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How to Build Sponsor Relationships and Find Sponsors for Events

by | May 2, 2024

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There is a surprisingly common trope in the sponsorship community in which it is presumed that having the right connections is the only thing you need to find sponsors for events. While that may have been true decades ago, it certainly isn’t today. Far from it, actually.

I would consider myself one of the most ‘connected’ professionals in the industry, with a metaphorical Rolodex brimming with CEOs, CMOs, Brand Directors, and marketing agencies from some of the most active and generous sponsors in the business. These connections count for nothing, however, in the face of a poor sponsorship proposal

While connections are certainly useful (and I have spent years carefully cultivating them), they offer no clear advantage in securing sponsorship arrangements unless key aspects of the sponsorship proposal are in place. The fact is that sponsors are results-driven and not relationship-driven. 

With that being said, good relationships obviously help you to find sponsors for events, providing all of your ducks are in a row, and the sponsor stands to gain from the partnership. Relationships are incredibly important – but not the be-all and end-all.

Through this blog post, I am going to offer five tips on building sponsor relationships. Take them on board, and you will find your sponsor for events far more successfully – assuming you have a polished, relevant, and compelling sponsorship proposal, that is. 

Know the Sponsor’s Goals

Understanding your sponsor’s goals is arguably the most important aspect of forming sponsorship relationships. While you might share friendly banter with them without grasping the sponsor’s core objectives, the connection lacks any real depth. 

Trying to partner with someone without knowing essential details about their goals will not help you find sponsors for events any quicker. 

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So, start by researching your potential sponsor far more thoroughly. Jump into their social media, websites, and advertisements to grasp their marketing strategies, brand focus, and target demographics. Doing so will help you get a feel for how they operate.

Then, when discussing with the potential or existing sponsor, bring this knowledge to the table and ask questions to fill in any holes – showing that you’ve prepared can encourage them to share more openly. It may sound like an obvious suggestion, but you would be surprised how frequently this basic step is neglected.

Reassess Current Sponsors

As for your current sponsors, reassess what you know about them and their aims, frequently. The most common mistake is to assume they are just after visibility, but their real goals probably involve a far deeper engagement with their target audience.

Regular check-ins are needed to stay in touch with their evolving goals and to help the event sponsorship continually serve as a terrific platform for your sponsor’s objectives.

Get Your Story Across

We live in an age where event sponsorship is bigger than ever. To succeed, you will need to stand out among the relentless sponsorship requests that many companies receive daily. You can do that by conveying a strong, polished narrative about your organization and forming a relationship that aids you in becoming one of the chosen few. 

Begin by presenting impactful, attention-grabbing statistics about the organization you represent. Show the transformative effects your group has had with previous sponsors. Include specific examples of success that illustrate the more human side of your achievements, as this will make your mission relatable and tangible. 

In other words, you need balance here. Providing serious data with relatable stories enables your potential sponsors to understand the depth of your potential impact. You need to help them gauge how well your values and goals meet with their corporate mission, improving the likelihood of forming a meaningful partnership over time. 

Identifying Key Players in Sponsorship

Another obvious one that is commonly overlooked pertains to approaching the right person, or people, within your target company. You need to go for the jugular here, forming a relationship with the key financial decision-makers wherever possible. By the same token, it’s equally important to value the influencers within the organization. 

Again, it’s about balance. Don’t forget that once a sponsorship is agreed upon, you might find yourself collaborating with junior team members on the project’s execution.

Again, this might be stating the obvious, but you must treat everyone with respect. Try and avoid bypassing lower-ranked employees or overlooking their input. If challenges develop, work through them collaboratively and escalate matters jointly if needed. An inclusive approach not only builds trust but also helps empower every team member involved.

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Be Inclusive 

Relationship building applies to various levels of the company you are working with, especially with event sponsorship, where companies often employ an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to getting events off the ground. 

Make an effort to understand their roles fully—ask about their goals and challenges. Sometimes, you might have resources or information that can aid them in their tasks. By doing so, you transform your contacts into, shall we say, champions of the project, improving the partnership for everyone involved going forward.

Find Value Beyond Personal Connections

Try to focus on the shelf life of sponsorship, not just personal relationships. Given the high turnover of employees in marketing and branding roles, it’s likely that the people who initially agreed to the sponsorship may not be around when it’s time to renew further down the line.

To that end, I strongly recommend investing your efforts and resources into enriching the sponsorship itself and not just the relationship. Do that by adding exclusive benefits, organizing educational or networking events for sponsors, conducting targeted research, or thinking about sponsor cross-promotions. 

Launching different initiatives as the partnership evolves will improve your value and ensure that the benefits are clear and obvious – regardless of personnel changes – at the time of renewal. 

Maintaining the Relationship

We all have that one friend or family member who we rarely hear from until they need something. Don’t allow yourself to be viewed in that same light. It’s actually a fairly common (and entirely justified) view among corporate sponsors that they are only approached by organizations when in need of funds. 

Engaging in continuous relationship-building is fundamental to future sponsorships, so think about developing a strategy plan to keep in touch. You just need to get the basics right, such as sending festive greetings during holidays and occasionally sharing relevant articles or upcoming events. Just check in with them from time to time – it isn’t complicated or challenging.

It may help to have a detailed communication strategy that will help you maintain regular contact. Either way, apart from showing your sponsors that you value their support, it will also strengthen your partnership over time.

Beyond the Basics

In this section, I’ll highlight some additional strategies to consider when developing your sponsorship relationships, ensuring mutual benefits, and maintaining strong connections over time.

  • What is in it for the Sponsor?
    Sponsors want a clear return on investment. It’s important to present how sponsoring your event meets with their business goals and marketing strategies. This could mean increased visibility, targeted access to specific demographics, or even association with a valued community initiative.
  • Streamline the Ask
    Provide a full overview of sponsorship opportunities all at once, enabling sponsors to understand all possibilities upfront and design their support with events that best fit their goals, potentially increasing their overall investment.
  • Deliver as Promised!
    Fulfilling what you’ve agreed upon is a prerequisite for sustaining sponsor trust and satisfaction over time. Reliable execution of agreed terms lays the foundation for renewing sponsorships and may even avoid prospecting for sponsors every year.
  • Maintain Timely Communications
    Keep sponsors informed about the impact of their investment and any upcoming needs or opportunities with regular updates. This helps maintain their engagement and satisfaction with the partnership.
  • Show the Impact
    Providing tangible results of the sponsorship by detailing specific outcomes, such as community impact or engagement statistics. This will allow sponsors to see the real-world effects of their support, strengthening your partnership.
  • Express Gratitude
    Another obvious one, but worth mentioning: a simple, heartfelt thank you goes a very long way. Acknowledging a sponsor’s contribution – not only after the event but throughout the year – helps to cement the relationship and leads to a positive and appreciative atmosphere.
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Bottom Line

It should go without saying that relationship-building is an important aspect of event sponsorship, but it is by no means the only thing that matters. The days of smooching clients on the 18th green are long gone. Modern sponsorship prospecting involves a combination of relationship-building with a solid strategy. 

Building sponsor relationships isn’t complicated; you simply need a proactive and strategic approach based on more than connection-making alone. Deliver on your promises, maintain regular communication, and demonstrate the impact of the sponsorship with data. Do that, and you will reap the benefits of long-term partnerships.
Need a little help in securing event sponsorship? Book a call with The Sponsorship Collective today, and let’s discuss how to find sponsors for events successfully.