How to Get App Sponsorship: Everything You Need to Know
You have a really great idea for an app, but you need funding to make it possible. This will be your first sponsorship opportunity, and you’re not sure how to approach it. What should you do?
Here’s how to get app sponsorship:
- Set goals
- Find prospects interested in your app
- Choose and value your assets
- Write your app sponsorship proposal
- Schedule a discovery session
- Negotiate sponsorship terms
- Plan for sponsorship renewal
From companies building an event app to app developers, lots of parties might be interested in app sponsorship.
This complete guide to app sponsorship will be full of lots of valuable information for first-time sponsorship seekers and repeat sponsorship seekers who want to create a process for obtaining future sponsorship opportunities.
Let’s get started!
How to Get Sponsorship for Mobile Apps
Define App Sponsorship Goals
Right now, you’re likely at a crossroads with your app. Perhaps you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into its development only for it to barely make a splash on the app store. You’re hoping that by attaching a bigger brand to your app that more people might feel inclined to download it.
Maybe you’ve run out of funding for your app but it’s not through development yet. You could even be in the middle of developing an event app, and you need both funding and promotion, and soon.
You know where you want to be and how much of a chasm exists between where you are now and that desired outcome. That makes it a lot easier to begin formulating your goals for app sponsorship.
Your goal could be to raise $30,000 so you can finish your app and properly market it. You might want to increase the number of downloads you’re getting by 25,000, so you need a brand with influencing potential.
Be clear on your goals at this stage. Your goalposts might move as the sponsorship process is underway, so give yourself wiggle room to change them.
I always tell my sponsorship seekers to begin thinking about the other side of the equation as well, which is your sponsor.
Sponsorship is just as much about what you give to the sponsor as what they provide to you. That doesn’t mean you have to give the sponsor money, but you will offer them other valuable assets that can further their goals. I don’t want to put the cart too far ahead of the horse though, as I’ll more into assets shortly.
Find Suitable Sponsorship Prospects
You know what you want out of a sponsor, but who in the world are you going to choose to sponsor your app or event?
This is a hard question for many sponsorship seekers to answer, especially first-timers. Your first instinct is going to be to reach for the highest-hanging fruit, the big techie brands or names in fitness, fashion, food, or whatever your app niche is.
Those are the brands that can catapult your app into the stratosphere. They’re also the brands that are so inundated with sponsorship requests that yours will likely go unnoticed.
I’ve had many clients who have gone after the wrong sponsorship prospects, not heard back, gotten discouraged, and quit sponsorship altogether. It’s not that their approach was wrong, per se, just that they chose the wrong prospects.
Usually, I tell my sponsorship seekers to use data from their audience survey as the benchmark for which prospects to reach out to.
For app sponsorship, it’s a little different. The app you’re developing now might be your first product. Therefore, you don’t have an audience to survey.
That’s okay! You might not have a real audience yet, but you have a hypothetical audience: your target audience.
All along, you’ve kept this target audience in mind as you put together your app. They influenced the bulk of your decision-making, from what you named your app to what color the interface was, the features your app would include, all the way down to which font you used.
They’re the ones who ideally will download your app and then leave a rave review in the app store so other people feel inclined to download the app as well. They’ll hopefully talk about your app on social media or among their friends, family members, and colleagues to inspire more people to check it out.
In your target audience are various segments. You have to go one segment at a time and decide which brands your audience segments would like.
Go beyond apps. Are the people in your audience segments more of a Netflix or Hulu kind of person? The New Yorker or New York Times? Audi or Hyundai?
You might feel like you’re splitting hairs here, but what you’re really doing is creating a list of prospective sponsors.
Once you have that list, go deeper. Of the brands on your list, what kinds of companies are marketing to those consumers? Which companies should be advertising to those consumers?
You’ll continue broadening your list of prospects more and more.
To wrap up this exercise, you can then go through your list and research each brand. For those that don’t gel with the merit or values of your app, cross them off. Using the method I outlined above should reduce these kinds of mismatches to outliers.
Instead, what you’re left with is a long and viable list of prospective sponsors to connect with when the time is right.
Select Your Assets and Determine App Sponsorship Pricing
Earlier, I began talking about assets. You might wonder what in the world I meant by that, so allow me to explain.
An asset is what you sell to the sponsor to solve their problems or help them fulfill their goals. An asset can be something you can see, touch, and feel or it can be something purely intangible. Often, assets are a combination of both.
Let me use an event as an example. You’re hosting an event and part of that entails making an event app. What can you offer the sponsor at you event that’s valuable?
Well, that depends on the kind of event, but you have plenty of options. If your event will have a lot of guest speakers, then perhaps you can give the sponsor a guest speaking spot. If the event is more like a convention or expo, they might have their own booth.
Okay, but what if you’re not doing an event app? Your app is in development and isn’t catered to any specific event.
You can still offer something of value to the sponsor. If you have a cult social media following, you can offer to post a series of sponsored content across various social media platforms.
What makes for a good asset is in part dependent on what a sponsor needs. That’s why the discovery session is such a valuable part of your sponsorship program, but I’ll get to that.
Another factor that makes a good asset is how much it’s worth. How can you possibly assign a value to a guest speaking spot or a series of social media posts? That’s not like going to a grocery store and buying a head of lettuce.
No, it isn’t, but you must price your assets all the same. This is known as valuing them.
My tip? Rely on market research. Do some digging to determine what other companies have charged for similar services. Then adjust your prices accordingly.
You can even use your app competitors to inspire you. If those other app brands have sought sponsorship, you might be able to glean the details of their assets menu. Again, use their pricing as a baseline, but don’t copy it down to the decimal point.
Using these pieces of research as a benchmark is like checking your work. You can determine whether your asset prices are about where they should be or way out in left field.
Write Your App Sponsorship Proposal
Once you’ve calculated the approximate value of your assets (aka valuated them), it’s time to put everything together into your app sponsorship proposal.
The sponsorship proposal is a six-page document that includes all the pertinent details of your app sponsorship opportunity. You’ll talk about your company or app, your cause, and your audience. You’ll also include your assets.
I have a lot of great resources on the blog about how to write a sponsorship proposal, such as this post right here. I’ve even produced detailed templates you can follow to put together your own successful proposal.
Thus, I won’t talk about writing your proposal in this section. Instead, I want to unpack two aspects of your app sponsorship proposal in more detail. The first of these is your sponsorship menu and the second is your activation opportunities.
Let’s start by talking about the sponsorship menu, which is the home of your assets. Rather than use prescribed levels or tiers, you want to put everything in a clean-looking, comprehensive menu.
I provide a sample menu in my sponsorship proposal template, but I don’t recommend copying that. As an app developer or designer, I’m sure you can create a beautiful-looking asset menu.
Okay, so what are activation opportunities, right? They’re another crucial part of successful app sponsorship, and something you should excel in given your background. An activation opportunity is a way to link your target audience to your sponsor.
In other words, you’re fulfilling a need your audience has while at the same time doing that for your sponsor.
When you gather data on your audience, pain points are bound to come up. For instance, you might have asked your audience about a past event you created an app for and what they thought about that. Perhaps your audience answered something like they wanted more entertainment options at the event.
Okay, so your audience wants to be entertained.
Now let’s look at some issues your sponsor has. Using an easy example, your sponsor could want more email signups or a stronger social media presence.
By entertaining your audience, that gets them to your sponsor’s booth. Then it’s just a matter of collecting contact information so the sponsor achieves their objectives.
Alright, so how do you get people to sign up? Well, the sponsor could host a scavenger hunt at the event. Winners will find out by the end of the day whether they won, so maybe they need to provide a phone number or an email.
Once the sponsor has the audience’s contact information, they can start engaging and nurturing the audience to convert them.
That’s activation in a nutshell. A good activation idea is not about how much money you can spend or how impressive it looks. It’s about bringing together your audience and your sponsor while solving their needs.
Contact Sponsors for a Discovery Session
You’ve done so much research and writing at this point that you’re beginning to wonder when you’ll ever get to contact the sponsor and get the ball rolling.
I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but everything you’ve done to this point is getting the ball rolling. You’re prepared to meet with the sponsor and talk about a potential app sponsorship deal.
As app developers, you’ll probably prefer to contact a prospective sponsor online, such as through social media DM or email. How you reach out doesn’t matter so much as contacting the right person.
I always recommend that sponsorship seekers have a connection to the prospective sponsor. This doesn’t have to be a direct connection. Perhaps one of your colleagues knows someone or you have a friend of a friend. You just need that in.
Why do I suggest this? It’s like getting past the gatekeeper. Plus, that connection you have with someone else might make your prospective sponsor a little more willing to hear you out.
When you finally get the sponsor on the phone (or they reply to your email), what do you even say? You want to set up a meeting, and not just any meeting, but a discovery session.
What are you discovering, exactly? Good question! The crux of a discovery session is this: you ask the target sponsor a handful of questions about their goals, challenges, target audience, products/services, etc. Your goal is to determine whether their issues are solvable by your services.
You might ask questions like “what action do customers take before they buy something from you? How do you get them to take action?” Or “what are your sales goals for the next quarter/year?”
As I said before, the information from your discovery session will influence which assets you put into your app sponsorship menu.
Negotiate the Terms of Your App Sponsorship Deal
The discovery session wraps up and you get the feeling that you and this sponsor could work well together. That’s great! As you’re shaking hands with the sponsor (or saying your goodbyes virtually), be sure to ask them one important question.
“Can we meet again to discuss X?”
It’s a beginner’s mistake to walk out of a discovery meeting (or any subsequent meeting) without another meeting in the cards. You want to keep the sponsor engaged and your app sponsorship program moving forward.
One meeting will turn into two, then three and four. Only the first meeting is a discovery session, but the second meeting might take on a similar format. What the planning and negotiating phase of a sponsorship deal looks like is different for every sponsorship seeker.
I’ve had some clients who landed a sponsor during the first meeting. For others, it takes several meetings before a sponsor makes up their mind.
I want to give you one of my best pieces of sponsorship advice: don’t bring your app sponsorship proposal with you to any meetings unless asked. In many sponsorship relationships, the first few meetings are about feeling each other out. When the sponsor wants more information on your opportunity, they’ll ask for it.
Here’s another handy tip. When sitting down and negotiating your app sponsorship deal, always consult a lawyer. I’ve written about how to write sponsorship agreements, and you can take my advice. However, since these agreements are legally binding documents, both parties should have a lawyer read everything over before anyone signs anything.
Produce a Fulfillment Report and Propose Sponsorship Renewal
In the ensuing weeks or months, you and your sponsor will work towards fulfilling goals on both sides. Your app will come to fruition, maybe in time for an event. If so, that event will occur with the sponsor’s support.
You did what you said you would, and the sponsor did what they said they would. That’s the end, right?
Not exactly. In your app sponsorship agreement, you will put in writing the goals and outcomes you’re trying to achieve for your sponsor. I want to stress again that that agreement is legally binding.
That’s why it’s not a bad idea to have proof of the outcomes you achieved. That proof comes in the form of your post-event report, aka your fulfillment report.
I just so happened to recently publish a post about what goes into a post-event report, so please give that a read. It will certainly come in handy as you proceed.
To quickly recap, your fulfillment report includes charts, graphs, and other data that should prove unequivocally that you did as you promised in your app sponsorship arrangement.
That said, you can’t lie and pretend you got the sponsor $50,000 in sales when it was only $10,000. The sponsor can prove where their sales came from, and the discrepancy will be apparent.
Assuming you did as promised and the sponsor was pleased, you should broach the topic of app sponsorship renewal. The next time you host an event or start on an app, you could work with that sponsor again.
While sponsors mostly care about their ROI, your outcomes are not the only factor that go into their decision to be a repeat partner. How easy and pleasant you were to work with and the quality of your activations and assets will also sway their decision.
Even if a sponsor declines to work with you again, there’s no reason to torch that bridge to the ground. Stay cordial, keep up through email or phone a few times a year, and you never know what could happen. The sponsor could recommend you other opportunities, or they might become available later to partner up again.
With apps more popular than ever, the field of app sponsorship should continue to grow as well. No matter your app goals, I hope this guide can act as the stepping stone you need to propel your app sponsorship program!
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.