The Definitive Guide to the Sponsorship Proposal: 7 Steps to a Proposal that Actually Works!

I call this post “The Definitive Guide to the Sponsorship Proposal” for a reason! I am going to tell you everything you need to know about creating a winning sponsorship proposal and how to write a sponsorship proposal that actually works.

Step One: Your Sponsorship Packages Start
With What You Have to Sell

Your sponsorship package will be completely empty without a list of things to sell. These things that you sell are called “assets” and those assets are grouped together into your sponsorship proposal “inventory.” Most people start the sponsorship process by creating a sponsorship proposal template based on their financial goals, full of predefined benefits, grouped into three or four levels. They then send out these templates…and hear nothing back.

Rather than creating a single sample sponsorship package and sending it to everyone you know, start instead by building an inventory of everything you are willing to sell.

Should Your Sponsorship Packages have a Menu?

Gold, Silver and Bronze (or any other stock levels) sends a message to your sponsors that you are an amateur. Don’t do it! List some of the ways that you can help your sponsors achieve their goals but don’t list them out as packages that they have to buy. Instead, show your sponsors that you have options that help them with the following areas:

  • Brand building
  • Product placement
  • Sampling
  • Contests
  • Growing their database
  • Thought leadership

Show your sponsors how you’ve helped other sponsors achieve their goals by working with you.

Corporate Sponsorship Inventory Building

Get your leadership team, program team, marketing department, volunteers and current sponsors together and ask them what they think you should be selling.

Come up with a list of everything you currently sell and then ask the group what’s missing from the list. Look at your competition and see what they are offering. Once you’re done this exercise, challenge your group to come up with a list of five things not on the list and not being done by your competition.

Free resources to help with this stage:

Step Two: How to Ask for Corporate Sponsorship Matters Less Than Who to Ask!

But how do you know who to ask? This process is far easier than most people realize. You see, the trick to a good sponsorship proposal is that it has very little to do with what you write…when you have the right audience.

I am a firm believer that when you have a good asset list and well defined audience, your ideal sponsor appears on their own. Take the list you created in the “sponsorship proposal inventory building” section and ask yourself what types of companies want to hear about these opportunities.

Look at your audience, who will attend your event, who cares about your brand and who do you interact with through your e-mail lists and social media, and ask yourself which companies want to connect with that group in the ways you’ve outlined.

When you’re done, move on to your competitors and see who they are working with. Now, for every sponsorship prospect you’ve added to your list, research their competitors. If one bank has interest in your brand then I bet they all do. Do this with every prospect on your list and suddenly you will have more prospects than you know what to do with!

Step Three: Know What to Charge for Everything in Your Sponsorship Packages

It’s worth noting that so far, this guide on the corporate sponsorship proposal hasn’t even discussed graphics, number of pages or sponsorship level name ideas. There’s a reason for this!

It is true that most sponsorship sales involve a sponsorship proposal. It is not true, however, that a sponsorship proposal is sufficient to sell sponsorship. Having the right products and knowing your customer are essential, and so is knowing what to charge for the assets in your sponsorship proposal.

Before you reach out to your prospects, spend some time figuring out what to charge for everything in your sponsorship package. The best way to do this is to list every single item you plan to sell in your sponsorship proposal along with who will see it (or hear it) and assign a value to that benefit. Use resources like Google Adwords and the local newspaper when trying to determine what to charge for things like logo placement. Assign a value to samples, product placement, speaking opportunities, free tickets, exhibit space…basically, if you offer it to a sponsor, give it a value.

Why do this? Well, for two reasons. First, it tells you how much money you can realistically expect to make through sponsorship. Second, it gives you the ability to negotiate with sponsors and trade benefits across the various levels within your sponsorship packages.

Free resources to help with this stage:

Step Four: Finding the Right Contact

Even the best designed, best researched and best priced sponsorship proposal won’t work if you send it to the wrong person! So who should you send your sponsorship request to? I look for people with the following in their titles:

  • Brand
  • Marketing
  • Sponsorship
  • Business Development
  • Communications
  • Product

Those with Corporate Social Responsibility in their title typically handle the “corporate philanthropy” side of things though this can often be combined with sponsorship and cause related marketing. If I can only find a CSR person, I will often approach them with the request that they help me find the best contact for my proposal.

Want to Know How to Write a Sponsorship Proposal? Ask Your Prospect!

I never submit a sponsorship proposal cold, without talking to someone first. Sometimes I meet them by e-mail, phone or, best of all, in person. When I do, I never bring anything with me but a mental list of questions.

I cover this approach in more detail in my article “Five Questions for Every Prospect” but here are the questions I always ask my prospects before I submit a sponsorship proposal:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How do you normally engage in sponsorship?
  • What does your target market value?
  • What can you tell me about your sales goals for the coming year?
  • What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship proposal?

Free resources to help with this stage:

Step Five: The Sponsorship Proposal Template

Before I outline how to write a sponsorship proposal, I want to take a moment to remind you to download my free sponsorship proposal template. If you are looking for a sample sponsorship package, this is the best tool around.

Sample Sponsorship Proposal Outline

Remember: your sponsorship package is not the sales tool…you are!

Page One: Title Page or Sponsorship Proposal Letter

Include your logo and the name of the opportunity or program and your tagline. Keep this simple and NEVER call it a “sponsorship package”!

Page Two: Describe Your Audience

Sponsorship is all about the audience! Your sponsors want to connect with a particular group of people and they want that group of people to take a very specific action. Before you ask your sponsors for money, tell them about your audience.

Page Three: Describe Your Opportunity

Paragraph one:

Talk about your cause, event or brand. Note, one paragraph only! Plain and simple- don’t talk about need or sad stories.

Paragraph two: 

Talk about the opportunity, program or event.

Page Four: Think Menu not Sponsorship Levels 

Never say “sponsorship opportunities.” Instead use something like “Engage Leaders in Industry X” or “Reach out to People of a Certain Age or Geography” or “Come and Meet X Sector”

Start with a statement about how you like to work with sponsors and your philosophy. Most orgs put a statement at the end of their package stating “we are also willing to customize. Contact us.” Don’t do this!

Instead, open by telling your prospects that these are suggestions to get the process started. Invite them to have a look and contact you with their own suggestions about how they want to engage your network, then list all of your assets and opportunities!

Page Five: Sample Activations

This is the section where most people put a grid labeled “Gold, Silver, Bronze” but not you! Instead, list your ideas (as discussed above) to help bring your audience and sponsor closer together while helping your sponsor achieve their goals. Be sure to include opportunities for branding, sampling, attendee experience and contests. Will you sponsor buy one of these items off the shelf? Almost certainly not…but it gets them thinking and shows them that you know how to play the sponsorship game.

Page Six: The Contact Page

Use a title like “we want to hear from you!” Use a call to action. Encourage sponsors to get in touch, tell you what’s missing and tell you what they want to add or change. Make it clear that your proposal is a conversation tool and not set in stone. Do not include a section for your sponsor to cut out and mail back with their payment.

Proposals don’t sell sponsorship, people do!

Free resources to help with this stage:

Click this infographic to make it bigger!

Sponsorship Proposal Infographic
Sponsorship Proposal Infographic

Step Six: Your Corporate Sponsorship Sales are Only as Strong as Your Followup

Once you have sent your sponsorship proposal to your prospect, give them a few days to sit with it. Because you spent the time talking to them and getting to know them on the front end, you have earned the right to follow up.

Get in touch with your sponsors, ask them what they thought of your sponsorship request, ask them what they thought of benefits and what advice they have to change your sponsorship package to better suit their needs.

Expect to follow up with your sponsor multiple times!

Step Seven: After the Successful Sponsorship Package, the Real Work Begins

Once the money arrives, it’s time to kick back and relax right? Not so fast! I would say that getting the commitment from a sponsor is about 20% of the total work of sponsorship. In other words, now that you have the money you still have 80% of the process ahead. Sponsorship is a transaction and when sponsors don’t get what they paid for, they will ask for a refund or worse, they will tell their colleagues how terrible you are to work with.

Get ready to work hard for your sponsors!

Free resources to help with this stage:

Chris Baylis is an expert in sponsorship valuation and sponsorship strategy. Chris works with brands and sponsorship properties to define their sponsorship goals, determine market value of their sponsorship assets and create strategies that work. Chris is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and an international speaker and consultant on all things sponsorship marketing.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn



19 Comments

  • Liz Burgess

    Great post. Looking forward to working these steps and finding new opportunities for our organization!

  • Nancy Holland

    Thanks for sharing this, Chris. It makes me more confident that I can successfully take on the sponsorship role from my non-profit. Now, on to reading about activation and fulfillment!

  • I know see how this might work for a non profit or for a little league, but can you please give me an example of how this will work in the motorsports or non event for profit industry please?

    • cbaylis

      Hi Calvin, thanks for your comment! What I find most interesting about your comment is that I am often asked by charities the exact same thing “Surely this works in the for profit world, but how can we use this in the charitable sector?”

      The truth is, these principles are not sector specific. This is the sponsorship process- whether you take your profits and spend it on a car, distribute to share holders or invest in a charitable outcome. Because sponsorship is a marketing spend, the industry receiving the sponsorship dollars is irrelevant.

      Most of the clients I work with are not looking for event sponsorship and I always use these steps. Whether it’s an event, a title sponsor for a program, a game, a sport club, an athlete or a race car the process looks like this:

      1) Asset building (what you have to sell). Naming rights, product placement, endorsements etc.
      2) Knowing which companies care about your audience (whether viewers, readers or event attendees)
      3) Knowing your value
      4) Finding the right contacts within a company to tell you what that company is looking for
      5) Building a menu style sponsorship package that you can draw from while you customize
      6) Having a solid sales process in place to make sure you are front of mind for your prospects
      7) Activation anf fulfillment

      I would argue that nothing here is inherently event based or charity specific. In fact, this is the process I use for all private sector clients and I can tell you that it is very different form the typical donor pyramid used by the charitable sector.

      How you adapt this process to your specific brand, audience and set of assets is where the work (and fun) is!

      Chris

  • Thank you for the explanation. I am having a hard time finding information about for profit and non event based sponsorship. I look forward to your webinar and appreciate your advice.

  • Thank you for sharing this information, very helpful framework to use.

  • I just attended the Chamber Executives Conference of Ontario and you were one of the best speakers with actionable suggestions we are now going to implement. Thank you.

  • Hi Chris,

    Thank you for this incredibly helpful resource!

    Samantha

  • C.J.

    Hi Chris,

    This is great help and thank you for all that you’re doing to help us all better understand the ins and outs of sponsorship. I’m confused about one thing that I haven’t found in posts or documents: when do we talk about money and cost? Not in the proposal?

    Thanks,
    C.J.

  • Joe H

    Chris, I’m working on a LONG TERM (3 years) sponsorship for a non-profit sports org. A state (U.S.) swimming org with 10,000 members, and an outreach target audience of about 2 million parents. So, not one event, but many, as well as an awareness component (how swimming is a great sport), plus ongoing social media ads, email updates, “wins” by state swimmers, free visit-a-swim-club events, stories of Olympic hopefuls, etc. etc. Any advice re building a proposal for that? Thanks!

  • New to this site, but found it very informative, I am on the flip side not looking for money but a sponsor getting hundreds of pitches on a regular basis. Great to see this information around educating your partners on how to do a proposal . I find numerous approaches, the Gold silver bronze, etc.. the call the president (or email) hoping the trickle down will give it more impact etc.. great insight chris, thanks,

  • This is great information. Curious with a small team, and a huge list of inventory- how you manage all of the a’ la cart options all of the sponsors have chosen throughout the year. This for us is where we struggle just managing lists and making sure we don’t miss anything at any of our events. A spreadsheet and a post sponsorship placement report with photos for each sponsor is a ton of work for a small team of 3.

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