How to get Media Sponsorship for an Event: A Practical guide
We have worked on literally thousands of events, valuing sponsorship opportunities and coaching event and conference organizers through the sponsorship sales process. In every case, securing a media sponsor has significantly increased the value and appeal of these properties to sponsors. If your goal is to grow your sponsorship program by adding a media partnership to your portfolio, then this post is for you!
Securing Media Sponsorship in a Nutshell
The process of securing a media partnership is similar to other types of sponsorship sales. In a nutshell, here is the process that the most successful properties have used:
- Clarify your audience, attendees, database, social media following
- Survey your audience and build audience niches if you have not done so in the past year
- Review all organic media in the last 12 months, looking for trends, types of publications and the most popular stories
- Short list the media outlets that appear most often in your organic coverage
- Using your audience data, identify media that targets each audience segment
- Plan a media budget! Most media partners will look to you to invest some cash, though not always
- Create a sponsorship package that focuses entirely on your audience, reach, database size, social media following etc.
- Reach out to your top three media outlets and ask them to meet to discuss a partnership
- Use the results of your media partnership to run a valuation on all of your sponsorship opportunities
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is! At least, it is if you follow the process outlined here. Let’s go into each step in greater detail.
Media Sponsorship Benefits: Why You Should Care
Lots of sponsorship seekers are after “awareness” for their events and opportunities. Awareness is fine but it is a secondary benefit to media exposure, not the primary goal.
Securing a media sponsor can help with:
- Increasing the value of your opportunity
- Attracting new sponsors
- Expanding your reach
- Ticket sales
- Activating other sponsors
- Proving ROI to current sponsors
- Beefing up your fulfillment and wrap up reports
Media sponsors guarantee you a certain level of exposure on specific channels and publications, protecting you against the fickle nature of organic media.
The Problem with Organic Media
Why not just write press releases and send them out to every publication and outlet in your industry and call it a day?
Actually, you should still do this! Don’t spam anyone but if you have a newsworthy story to share and you have an audience of interest to specific publications, by all means, send out a press release.
The problems with organic media:
- It isn’t guaranteed
- You can’t value it as part of a sponsorship package
- You can only measure it after the fact
- You may not get prime real estate in the publication (or TV, radio, web etc.)
- You can’t control the story
- You can’t use it for advertising or with a strong call to action
- Adding a sponsor logo to a press release does not mean it will be included in the media
If a bigger story breaks near your event or conference, you will lose all of your organic media. Not good!
Who Should Seek Media Partnerships
Events of all sizes should seek media partnerships. If you get any organic media at all, this is a good indication that you have an opportunity of interest to media partners.
The types of opportunities that lend themselves well to media partnerships include:
- Major national events
- Large local events
- Niche events, catering to a very specific audience
- Industry conferences
- Large meetings
- Public campaigns, such as “Cancer Awareness Month”
- Speaker series
- Special events
The most important thing to note here is not the type of opportunity but how well you know your audience. This will point you to the right media partner.
Think your topic or area is too niche? Think again. Just because you don’t have a mass audience doesn’t mean that you don’t have appeal. Every niche audience has a publication, journal, magazine or website that focuses on them who may have interest in a partnership.
When to Approach Media Sponsors
There is nothing carved in stone here. You can secure a media partner at any time in your sponsorship sales and planning cycle. It is to your advantage, however, to focus on media sponsorships before you approach your cash sponsors.
The reason for this is simple. Once you have a defined media partnership in place, you will know which assets you can add to your inventory for sponsorship sales. Media partnerships also significantly increase your “impressions” on things like title sponsorship and presenting sponsors.
We have seen properties value their title sponsorship opportunities for low five figures, add a national media partnership and immediately increase their value to mid six figures. Had they waited until after they secured a title sponsor to find a media partner, it would have cost them over one million dollars over three years.
Media partners will want exclusivity and they will want it across all channels. That is to say, if a media outlet has print, TV, radio and web, they will not want you to find separate sponsors for each medium. If they don’t offer one of those mediums, like radio for example, they may allow you to find a media sponsor for that channel only but that new prospect is unlikely to wave their exclusivity requirements. Best practice would suggest to find a media partner that has the channels you want all in one place.
You can certainly find a media partner for free, that is, without bringing any cash to the table but it is rarely recommended. Why? Because you will not be a priority and you don’t have any leverage. Instead, come to the table with a budget and ask your partner to give you a 3:1 or 4:1 ROI on that investment.
Who Should You Pitch?
Because having a budget, even a small one, is the best way to close a meaningful media partner, I always start with the sales team and let them know I have a budget, but I want to use it to negotiate a media sponsorship agreement. In every case, if they are interested, they do the heavy lifting getting the team together.
Other individuals to reach out to include:
- Community affairs
- Community relations
- Sales manager
- Brand partnership
- Community partnership
- Marketing manager
Building a Media Sponsorship Proposal
Check out The Definitive Guide to the Sponsorship Proposal for an in-depth review of how to build a sponsorship proposal.
Things to include in your sponsorship package:
- An event description
- Numbers: how many attend, size of your database and social media following
- Media numbers to date
- A strong call to action to invite them to get in touch to discuss
If you have already had discussions with your prospect, include the assets you’ve discussed, which may include:
- Distribution at the event or to your database
- A contest on social media
- Broadcasting live from your event
- Free passes
- Speaking opportunities
- Access to thought leaders within your org to interview
Post Campaign Wrap Up Report
After your event, campaign or program, always provide your sponsors with a fulfillment report. Track everything you promised to provide your media partner and send them a wrap-up report proving that you delivered. Don’t forget to ask your media partner to do the same for you so that you can share the data with your other sponsors.
Media partnerships can have a significant impact on the success of your property but only if you approach them strategically. Done well, these types of partnership can help you exceed your budget goals.
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.