What Is an Event Sponsorship?
An event sponsorship provides funding, promotions, or both for any type of event.
It’s a broad term that you can apply more specifically if needed. For example, if you host a music festival or arts and crafts event, those are festival sponsorships. A motorsport sponsorship falls under the sports sponsorship umbrella.
That said, they’re all technically examples of event sponsorship.
Event sponsorship continues to be big business, with a Statista Market Forecast reporting that the compound annual growth rate for sponsorship in the United States will reach $220 million in 2027.
Sport sponsorship leads the charge, but other types of sponsorship can be just as valuable.
After all, the most valuable sponsorship opportunities align with your audience’s interests and desires. Positioning businesses in front of them they’re interested in engaging with (i.e., your sponsors) is how a successful opportunity begins.
The Types of Sponsorship
Before you seek sponsorship, you need to know what kind you’re asking for. Here’s an overview, with more information on when each type of sponsorship is most beneficial.
Let’s get underway with the most popular type of sponsorship, and for good reason. Cash sponsors provide moolah, money, dough. You get the idea. They give you cash.
The money goes toward your event, program, or opportunity to improve it.
That can include expanding its scope, inviting more high-profile speakers or entertainers, extending the duration of the event, increasing the event space, and otherwise making it more enjoyable for attendees.
You can determine how much cash you need from a sponsor by valuing your assets and activations, then deciding if the amount is doable by one sponsor or better divided among several.
Since cash sponsorship is so versatile, it works for all types of sponsorship opportunities. You can use the funding as you see fit, increasing its mileage.
Keep in mind that although a sponsor gives you cash, it’s not a donation. They expect deliverables that are equal to and ideally exceed the value of what they pay.
From the most to the least popular, the second type of sponsorship to pursue is in-kind or contra sponsorship.
Rather than receive a cash payment from a sponsor, you would get free items instead. They’re often promotional in nature, like branded T-shirts or pens, and can sometimes include free food or beverages. What you would receive and in what quantity depends on the sponsor.
The mileage of contra sponsorship varies, which is why it’s so unpopular. You can sometimes shave off your event expenses by using an in-kind sponsor, but usually not by a lot.
The value of the items they provide plays a major role in how fulfilling this type of sponsorship relationship can be. After all, branded tote bags or hoodies don’t do much for businesses except for increasing awareness.
However, in-kind sponsorship has its place, much like any other sponsorship type. Small organizations, charities, and nonprofits often gravitate toward this type of sponsorship, and it’s a great fit in these industries.
You can combine contra and cash sponsorship, extending the value and usefulness of the former.
A media sponsor is a partner from a media agency, such as a news organization, a radio station, a newspaper, or a magazine. They will print or broadcast promotional materials about your brand and upcoming event, increasing attention.
You should expect more website visits, email list signups, and social media followers. You can also experience greater lead gen and more engagement when working with a media sponsor.
This partnership is technically a sponsorship, which means you must provide high-value activations and assets to the media brand in exchange for their services.
The last type is a promotional sponsor. At first glance, a media and promotional sponsor can seem the same, but they diverge in various ways.
A media sponsor works for a media company, as established. A promotional sponsor doesn’t necessarily. For instance, an influencer can be a promotional sponsor, as can a podcast host.
The goal of promotional sponsorship is the same: increase attention to your brand and your upcoming event. Attendance numbers should hopefully skyrocket, especially if your promotional sponsor has a lot of clout.
Combining promotional and cash sponsorship ensures you cover your bases. You’ll have the money to grow your event and the team to amplify it.
How Do I Know If My Event Needs Sponsorship?
Is sponsorship the right call for your event? That’s a loaded question. You don’t want to say yes if you don’t need a sponsor, but if you say no when a sponsor’s backing could take your event to the next level, it’s not your business that suffers. Ultimately, it’s your attendees who get the short end of the stick.
Here are some questions to ask so your organization or business can decide when to seek an event sponsor.
Do You Have Enough Funding for Your Event?
If you’re short on funding, that doesn’t mean running to a sponsor is the right answer. Sponsorship is a two-way business relationship fueled by mutually fulfilling each other’s goals.
You might consider donations or a loan if all you need is money.
Are Your Competitors Using Sponsors?
If the answer is yes, your event must have sponsorship to keep up. You don’t need to pull a mega-million-dollar sponsorship deal out of thin air the first time you seek a sponsor. That’s unrealistic.
Instead, begin attaining to add sponsors to your event year after year, growing the scope of the sponsors as you do.
By the way, even if you answered no, your competitors aren’t using sponsors, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Don’t follow the leader; be the leader. Blaze your own path with sponsors and create the mold for how an event should be run.
Is Your Event Attracting the Kind of Attendance You Need?
Just as a cash sponsor isn’t always the right answer if you don’t have enough funding for your event, a promotional or media sponsor isn’t the solution to jump to if you’re underselling.
I’m not saying these sponsors couldn’t help you; of course they could. However, it might be worth evaluating where your marketing efforts are focused first. You could even expand your advertising.
Can You Provide Assets and Activations?
I saved the most important question for last. Does your organization or business have assets and activations you could provide a sponsor?
If you’ve never thought in activations and assets before, the answer might seem no at first glance. However, if you evaluate your stock, I’d be willing to bet you can provide specialized services to a sponsor that extend well beyond an average logo.
Once you have the answer to that question, you can reassess the three questions above in a different lens. If you have assets and activations and need promotions or cash, maybe a sponsor could help you.
The key is not to expect something for nothing.
The 8-Step Guide to Getting Sponsorship for Anything
Collect Audience Data
Numbers offer tangible data that shows prospects you bring valuable exposure to their brand but you still need qualitative data to prove your value to sponsors. But how do you find your audience data?
Basic demographics you have collected from people that have attended your events in the past or general data on your audience can include:
- Annual pre-tax income
- Number of children
- Highest level of education completed
- Employment sector
Surveys collect the valuable details that allow you to create segments that increase the value of your audience. To see the most success with survey responses:
- Offer an incentive to participate
- Let them know they can help you be more effective in helping them
- Tell them how long it will take to complete the survey
Then ask concise questions that will gather the most data with the least effort.
Audience Data Tools
Everyone seeking sponsorship today should have some form of CRM system or software to provide a way to collect customer data. There is always data available, just think about where you can access it and find a way to use it.
Social Media Analytics
Your social media pages have tons of data you can access including your overall social metrics such as impressions, reach, and engagement. If you’ve had sponsored content on your pages before, get specifics for those pages to show off their performance.
Google analytics show off how much traffic you gained due to an event, promotion, seminar, podcast, sponsored content and more. Look at audience reporting to collect detailed information including demographics, interests, and geographic location to help create audience segments.
Don’t forget your past sponsors. They can provide insight about how successful their participation was at past events, or other levels of sponsorship with your business.
You can also use the following tools:
- Google Alerts
- Facebook Audience Insights
- Eventbrite Reporting & Analytics
With all this info you can then define your audience, breaking it down into segments.
Identify Prospective Sponsors – Determining Which Companies to Reach Out To
Your audience and the packages you offer help you determine what prospects will respond to your sponsorship opportunities. Create a list of prospects that makes sense and don’t overlook who your competitors have for sponsors. You can also go for low lying fruit by exploring opportunities with companies you have relationships with such as vendors, and your contact list who might have connections with a prospective company.
You want your prospect list to be rich and realistic. Don’t forget the talent available in-house. Brainstorm with key staff about what companies you should be talking to because let’s not forget the power of networking. You never know who knows who and what high profile companies your team might have access to, from old jobs to best friends. Use creativity to tap into ideas, such as finding networking opportunities that will bring you face to face with some prime prospects. This keeps you in tune with not only who your prospects are, but also what they are up to.
Get the Attention of Your Prospect
Selling sponsorships isn’t much different from selling anything else. You have to catch a sponsor’s attention and make that contact stick before you can send a proposal. Use your prospect list to determine who you are selling to. Then find the right contact either on their website or searching on LinkedIn.
The basics include:
It is no secret subject lines are literally the key that gets people to open their emails. So, every good marketing email has a strong subject line. Subject lines take work, but once you get the hang of it, your effort is worth it. Don’t waste a chance by writing a bad subject line. The tactic that seems to be almost full proof is to add urgency, offer a connection or catch their attention. Here are samples of each:
- Urgency: “Met you at _______, let’s connect!”
- Connection: “_______ recommended I reach out.”
- Catch their attention: “Had an idea for _________.”
Once you nail the subject line, it’s time for the direct hit with a simple email such as:
I noticed on LinkedIn that you are involved in the sponsorship program at Company X, focused on high net worth moms who live in the suburbs.
We did some research and found that around 30% of our attendees match this demographic and thought you would be interested in a conversation.
Are you around on Tuesday at 3:00 for a 15-minute discovery call?
Follow up if you don’t hear back.
Reaching out through LinkedIn works well as you can find the right contact and reach out with the same cold call email sample shown here. Follow up.
Cold calling is more difficult as people today won’t answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. Have a simple script ready based on the cold call email and leave a message. Wait a few days and then give them a follow-up call.
Have a Discovery Session
Your first meeting/conversation is often referred to as a discovery session as it provides an opportunity for you to learn more about your prospect. You can ask questions to find out more about their pain points and marketing strategy to help determine if they will make a good fit.
As well, the exploratory meeting offers a face-to-face opportunity to collect information. You can use these tips to make sure things go well:
- Do your homework including looking at their website, social media, press releases, other sponsorships, etc. to find out more about their brand personality and positioning.
- Look for audience parallels to show them you share the same audience and can bring it to them.
Remember this is not a pitch, it is a fact-finding mission. Focus on questions that include:
- 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 the most important elements of a sponsorship package? Would you mind having a look at a draft proposal and offering some feedback?
- Do not bring a proposal to the meeting, if they ask for one, tell them you will get one to them in a few days customized to suit their needs. The same goes for pricing.
- Focus on collecting information and answering questions so you can create a killer proposal for them.
Your Sponsorship Magic – Assets and Activations
Sponsorship activation is the magic moment when your audience and sponsors both reach their goals. Your sponsor will have certain outcomes in mind when they invest in a sponsorship and especially in the case of events, so too will your audience. By ensuring both see value in the sponsorship, you can charge a premium based on the activation opportunities you offer.
Perhaps the simplest way to think of sponsorship is to think of it as selling different forms of engagements and experiences.
Sponsorships are everywhere, not just at charity events. From the names of local stadiums and office towers to conferences and concerts to branded content such as podcasts and social media pages, sponsorship opportunities are changing in their scope without losing touch with tried and true tactics.
Some general categories for sponsorship can include:
Right now, 26 of the 32 stadiums for the NFL are branded. The biggest deal was struck with MetLife who paid between $425-500 million over 25 years to have their name on the New Jersey stadium. Naming rights deals for the NFL have an average value of $8.09 million annually.
However, buildings are not the only opportunity for naming rights. It can be something smaller like:
- Kids’ softball teams
- Community marathons
- Programs or seminars
- Theater productions and more
Often, sponsors not only get to name an event or building, but also have the opportunity to share their brand with free give-aways or mini-events they might create outside or inside the site of a game or concert.
Contests become better and more effective when the prizes up for grabs have a higher perceived value. This can range from a lifetime supply of someone’s favorite product to major trips, cars or entertainment systems. If you have the right audience, you can attract major prizes for your contests and not pay a cent for them.
This boots on the ground marketing tactic is highly immersive and creates memorable experiences that are not necessarily defined like other types of marketing. They usually, but not always have overlapping efforts with a live element combined with something happening online, such as live streaming on social channels. They can be completely personal directed at a single person with a customized experience or directed at massive audiences. They can be at one location or across several major cities, or even around the world. Because experiential marketing helps “humanize” a brand, sponsors look for unique offerings that will reach their target in meaningful ways to make the most impact.
Podcasts & Webinars
Sharing expertise is an important element of marketing today. You can leverage that exposure by inviting sponsors to participate in different levels from simple logo placement to providing their own experts to present lectures.
The key to what you offer, is finding relevant opportunities that will bring value to your audience without fuzzing up your brand. Brands that can leverage your audience to their own benefit offer symbiotic relationships that allow people to experience something meaningful to heighten how they view your business.
Build a Prospecting Pipeline
Set up a prospecting pipeline so you can measure movement through the sales journey. Create a template to track the following:
- Contact made with the right person
- Proposal submitted
- Follow up meeting
- Outcome (yes or no)
You can track how many companies make it through each step and set goals for how many prospects you want to progress each day. As you open a gap in the chart prospects column, add a new prospect and start moving them through the process. You want your template to remain a living, breathing entity that continues to grow until your sponsorship opportunities are fulfilled.
Customize Your Proposal
Following discovery, you are armed with the information needed to customize your proposal. Your proposal should include the following:
To build your sponsorship packages you really want to sell experiences. You don’t want to offer levels like gold, silver or bronze, as this is vague and doesn’t indicate what sponsors get for their investment.
A good rule of thumb is to simply name your packages based on your sponsors’ likely end goals such as:
- Brand building
- Product placement
- Growing their database
- Thought leadership
Packages like this show you’ve thought about your packages beyond a higher price tag like a “gold” package and instead are supporting their marketing strategy.
Apply value to your packages
Research other price schedules for similar marketing tactics such as PPC prices, magazine and newspaper ads, social media content opportunities, other sponsorships, etc. to come up with a reasonable pricing system.
Check out this blog post all about sponsorship valuation.
Customize Your Proposal Template
First create a proposal template that will make it easy to customize your proposals following each discovery meeting. Your template will include:
- Title page or sponsorship proposal letter
- Your audience description using your demographics, statistics, segments, etc.
- An opportunity description in about six paragraphs including your event or brand explanation, the opportunity, a menu of packages, sample activations, and a strong call to action that is not a form for payment
The customization should describe the audience in detail to show it matches the prospect’s needs. The description of your opportunity should list the benefits to their company and highlight the best options from your packages and why.
Create a Sponsorship Agreement
Always create a sponsorship agreement so you have something in writing with the sponsor. The basics for your template would include:
- The date, names and addresses of the sponsor and rights holder/property
- The dates it starts and ends
- The right of renewal/right of first refusal
- The fee and what it covers
- Specifics such as where the sponsor’s logo will be included, marketing materials, etc.
- Logo and brand name usage rights and trademark rules
- How the sponsor can promote the event and how they can use your logo
- Details of supplies for products or services including quantities as well as delivery dates
- Key dates especially for any time-sensitive issues
- Clear statements that the parties are independent contractors, not partners, employer-employee, or joint ventures
- Dispute and refund policy and settlement
- A noncompete clause to avoid direct competition with other sponsors
- Which state, provincial, national laws by which the agreement shall be governed
The agreement will ensure the needs of both parties are met and there are no discrepancies.
Provide a Fulfillment Report
Following the sponsorship, you will want to prove your work was done and it was effective. This is important as it can be used to sell future sponsorships not only with the existing partner but also with new prospects.
Your fulfillment report should include:
- A list of deliverables promised, the benefits and confirmation each deliverable was met
- Any areas you went above and beyond on the agreed-upon deliverables
- Attendee or customer statistics generated by the sponsorship
- Engagement metrics such as social media data, web traffic, reviews
- Press coverage if any
- Calculated ROI for each deliverable where possible
With an impressive fulfillment report, it will be easier to approach sponsors when your next sponsorship opportunity comes around.
Sponsorship is a Process
Sponsorship is a powerful marketing tool. The key to getting sponsorship is seeing the value you bring and learning how to make potential sponsors see that value as well. Follow this step-by-step guide in order to tap into the massive sponsorship industry by creating valuable marketing experiences that your sponsors can’t refuse.
- About the Author
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Chris Baylis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sponsorship Collective.
After spending several years in the field as a sponsorship professional and consultant, Chris now spends his time working with clients to help them understand their audiences, build activations that sponsors want, apply market values to their assets and build strategies that drive sales.
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