printing papers are at 30-year lows in their inventory. The mills have also seen a myriad of price increases over the past two years, with prices up around 22% percent this year alone.

The shipping industry had perfected a “just-in-time” system before the pandemic hit, and the cost of transporting goods was much less. A just-in-time (JIT) inventory management practice is where materials are only ordered and received as needed in the production process. The goal is to reduce costs by saving money on overhead inventory expenses.

But as the pandemic and the resulting shortage have proven, this type of inventory management system was not designed to run nearly as effectively under today’s circumstances.


Event Planning in the “New Normal:” The Case of the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Continued marketing supply chain issues will also call for flexibility. Those who are hosting and planning events, now and into the future, will need to leave some room for changes to their vision in areas wherever they can.

Case in point: The 2022 Kentucky Derby. Organizers had months to address issues they faced from a bottlenecked supply chain. However, they still faced the need to "cast a wider net." They had to pull suppliers from all over the country this year to meet the timeline they had for the needed promotional items. In years past, they had relied on a single source for much of it.

They also had to be a bit flexible where they could be. One example of this: Event planners had to choose a different shade for the linens around the racetrack. The color used previously was not available for this year’s event. While that might seem like an easy change, it was a daunting choice to make for an event that is so steeped in tradition, ceremony, and decorum.

Collaborating with a marketing distribution partner to negotiate and manage timelines, supplier sources, and price points is of benefit to every type of event and host.


Strategic Sourcing: A Beneficial Solution

Managing all these layers of an event and its supply needs can quickly overwhelm its organizers and planners. And with the complexity and severity of this global marketing supply chain disruption, strategic sourcing has become a powerful tool for successful event planning.

We practice proactive, strategic sourcing to find suppliers with inventory available for the items you need or the paper stock and press time available to fulfill your orders on time. This helps ensure that the items you need for a successful event, from start to finish, arrive on time and at the best price point possible. And as you may guess, including our team at the start of your strategic and creative planning stages can help avoid issues as you create your event timeline. The sooner we’re involved, the better we can help you lay out realistic options and timelines.

Let’s see what we can do together to make it a success.

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