How to get sponsorship for a first year event or new opportunity

What do you do when you are launching a brand new event? Or a naming right for a building that hasn’t been constructed yet? Or a new program?

First, it has to be said: a brand new sponsorship opportunity is not given a pass from following the sponsorship sales process discussed in this article.

Typical variations of this question are:

  • How do I find sponsors for a brand new event?
  • How can I talk audience data when I don’t have an audience yet?
  • How do I get sponsorship for a first year event without knowing who will attend?
  • I need investors in order to do XYZ opportunity, how do I get sponsors on board?

Sponsors Don’t Exist!

If you haven’t read my article about how there is no such thing as sponsors, you should do it now. Sponsors don’t exist.

Businesses exist, with business goals, namely profit.

The question is never, “how do I sell sponsorship?” or “how do I get sponsorship dollars for my needs?” but “How can I help a business get closer to their core goal, using my sponsorship opportunities?”

In other words, looking to sponsors as angel investors or a bank loan alternative is a bad idea. If you need an investor, find an investor…not a sponsor.

First Year Sponsorship Opportunities

But what if you know you have a great opportunity? You know you have a solid audience, marketing strategy, activation ideas and a third party valuation. If that’s the case, then first year event or not, you have something businesses will want to be involved with and following these steps will help you prove your case to future sponsors.

Have a Marketing Plan

If your goal is to run an event and hope people show up, then once they do you will collect audience data, you should wait a year before you reach out to sponsors. If, however, you are running an event geared towards a well defined audience and you have a marketing plan (and budget) with a solid media partnership, then use that to prove to sponsors that your chance of success is high.

Remember, no company is targeting “families” or “the general public” and you shouldn’t be either! A well planned, well funded marketing plan can take the place of audience data in year one.

Collect Audience Data

Before you reach out to prospects, have a solid audience data collection strategy in place. After you present your marketing plan to your prospects, show them your audience data collection strategy. Ask your prospects for questions to include in your post event survey. Ask them if they want to use your event to do some product testing or surveying of their own.

In other words, use the fact that this is a brand new opportunity as a benefit to sponsors, something they can shape and influence at the planning stages.

Look to Your Database

If you plan to advertise your new event to your current database, then you already have a captive audience. Even if that database won’t participate in your opportunity, if you plan to advertise to them then you can use your current audience data in place of property specific data. This won’t help you sell onsite sponsorship opportunities, but it will help you add weight to your digital assets and prove to your prospects that you understand the value of audience data.

Offer a Discount

Something I have used with great success is to limit risk to my sponsors in year one. After you show them your marketing plan, audience data strategy and projections for years one to three, present them with your valuation. Tell you sponsor that in year one, you are going to offer them a 50% discount but if you hit your goals for number of attendees and quality of attendees, in year two they will agree to pay full price for rights fees going forward.

You limit the risk to your sponsors, sweeten the deal and prevent them from trying to lock you into a discounted rate for multiple years.

Be Realistic

No audience, no sponsorship. It’s that simple.

If aren’t in a position to do the above then you are expecting your sponsors to take a huge risk on your opportunity and in my experience, that just doesn’t work. Remember, sponsors are comparing your opportunity to marketing assets available on the free market (not just other sponsorship opportunities) and if what you are presenting is too risky then why wouldn’t they just stick with other proven options?

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.