Canadian Underwriter

How brokers can maintain community sponsorships in a pandemic

August 27, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Canadian property and casualty insurance brokerages to find new ways of marketing their brand through community events and sponsorships.

“One of the challenges – particularly for small and mid-sized brokerages in Western Canada – has been that the number 1 marketing expense is community sponsorships,” said Derek Lothian, president & CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan, in a recent interview.

“I think the pandemic has definitely changed everything,” said Desiree Minielly, director of marketing for Whitby, Ont.-based Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers. “It has made it much more challenging for brokers to get involved in in-person community events and initiatives, mainly due to the fact that the majority of in-person events have been cancelled. But it’s still important to get involved and give back.”

Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March of 2020, Canada’s provinces introduced a variety of emergency measures designed to keep people from congregating, especially indoors.

The Canadian Press reported this week that Saskatchewan has experienced an uptick in COVID-19 infections recently. On Aug. 20, the province reported 244 new cases, the highest daily increase since May.

In Saskatchewan, brokerages were deemed an essential service, said Lothian.

“Throughout the pandemic, with the exception of the first wave, brokerages were among some of the most open businesses. As a community pillar, they remained, throughout the pandemic, one of the most active types of business.”

In Saskatchewan, brokerages did not necessarily want to scale back in investing in community events and sponsorships, suggested Lothian.

“But in a lot of cases, those events and initiatives, unfortunately, are not able to move forward.”

To continue their community involvement, brokerages have had to pivot and find either virtual events or new ways to engage the community through initiatives such as association campaigns.

For example, IBAS launched in 2021 its #BrokersCare Campaign for Mental Health. That was in a partnership with Wawanesa Insurance.

“Pooling our resources, as an association and as brokerages, we have been able to provide about $45,000 in funding, so far this year, to 13 different community organizations throughout the province.”

In Saskatchewan, grassroorts community organizations submitted applications for funding of up to $10,000 through #BrokersCare Campaign for Mental Health.

IBAS had an independent committee evaluate those submissions and award funding.

In Ontario, Mitchell and Whale has had to find ways to continue staying involved in the community during the pandemic, said Minielly.

“Consumers want companies to be committed to social causes, and that is a factor when making purchases, even insurance,” she said.

“Prior to the pandemic, our team worked together to collect school supplies, each summer and donate to local children. So in 2020, and again this summer, we’ve done the same thing. Instead of members of our team donating the school supplies, we’ve made cash donations by e-transfers.”

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