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7 Proven Ways to Find Festival Sponsors

by | March 20, 2023

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Your festival has just ended for the year, and you know what that means. That’s right, it’s already time to begin thinking of next year’s festival and who may sponsor it! How can you find festival sponsors to propel your event?

Here are 7 proven methods for finding festival sponsors:

  • Renegotiate with current sponsors
  • Ask current sponsors for referrals
  • Request referrals from vendors, etc.
  • Choose the brands from survey
  • Prospect with concentric circles
  • See who’s sponsoring your competitors 
  • Stay local

This guide on how to get sponsors for a festival will provide more details on the above points so you can secure festival sponsors months before your event. You’ll have more time and energy to focus on other areas of your festival planning.

Let’s get started!

Renegotiate with Current Sponsors

Do you know the easiest way to obtain sponsorship? Work with your current sponsors again!

Renegotiating with your current sponsors has so many advantages. 

If they performed well among your audience this year, you can trust that your festival attendees will be thrilled to see the same sponsor next year. 

That will drive up engagement, helping the sponsor achieve more of their outcomes.

You can also save time by renegotiating, as you won’t have to prospect for as many sponsors as you would if you were starting from zero. 

Additionally, you could end up with even more funds for your festival this upcoming year if you play your cards right. 

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You’ll find it much easier to plan your festival budget for the next event, as a chunk of the funding is already taken care of. 

If you intend to renegotiate with your existing sponsors, you can’t decide to do it spur-of-the-moment one day. Rather, you have to plan well ahead, ideally as soon as your event wraps. 

I recommend broaching the subject during your post-event meeting where you deliver your fulfillment report and go over its contents with your sponsor. 

In this post, I cover the right way to go about asking for another year (or several years!) of sponsorship with the same partner. There is an art to doing it, as you don’t want to talk about money too soon. 

Do be aware that working with the same sponsor could mean the same level of funding or even more. It all depends on the kind of deal you two agree to. 

For example, you might offer a multi-year deal at the same price or a two-year deal at two times the cost of what the sponsor paid last year. 

Although the first deal might seem unappealing if you’re trying to maximize your earnings potential, it guarantees more money over a longer period, so you might end up with more funds over five years than you would for the two-year deal.

Ask Current Sponsors for Referrals

Even if you ask your sponsor to renegotiate right after your current festival ends, that doesn’t always mean they’ll necessarily have the availability. 

Perhaps it’s not a matter of availability but a lack of funds, or maybe it’s even both. 

Although it’s always disappointing when your sponsor can no longer work with you, don’t write them off entirely. They may have the bandwidth to pair up again the year after. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for a referral or two.

The sponsor might know a great company that would be a fantastic fit for your festival. That company might not have even been on your radar. 

The connection to your sponsor is your “in.” You might not have to talk to three front-desk secretaries or go through as much red tape since your former sponsor is vouching for you. You can skip straight to the sponsorship department. 

However, just because you get fast-tracked to the right parties doesn’t mean you get a free ride on the sponsorship train. Not at all. Your former sponsor got your foot in the door, but that’s it.  

You haven’t won over this new sponsor at all. You’ve simply earned their time, so use it wisely.

You still need to have a discovery session to understand the sponsor’s challenges, needs, and pain points. 

You must still customize the assets and activations you offer. If anything, because this company and your former sponsor know one another, if you try to recycle assets, the new sponsor will see it coming from a million miles away. 

I’m sure you understand what I’m saying by now. You have to treat this new prospect the same way you would any prospect. Don’t assume it’s a done deal until you sign a contract. 

Even then, do your best to follow through and deliver as you promised. If anything, you have an even greater incentive to deliver or overdeliver.

After all, if you blow it with your new sponsor, you could also damage your relationship with your former sponsor. You might end up erasing any chances of you two working together again.

Request Referrals from Vendors, Partners, etc.

While you’re seeking referrals, don’t only stop at your current sponsors. 

As a festival owner, you work with a ton of third parties. Pick their brains and ask if they can refer you to any potential sponsors. You can even ask internally among your festival staff. 

If you procure a good lead or several, follow the same protocol as above. That is, use your connection with the vendor or partner as your foot in the door, then put your nose to the grindstone and do the work as you would for any other sponsor.

Choose the Brands Your Audience Mentioned Using in Your Survey

This next method of finding sponsorship is my most recommended for any type of event, program, or opportunity, festivals included. Use your audience survey as your guide.

Let’s back up the truck here for a moment here. What exactly is an audience survey? 

An audience survey is how you obtain audience data, or all the demographics, psychographics, and geographics of your audience. 

You select the questions in the survey, issue the survey via email or physical mail, and allow several weeks to pass while you wait for the responses to come in.

You usually have to incentivize audiences to complete a survey, such as through the opportunity to win a gift card, freebie, or another prize. Ensure the prize is high-value, or you won’t get many responses.
Since you’re the one who chooses the questions in your survey, you must ask about what kinds of brands your festival attendees like to use and consume.

If you don’t want a general list of brands, then ask for more specifics, such as what kind of automotive or travel brands your audience prefers. 

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Those are only examples, of course. You should ask about whatever kinds of companies or industries you’ll focus on as potential sponsors for your next festival. 

The reason is that you’ll use the survey responses to influence which brands you reach out to.

Here’s how. As you collect responses, look for the brands that pop up the most often among your responses. Those are the brands that resonate the most with your festival audience.

Obviously, not every last attendee will like those brands, but enough will. Should you secure that brand as a sponsor for your next festival, people will pay attention.

You should send surveys to your audience at least once a year. I always recommend that sponsorship seekers get into the habit of doing this twice annually if possible because it can pay back such major dividends.

After all, your survey responses don’t only help you secure your next festival sponsors, they also enlighten you on the thoughts and opinions of your audience. 

The better you know your customers or attendees, the better you can serve them next time.

Prospect by Concentric Circles

Now that you have a list of a dozen or so brands your audience directly mentioned (en masse) in your survey, you can create a whole sponsorship prospecting list from there.

How, you ask? Use a method that I’ve coined, the concentric circles method, as described here

You already have the first circle, which includes all the brands you determined your audience likes based on your survey responses. 

That first circle of prospects is your hottest because of that well-established audience-brand connection. If you have a list of 20 or 30 of these prospects, you’re in excellent shape. Even a list of 10 prospects is good if your festival isn’t that large.

The next circle is all the brands that advertise and market to your audience. You might wonder how in the world you’ll find this list, and my answer is the same as how you obtained the prospects in the first circle.

That’s right. You have to ask in your survey. 

You might include a question quizzing your festival attendees on 10 brands they remember advertising or marketing to them in the last year. Jot down the responses you get, looking for brands that pop up again and again. 

You can easily end up with dozens more viable prospects on your list from this second concentric circle. These prospects aren’t as hot as those in the first circle but are still plenty warm. 

Now it’s time to move on to the third circle, which includes all the companies and brands that should advertise to your audience. 

This list is up to you to procure. Since these brands don’t actively advertise to your audience, your survey responses won’t help much besides providing the basis for your research.

In other words, if you know your audience likes tech brands, you could put Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft on your prospects list. 

The third circle is cooler than the second circle since there is no direct connection between these brands and your audience, only a possible connection.

The fourth concentric circle is the competitors of all the other brands you’ve compiled so far. So, looking at tech brands, what kinds of companies compete with Apple? 

Yes, you have to come up with a list of competitors for each company on your prospects list. I recognize that it could be upwards of 40 or 50 prospects by now. If it isn’t yet, it will be soon!

The fourth circle of prospects is the coolest since these brands are even further removed from your audience but could still be potentially viable sponsors.

Look to Your Competitors

No matter what kind of business you run, you need to stay abreast of what your competitors are up to. I recommend that for festival owners too. 

That means paying attention to what kinds of sponsors they attract, especially if they run a festival with a similar premise to yours. 

Let’s say your biggest competitor worked with Snapple for their latest event. Does that mean you need to go to Snapple tomorrow and try to snatch them up for your festival? 

Not necessarily, no. The point isn’t to steal sponsors from under your competitors’ noses (not to say a sponsor can’t get involved in more than one festival, of course). 

Instead, you want to see the kinds of sponsors your competitors use and gauge their appropriateness for your own event.

For example, if your biggest competitor also partnered with Boar’s Head, but you know, based on your survey, that most of your audience is vegan or vegetarian, you wouldn’t want to work with any meat brand. 

However, maybe the thought of working with a meat brand gives you a good idea, and you decide to look into Impossible Foods or another meat substitute as a potential sponsor. 

Stay Local 

My last suggestion for finding festival sponsors is this: if yours is a local festival, why not focus on local sponsors too?

I recently wrote about the benefits of local sponsorship. Through a local deal, you can strengthen your sense of community, reduce the costs of hosting a festival, and make people proud to call your town or city home. 

When you seek local sponsors, you shrink your search radius. Tightening your net like this, so to speak, makes it simpler to find sponsors since you only have so many options.

Smaller sponsors will not be able to provide as much funding or promotions as larger ones, so you might need to double up or even triple up on the number of sponsors you work with. I’m just letting you know that so you can plan accordingly. 

Things NOT to Do When Searching for Festival Sponsors

To wrap up, here’s a short list of what not to do when you want to secure a festival sponsor (or any other type of sponsor, for that matter!).

Fill Out a Sponsorship Form on a Website

I know, those sponsorship forms on a website are so incentivizing. The company is just begging you to reach out, right? And here’s a handy form to make it happen.

The problem with online sponsorship forms is they’re a little too easy, and everyone does them. I do mean everyone, to the point where companies get inundated with sponsorship requests.

So what happens to your form? It sits there, and sits there, and sits there, possibly never being opened and read. 

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If it is read, it could be discarded simply because the company has so many responses that they can’t process them all, even the potentially good ones. 

Skip these sponsorship request forms, even if the company you’ve identified as a prospect has one. Instead, find an email address or a phone number for the company’s sponsorship department and contact them that way. 

Send Your Sponsorship Proposal in the First Email

Of course, I have to talk about sponsorship proposals. These wholly optional documents certainly shouldn’t go into your first email, whether you’re sending it cold or warm. 

You can’t have possibly customized the materials in your proposal if you’re sending it without having the discovery session. That probably means you wrote the proposal all wrong too, focusing on your festival or your cause more so than audience data. 

I always tell sponsorship seekers to hold off on even putting together a proposal unless and until you get asked to do it. If that time comes, follow my handy sponsorship proposal template to nail the formatting. 


Finding festival sponsors cannot chew into too much of your time. You can use your own audience data to inspire your prospects list. Don’t be afraid to tap into your network of contacts to ask for referrals.

Your sponsor, if you can’t negotiate a multi-year deal, can supply you with referrals too. Use all the avenues available to you, and you’ll secure sponsors for your festival.


How early should I start looking for potential festival sponsors?

You should start your search for next year’s event sponsorship as soon as your current festival ends. Capitalize on the momentum and excitement of the festival. Reach out to existing sponsors about renewing while impressions are fresh. It also gives you plenty of time to find new sponsorship opportunities.

Are there unique approaches to finding potential sponsors for a music festival?

When seeking sponsors for a music festival, think creatively about brands that can add value to the festival experience. Check out the vendors and sponsors associated with other similar music festivals to see if any could cross over to your event. Look at what brands the musicians performing are affiliated with or endorsed by – their fans are your logical target audience.

Can social media be used to attract event sponsors for a festival?

Social media can effectively attract event sponsors for a festival by highlighting past successes and attendees’ experiences. Encourage followers on social media platforms to tag potential sponsors in posts about enjoying the event.

What is the right timeframe to start securing sponsorships for a first-time festival?

For an inaugural festival, you want to confirm your first sponsors 12 months out. This gives adequate time to refine programming and demonstrate early traction in marketing and ticket sales to attract potential sponsors. Then, secure any remaining event sponsorship with, ideally, a minimum of six months lead time.