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5 Strategies to Attract Sponsorship to Your Music Festival 

by | November 21, 2023

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Before you dive in, if you are interested in festival sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for festivals” series:

According to GitHub resource Gitnux, 32 million Americans go to music festivals per year. If you need context, the state population of California in 2014 was 38.8 million and 26.9 million in Texas that same year.

That would have been the equivalent of nearly every California resident attending a music festival, which underscores the sheer number of people who go to these multi-day affairs.

They’re a form of escapism from everyday life and very important to millions. While you would think attracting sponsors to your music festival is effortless, that’s not exactly the case. 

With hundreds of music festivals in the US alone (a 2018 estimate suggested 800 festivals, and the number has only surely grown since), sponsors don’t have to choose your festival by default. They can easily gravitate toward another.

How do you get sponsors to pick your festival over the competition? Here are five strategies to utilize.

Understand Your Audience

Do you know what makes your music festival unique from your competitors? It isn’t your name, the genres of music you focus on, or your schtick.

It’s your audience.

How can your audience be what sets you apart? Every festival has an audience.

Sure, but think of your audience as a microbiome. There are trillions of microorganisms in it, but each person has a unique microbiome, just like each festival has a unique audience.

You might have noticed some overlap between your audience and your competitor’s, but you have elements of your audience they don’t, and vice-versa.

A sponsor wants access to your audience if it includes segments of its target audience. The only way for you to know that is to study your audience in-depth.

Have you surveyed your festival attendees lately? If so, did you ask beyond surface-level questions?

It doesn’t suffice to tell a prospective sponsor broad data points, like 50 percent of your audience lives in Illinois when your festival is based in Chicago. What neighborhoods and boroughs do those 50 percent of attendees come from?

This is the kind of information that sets your music festival apart from your competitors and makes you a more appealing partner to a sponsor. There is no such thing as too specific when segmenting your audience.

Sponsors love data, so feed it to ‘em like you would give a dog table scraps.

What if yours is a brand new music festival and you don’t have an audience? Build out detailed data on what kind of audience you believe your event will have based on your ticket sales so far. Then, furnish that data with more substantial information after your festival.

Know What You Want

I always tell my clients sponsors want to work with professionals, not amateurs. The mark of an amateur is having no idea what you want.

The first stage of finding a sponsor is determining your need for a sponsor. Sit down with key stakeholders involved in your festival and decide what your goals are and how attainable they are.

Then calculate what you need to reach those goals and what you can put toward your goals. Sponsors can make up the difference financially but ask yourself some questions first.

Is it better for one sponsor to give you $20,000, or would it be best for five sponsors to give you about $4,000 each?

That’s up to you to decide. A $20k sponsorship opportunity must have high-value assets and activations. Sponsorship isn’t a donation, and while you aren’t expected to pay the money back, you want to give the sponsor ROI through their participation in your festival that equals or exceeds what they gave you.

Can you provide a $20k sponsorship property your first go-around? Possibly, but it’s difficult. Having a handful of sponsors who provide the same amount of money collectively might make it easier for you to get started.

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Now, allow me to make one point clear. This value isn’t set in stone by any means. You might think you need $20,000 now, but as your music festival drawers nearer, it becomes obvious you need $32,000. It happens.

However, you shouldn’t go from asking a sponsor for $20,000 at the beginning to $60,000. That’s a lot of money you didn’t account for that you should have.

Another issue common of new sponsorship seekers is being afraid to ask for what they need upfront. This too can make you look like an amateur.

You must tell the sponsor you need $20,000 if that’s the amount your festival requires. If you ask for less, you’ll get less, and you’ll be forced to make up the difference another way. This only hurts you in the end.

Customize Your Assets and Activations

Let’s discuss your assets and activations, as they’re among the most important parts of your sponsorship package.

Music festivals are in an awesome position because they have many exciting asset and activation opportunities that are sure to draw a crowd.

Why would you rely on low-value assets that don’t do much for a sponsor? Most of the time, beginner sponsorship seekers don’t know any better. They think that logos are the best they can offer when in fact, logos are extremely low on the totem pole.

Thanking the sponsor from the stage at the beginning of your festival isn’t much better. You have to think about it from this perspective: what will increase a sponsor’s ROI? What will achieve their marketing goals?

Here is a post with 12 festival activation ideas. They include bull riding, henna tattoos, a shower station or hydration station, fireworks, film screenings, VIP areas, contests, and pop-up shops, to name a few.

Does that mean you should automatically cop a couple of those ideas? No!

Activations must benefit your audience as much as the sponsor. A hydration station or shower station is a great activation idea for a music festival like Coachella. It’s hot out there in the deserts of California, and people can use a chance to beat the heat and rehydrate.

However, a shower station would make no sense for a festival held in cooler climes.

Some activation ideas apply more universally. Music festival attendees traditionally love VIP areas because they feel special, and fireworks or riding a bull are unique forms of entertainment. Pop-up shops with exclusive merch should also go over well.

Make sure you put your personal stamp on these activations. If a sponsor could get your activation from any festival, what makes them want to unite with yours? And here’s another important question: what would make them want to work together again?

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you want unique assets and activations. If you have to do what your competitors are doing, at least do it in a way they aren’t.

Expand Your Network

Finding sponsors is always the most difficult part, especially when starting from scratch. Fortunately, you have no shortage of options to connect with potential partners.

Link up with others within your professional network. Perhaps vendors or other partners can recommend you to someone, as could your staff. If not, check social media, especially LinkedIn.

I also recommend prospecting. The audience data you accumulated through surveys can be a big assistance in helping you determine where to start regarding your sponsor search.

How? Look at the brands they mentioned. You should see a smattering of different brands, everything from tech to automotive, food, clothing, shoes, health products, medical products, the whole nine.

Home in on those brands through research. Do they seem like good matches for your music festival?

Although you might seem like an odd bedfellow, I would bet you and these brands have more in common than you think because you share an audience. The people who go to your festivals like those kinds of brands, so when they see a sponsored attraction at your show, they will want to interact.

However, you must have a discovery session before you pitch to a sponsor. The discovery session is a meeting where you ask questions to understand the sponsor’s pain points.

Learning about their challenges helps your music festival determine where your solutions fit in. You can also begin customizing your activations and assets according to the prospect’s needs.

Provide A+ Service

My last strategy for attracting music festival sponsors is to ensure you rock your sponsor’s socks off the same way you do your attendees. Give ‘em the best experience they could ever have, and they’ll come back for more.

How do you do that? It’s easier than it seems, yet still something that sponsorship seekers struggle with.

For starters, customize your assets and activations. I know I mentioned that before, but it’s a point worth underscoring.

Here’s another important point. Don’t promise your festival sponsors what you can’t give them. Conservative estimates the first year you two work together are fine, especially if you have a new festival.

You’re only predicting who may attend. You don’t yet know. That’s the case even if your music festival is a year or two old. It takes several years of data for you to have a reliable idea who will attend, so you don’t want to tell your sponsor there will be 30,000 people at your music fest when last year, you only had 8,500 attendees.

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It’s much better to tell your sponsor you’re likely to have 8,500 to 10,000 people there. The sponsor isn’t holding that number against the same yardstick as you, so 10k could be plenty impressive to them.

If all 10,000 show up to your festival, that’s great, you achieved what you said you would. If you only get 8,000, that’s still about what you estimated, so the sponsor knew to anticipate this.

And if somehow, 30,000 people did show up, you look even better.

When you deliver what you promise, you create a track record of honesty and results. Sponsors remember who increased ROI for them. When your music festival comes back again next year, they might want to resume the partnership.

Finding Sponsors for Your Music Festival Is Only the Beginning

Once you find a prospective sponsor to work with for your music festival, you still have more yet to do before you can begin a profitable working relationship. For instance, you must value your assets and activations to determine the value of your sponsorship property.

We’re valuation experts at the Sponsorship Collective. We can help you learn the value of your music festival sponsorship opportunity, find the right sponsors to reach out to, and launch your sponsorship program into the stratosphere.

Click here to get started.