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5 More Critical Festival Sponsorship Mistakes to Avoid

Recently, I wrote an article about sponsorship festival dealbreakers. The post got a very positive reception, as I think sometimes a dealbreaker doesn’t seem like such a big issue until poof, your pending sponsorship deal evaporates into thin air. 

I’ve seen it happen to a lot of sponsorship seekers, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Today, I’ve decided to expand upon the original list of festival sponsorship dealbreakers, with six new can’t-miss mistakes added.

Please join me on a journey of more offensive errors to avoid making as you navigate finding and working with a festival sponsor.

Trying to Get a Sponsor on Festival Merit Alone

This is a critical error I’ve seen from all sponsorship walks of life. I’m talking about nonprofit sponsorship, for-profit sponsorship, sports sponsorship, event sponsorship, the whole nine. 

If you have a brand that becomes known enough, you can get too big for your britches and assume you can bypass parts of the sponsorship process. 

Oftentimes, sponsorship seekers do this in error, not even realizing their mistake until it’s too late. In other situations, it’s done intentionally. 

If you find yourself guilty of this dealbreaker, please, do yourself a favor and correct your behavior now before you blow any future sponsorship deals. 

Even if your festival is currently on the same level as Lollapalooza or Electric Daisy Carnival, it doesn’t matter. Should a sponsor feel inclined to work with you just to get a slot on the Lalapalooza sponsor list?

If you’re a musical performer, then sure, maybe, but not a sponsor. Then the sponsor is just one in a long list of others. They’re exchangeable, expendable, and they know it.

You have to give sponsors a reason to want to work together, and your festival household name status alone won’t do it. 

Now, the type of audience your festival attracts could do it, as can the quality of your assets and activations. 

If by chance, you have no idea what I’m talking about right now, I highly recommend you continue reading until the end, as I have a lot of valuable information to share with you throughout this guide.

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Offering All Sponsors the Same Assets and Activations

Festival organizers and other hosts of large events sometimes fall into collect-a-thon mode. You know, they begin collecting sponsors like mad, thinking it’s some sort of numbers game.

And listen, I understand that to a certain extent, sponsorship for a festival can be a numbers game. You need X amount of funds (using the simplest example), and if one sponsor can’t provide the entirety of X amount, it’s best to divide the sum as many ways as you can.

That’s not the wrong way to go about it. The wrong way to go about it is to treat all your sponsors exactly the same. In other words, they get the same assets and activations no matter who they are.

So, what then? You’re supposed to give certain sponsors preferential treatment? No, I’m not saying that either.

You’re supposed to give your sponsors a customized approach each and every time, for each and every sponsor. 

That means you need to sit down for a discovery session with each sponsor, discuss their needs and challenges, and then craft assets and activations that fulfill those needs and solve those challenges. 

If this sounds difficult and time-consuming, I won’t lie to you. It is. However, it’s also what you need to do if you don’t want your sponsorship deals to continuously fall flat. 

Sponsors don’t want–nor have they ever wanted–logos around your festival grounds. There’s simply so much stimulation happening at any festival that a logo gets forgotten in the blink of an eye.

A sponsor isn’t strengthening its brand or generating more leads or increasing sales with a logo. 

Plus, you have to consider that theirs wouldn’t even be the only logo competing for a festival attendee’s attention. If you have 15 sponsors and each gets logos, that’s even less attention paid to any individual logo. 

Sponsors also don’t want a shoutout during your welcome speech at the start of your festival. They don’t want bland, unimaginative assets and activations that are easy for you and sound good on the surface but do nothing to fulfill the sponsor’s goals

If you don’t have time for 15 discovery sessions and planning 15 unique batches of custom assets and activations, you don’t have room for 15 sponsors for your festival. 

It’s best to downsize and focus more on a few really good sponsors in a situation like that.

Talking About Money Too Soon

Even if you can avoid the trap that is over-inflating your worth, that’s not the only money-related dealbreaker to watch out for when pursuing festival sponsorship. 

You also want to think carefully about when you’ll even mention money. 

Look, you know you want money for your festival, and the sponsor has a pretty good idea that you want money for your festival. After all, most sponsorships are cash sponsorships. 

It’s kind of this unspoken thing between you two at the moment, and that’s okay! Let it remain unspoken because here’s what will happen if you don’t.

You’ll walk into the first meeting with the sponsor–which you’re supposed to have set aside for the discovery session–with dollar signs in your eyes and your sales pitch on your lips.

The sponsor will entertain you during the meeting and maybe even ask to see a proposal, but they’re only saying that to appease you. They know they have no intention of working with you.

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You’ll gradually find that out for yourself as you call and email and call and email and get nothing back in response. 

There’s a time and a place for everything in sponsorship. That includes discussions about money.

I’m not telling you to empty your head of all financial thoughts as you pursue a potential sponsorship deal. That would be ridiculous.

However, know the correct time and the correct place. I promise you, if you can wait until a more appropriate time to discuss money with the sponsor, you two can sit and negotiate until you come up with mutually beneficial terms.

Then you can put it into writing, have your lawyer look it over, and the sponsor’s lawyer as well, and fine tune the agreement if necessary. 

Sponsors are more than ATMs. They don’t spit out handfuls of cash to help your festival succeed. If that’s what you’re looking for, pursue donors or investors, but not sponsors. 

Sponsorship is marketing. It’s not one-sided but two-sided. The sooner you get into that mindset, the fewer deals you’ll miss out on!

Automatically Assuming You Have a Multiyear Deal

Most festivals happen at least once a year. And while it’d be great if you could work with the same sponsors time after time, you can’t walk into a sponsorship arrangement assuming it will extend for another season or another year.

Doing so just sets you up for massive disappointment and financial underperforming.

For example, let’s say you assume that Sponsor A will be on the hook for Y amount next year because they paid it this year. 

By the time you reach the point where you discuss money with Sponsor A and learn how they’re way overbooked, you’ll really have to scramble to find a replacement sponsor in time.

That’s not to say that multiyear sponsorship deals don’t exist. They absolutely do, and many of my clients have had lasting professional relationships with the same sponsor. 

This is super advantageous, as you don’t have to stress about where that money will come from. You also save time, as you don’t have to spend as much of it seeking new sponsorship arrangements.

I’ve recently written a lot about multiyear sponsorship deals, so if this sounds like something you’re interested in, I recommend you read those posts. 

Produce a fulfillment report. Ask about working with the sponsor a second time immediately after your festival wraps. 

Just don’t assume it’s happening, because unless you talk about it, a sponsor has no way of knowing that you want to work together again! 

Not Delivering on Objectives 

Here’s the last festival sponsorship mistake to avoid – failing to deliver what you promised. 

Well, this is a dealbreaker within reason. 

Listen, you might not always be able to deliver every objective you promise. It happens. 

However, there’s a difference between something out of your control preventing you from reaching your objective versus promising what you always knew you couldn’t deliver.

When you promise assets and activations to a sponsor, those get put into writing. They become a part of your official sponsorship contract. Once you sign that contract, it becomes legally binding. 

In any scenario, I wouldn’t recommend making something legally binding if you know you can’t match those terms. I’m not giving you legal advice here, as I’m not a lawyer.

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If you can’t deliver, the sponsor can pursue their legal rights to the fullest extent, including hiring an attorney and taking you to court. 

From there, you could be liable for any damages the sponsor incurred by promising to deliver something but failing to do so. 

I’m not saying any of this to strike fear into your heart. As I mentioned before, I recognize that in some situations, you can’t deliver your objectives. 

If you sense that something could arise that may be outside of your control, please, include a clause in your sponsorship contract. 

Otherwise, do your darndest to achieve what you say you will, or don’t say it in the first place! 


Too many critical mistakes can end an ongoing festival sponsor deal in a hurry, leaving you scrambling at the last second as you’re down one or more sponsors. 

I hope the information in this guide helps you realize what kinds of egregious errors you might have committed to habit and get over them before your next festival season comes around. Good luck!


Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.