How to Get Event Sponsorship: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
Event sponsorship often seems like one of those unobtainable, too good to be true options. It’s hard to imagine a company would be willing to provide a large chunk of the funding needed to run your event. We need to change the way we think about sponsorship, from that of begging for money to offering a real partnership opportunity and charging fair market value for the opportunity.
When you can prove you offer value to them such as increased brand exposure with their ideal target audience, you’d be surprised how many major corporations are ready to loosen their purse strings. Sponsorships offer brands the chance to get in on some quality experiential marketing, not to mention some pretty impressive post-event data that can help in their marketing efforts.
The problem is, finding the right sponsor is not easy, especially for event planners who have never considered sponsorship in the first place. However, nothing provides you with better optics or backing then a partnership with the right sponsor. Seeking sponsorship doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Instead, once you understand what you need to know about event sponsorship you can master the process and find yourself sitting pretty for your next big event. Here’s everything you need to know about event sponsorship.
Why Companies Seek Event Sponsorship Opportunities
If you don’t see the value in event sponsorship yourself, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince a major brand to invest in your event. Consider this: your event will bring a large group of people sharing many things in common to one place. You are creating a captive audience with an ideal target for many different products and services. These products and services are looking for ways to spread their reach. You are the one with the opportunity here, which means with the right strategy you will attract major partners.
Of course, not every event will be major brand-worthy. However, across many areas from charitable events, to local sports teams and private sector associations to public community events, with the right audience, you can find sponsorship opportunities, big and small. If you learn how to leverage your community, you can open yourself up for a wider selection of ideal partnerships.
The benefits of event sponsorship are valuable for four reasons:
With a few good partners you can help fund your event. Not only will you have a highly viable event, but also be able to sell tickets at a more reasonable rate. This, in turn, will attract more guests, which will increase your ability to attract better sponsors at your next event. You won’t just break even, but also become profitable. This goes for both not-for-profit and for-profit events.
Name Brand Credibility:
People are far more likely to attend events with recognizable sponsors as these brands offer instant credibility. An event presented by a company like Coca-Cola will attract more people than a non-sponsored event, regardless of the content. People won’t be worried about spending money, because they already trust the event will give them what they want. Of course, out of the gate, a major sponsorship like Coke is unlikely. However, you will find respected brands that will resonate with your attendees.
To Think Big, Sometimes You Have to Think…Small:
Don’t underestimate the power of smaller local businesses. Especially for community events, working with companies that can bring more resources to the event come in handy. They might not be able to fund you financially, but instead contribute something of value such as a venue, food, activities, or even keynote speakers. All of these things add to the value of your event which in turn attracts more attendees.
When working with partners you also get additional publicity from their marketing efforts. In most cases, sponsors will want to get the word out to their followers that something exciting is happening that they are a part of. Whether it’s social media, radio ads, digital marketing efforts or even word of mouth, you will get more exposure pre, during and post-event. This raises awareness to attract more people this year, and for future events.
So how do you find the right sponsors to support you in these four areas? Planning and strategy.
How to Choose Targets for Your Event Sponsors
Finding sponsors probably seems like the greatest hurdle. However, you will be surprised how many companies are happy to participate in events that will get them in front of their target audience. Your only challenge is to make sure you are going after the most logical partners and knowing how to present yourself as the answer to their marketing prayers.
Here are the basics of finding event sponsors:
Know the Strengths and Purpose of Your Event
You can’t convince a sponsor you are the right choice for them unless you understand what your event is all about. Prepare a sponsorship prospectus that explains:
- The vision for your event and what you plan to achieve
- Who will be attending your event
- What you are doing to make your event stand out from similar events
- The assets of your event including keynote speakers, special presentations, other attractive sponsors that might attract partners, a special location you might have chosen, points that will attract more traffic to your event, etc.
It won’t be enough to make a few bullet points. Do your research and use your own data to show the details that will prove they have something to gain by participating. With this list you are further ahead to getting your event sponsorship proposal written and will also be able to get a better picture of what kind of sponsors you want to approach.
Target Logical Partners
Make sure you are targeting logical partners that align with your brand and your event. For example, if it is health-focused you don’t want to have a donut franchise or hamburger chain behind you. Instead, it makes more sense to look at a health food store, water company or athletic wear brand. You want a good fit so people who attend the event don’t get confused, or worse angry when they see you partnering with companies they don’t feel comfortable supporting.
It always boils down to your audience, and who cares about your brand. Who do you interact with through your e-mail lists and social media? Which companies want to connect with that group? How does your event offer them the opportunity to interact with that group? Who do your competitors partner with? Who is the competition for your competitors’ sponsors? All these questions will help you create an excellent list of prospects.
Consider the Types of Partnerships Available to You
The types of partnerships can include:
- Media sponsors: Media sponsors offer the backing you need for widespread publicity. They invest in media coverage whether it is a major newspaper or local paper, TV commercials or online campaigns. They offer this benefit in exchange for major positioning with your event such as a major booth, their name appearing as the main sponsor on all ads and event marketing materials, and other things they might request such as a keynote speaker.
- Financial sponsors: A certain amount of money is contributed to your event in exchange for any number of benefits for the sponsor including shared exposure in ads, booths, promotions, etc.
- In-kind sponsors: This sponsor will donate products and services which can come in handy depending on what they offer. From water to hotel rooms and free samples to t-shirts, you can work with logical in-kind sponsors that will bring more value to your attendees.
- Promotional partners: These partnerships leverage the celebrity of an actual public figure to bring credibility to your event. Their fans and followers will see their names and want to attend your event to see them, hear them speak, etc.
Depending on your budget, you can approach each type of sponsor to assist with different areas of your event. For example, a financial sponsor might help pay for a major promotional partner.
Also, remain open to the idea of exclusivity for certain aspects of your event. This can bring in a lot more money, as well as major corporate sponsors that add credibility to your event. Exclusivity can apply to one area of the event, or even be an exclusive single partner for the entire event.
Creating a Sponsorship Proposal
Once you have a list of who you want to approach for your sponsorship opportunity, you can start preparing your event sponsorship proposal. Follow these steps:
You will have different levels of participation from different sponsors. Because of this, you want to provide different levels or packages that allow sponsors to choose how much they want to invest for varying levels of exposure. Your packages will list your assets and inventory.
The simplest approach is to create levels such as Gold, Silver and Bronze. But it is also the most obvious and least appealing set up. Instead list your packages based on what your sponsors gain such as:
- Brand building
- Product placement
- Growing their database
- Thought leadership
This tells sponsors at a glance what they get for their investment. Simple points can be used to tell them how each package helps them meet their goals. The key is reminding them why they should sponsor your event. With each package, list what they gain such as:
- Increasing social media impressions to elevate their social media presence.
- Collecting customer leads with the right demographic to grow their sales pipeline and increase prospective deals.
- Gaining access to a specific demographic through experiential participation at your event.
- If you show them the why, they will be more inclined to choose the package that suits their needs and budget, while providing you with the financial support and optics that improve the positioning of your event.
Your sponsorship packages should list everything you have to sell, but then take it to the next level. Research what other successful, like-minded events have accomplished and then do that and more. This will raise the value of your event in the eyes of potential sponsors and can also provide valuable proof your event will help them achieve their own goals and initiatives.
Assigning the Cost for Sponsorship Packages
Knowing what to charge for the assets in your sponsorship proposal is as important as the proposal itself. If you don’t charge enough, the purpose of your sponsors is lost. Charge too much and sponsors will fail to see the value in partnering with your event.
Look at your list of sponsorship opportunities and then assign a dollar value. If you aren’t sure what to charge, look at what other fees are being charged for marketing opportunities. This can help you calculate a dollar value. Some examples would be:
- Ads in trade magazines
- Google Adwords
- Local paper ads
- Banner ads
Look at how much exposure, views, readers, etc. each marketing opportunity offers and do the math to find out how much the target audience is worth. You can then use this based on the estimated number of people you expect and the exposure each of your assets and inventory offers for your sponsorship packages. How much to charge sponsors for an event requires careful attention to detail. You want to list prices that show value, offer support for the value it will bring to sponsors and list benefits each level of sponsorship brings for sponsors.
How To Ask For Event Sponsorship: Reach the Right Contact
All the work you put into your event sponsorship proposal won’t be worth a hill of beans if you don’t get it in front of the right person. You can target people with titles that make sense, but every company has their own special titles and buzz words. Look at corporate sites or search on LinkedIn for people with titles that include:
- Business Development
- Product development
When you are uncertain, add a little line in your mail, or conversation requesting that should you have reached the wrong person, is it possible they please provide you with the best contact within the company. Most people will be happy to oblige.
Personalize Each Proposal
Once you get to talk to the right person, ask them some questions so you can personalize the proposal you send them. Every sponsor will have their own marketing goals and you want to make sure you show them you can help them meet those goals. Some questions to ask:
- 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?
- You can then fine-tune and customize your proposal before setting up a meeting to present your proposal to them.
What’s in a Sponsorship Proposal?
Your proposal should consist of no more than five or six pages and include:
- Title Page/Letter: Simple cover page that will include your logo, the event name (avoid the words sponsorship package or proposal) and your event tagline.
- Audience/Target Overview: Let them know who will be attending and why it is ideal for them.
- The Opportunity: Why should they participate? This page should concisely cover the following using concise paragraphs for each point:
- Your cause, event or brand using plain and simple terms to get the message across.
- Talk about the opportunity, program or event.
- Menu of opportunities: You want to present your menu of opportunities, without actually saying it is a menu or the levels of sponsorship you offer. Instead, focus on the opportunities using statements such as “Engage Leaders in Industry X” or “Reach out to People of a Certain Age or Geography” or “Come and Meet X Sector.” State your philosophy about working with sponsors and then offer suggestions of how they can participate. List all your assets and opportunities.
- Sample Activations: As discussed above, list your ideas to help bring your audience and sponsor closer together. Make sure they see how you help them achieve their goals using the various options available such as branding, sampling, attendee experience and contests. This is a conversation starter to encourage them to think of ways they can become part of your event.
- The Contact Page: Use a clear call to action such as “we want to hear from you!” This is where you encourage sponsors to get in touch, tell you what’s missing and tell you what they want to add or change. You want them to reach out, so a form with check boxes and modes of payment is not required. Instead, provide your contact information to get them to continue the conversation so you can sell the sponsorship on the best mutual terms.
Give your sponsors a few days to absorb the proposal before reaching out again. Following up is par for the course and they will expect to hear from you. Ask them how they feel about your request and if there are any thoughts or questions. Ask if they can offer advice on how you can improve your offering to better meet their needs. Don’t be afraid to reach out a few times to discuss the proposal and find out more about how they are feeling.
Working for Sponsors: Brand Activation & ROI
Getting the money from your sponsors is just the beginning. You have made a commitment to help your sponsors meet certain goals, based on the services you offered them. You need to ensure you can deliver results for your sponsors which means tracking how you get their sponsorship into action and then showing them some numbers that show they did get what they paid for. This usually involves two things:
- Event sponsorship activation
- ROI measurement
Event sponsorship activation allows sponsors to add some value to your event through experiences, while ROI measurement will prove to be one of your most powerful selling tools for your next event.
Here are some brand activation ideas to make your event more successful:
- Try Something New: Allow attendees to check some things off their bucket list. What can you offer them that is relevant to your brand and event, that will entice people to do something new?
- Tell Authentic Stories: Offer opportunity for attendees to tell a story about their experiences. Testimonials offer credibility after the fact, but if you provide a way for people to share their experiences live at the event, they tell their stories, create a buzz and experience your event on a more personal level.
- Create Worlds: Create an imaginary backdrop that immerses people in a new adventure relevant to your event goals. Make sure the experience is interactive and indulges the senses.
- Use Technology: From virtual reality to real-time postings to Instagram and other social media platforms, find ways to include technology at your event. It provides deeper experiences while allowing people to relate to your brand in a way they understand. It can even be as simple as charging stations with free coffee.
- Offer Relaxation/Stress-Reducing Experiences: Depending on your brand and event, offering a way to relax and feel indulged can make meaningful connections. Onsite massage therapists, makeovers, wine tastings, pop-up whiskey bars… what will connect with your audience?
- Play Games: This doesn’t work for all events, but games equal fun. Because people don’t have to participate, those who want to can, no pressure on the others. You can also just have some contests to offer some great prizes while also collecting names for leads.
- Embrace Wellness: Show people you care with yoga or meditation rooms, free workouts, massages, or free consults with life coaches.
- Sampling & Demos: This goes without saying, but sampling and demos are key to successful sponsorships and events.
- Livestream Opportunity: A sponsorship with exclusive rights to livestream aspects of the event can help sponsors engage with their audience.
- Take every aspect of your event to the next level, so that no matter where attendees travel at your site, they are completely immersed in the theme of the day. With creative event sponsorship ideas, you open up more possibilities for your attendees and partners.
Following your event, you owe your sponsors a fulfillment report providing proof you delivered on your promise. You match what you offered to what you delivered so you can avoid complaints while also encouraging participation for your next event.
Your fulfillment report should include:
- A simple chart showing what you promised sponsors, and what was delivered
- Stats on event attendees
- How many people participated in the sponsor’s activities
- Social media data, web traffic, and other engagement metrics
- Examples of what your team did to ensure success
- ROI calculation
If you are lucky you overdelivered and can encourage participation in years to come.
Renewing Sponsors and Leveraging Past Sponsor Relationships
With one event under your belt with your sponsor, you are positioned to renew sponsorships and use your past sponsor experiences to attract new sponsors. You can use these strategies to help you grow your sponsorship options:
- Collect testimonials from past sponsors as social proof your event was a success.
- Create case studies with your top sponsors to illustrate how your event helped.
- Use positive ROI to prove sponsorship works.
- Improve your sponsorship opportunities using feedback from past sponsors.
- Expand your event by attracting better keynote speakers, performers, thought leaders, celebrities, etc.
- Include success stories in your newly developed sponsorship packages to demonstrate how it will help sponsors meet their goals.
- Leverage videos, web pages, social media posts and all media generated at your last event to make your sponsorship marketing more enticing.
Through sponsorship you allow your events to improve year after year, using proof of success to generate better opportunities.
Always Ask for a Referral
Before you end the fulfillment report meeting, ask your sponsors who else they think you should be talking to. Ask them if there is someone in their network or who they do business with that would enjoy your approach to sponsorship and want to reach your audience. Not only will you keep your sponsors with this approach but you may find you’ve met your new business goals before the new fiscal opens.
Key Takeaways for Successful Event Sponsorship
For successful event sponsorship keep the following tips in mind:
- Remember the value event sponsorship brings to your event including financial support and event credibility.
- Outline your event vision, purpose and audience so potential partners understand the benefits you offer and so you can target the right partners.
- Research the right partners and contact the right people to share your opportunities.
- Don’t just create event sponsorship packages, but instead present opportunities that help partners meet their marketing goals.
- Create a relationship with prospects then send them a vibrant, to the point proposal customized based on your conversations.
- Follow up to listen to feedback and look for opportunities to seal the deal.
- Be prepared to work hard once sponsors are required to ensure their involvement is a success.
- Collect data to prove event ROI to potential sponsors at your next event.
- Depend on past sponsors to participate in future events and provide testimonials and case studies to help expand your sponsor base.
Event sponsorships can open new doors to create meaningful experiences for your customers and community. With the right sponsors and partnerships, you can continue to grow your events, creating greatly anticipated annual happenings that raise brand awareness or further your cause.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.