How to Make a Festival Sponsorship Proposal
When it comes to documents that sponsorship seekers spend the most time on, do you think it’s their assets or case studies or even post-event reports? Nope! In most cases, they get caught up on the sponsorship proposal.
A proposal is but one part of the sponsorship process, but because it comes relatively early, sponsorship seekers can overthink its composition too much.
Today, I’ll define what should go into a festival sponsorship proposal and outline steps so you can write a proposal your sponsors want to see.
First, What Do I Mean When I Say “Sponsorship Proposal?”
Before I get into the steps of making a festival sponsorship proposal, I thought it might be helpful to review what I mean when I refer to sponsorship proposals.
I know, this seems silly to some of you, and it very well may be. However, a lot of sponsorship seekers get confused about what a sponsorship proposal is and especially what it’s supposed to do, so some clarification would help.
When I say “sponsorship proposal,” you’ll think of it in one of two ways.
It’s either a.) the document you send to potential sponsors in the hopes they’ll give you money or b.) the document you send to a sponsorship prospect after the initial meeting, aka the discovery session.
The first document is not a sponsorship proposal at all. It’s technically a business case. The second document is indeed a sponsorship proposal.
I would add the caveat that some sponsorship seekers define sponsorship proposals as any document they send to a prospect, but that’s a rather uncommon definition in my experience.
This article is going to focus more on producing a festival sponsorship business case, as that’s the definition most people refer to when they mention a sponsorship proposal.
The goal of this document is to drive enough interest in another company that they decide to give you money.
However, a business case is not a document with gold, silver, and bronze tiers. It also doesn’t have grids, levels, and amounts that you send to a total stranger hoping they’ll give you cash. That’s not a sponsorship proposal, and it’s not a business case, either.
Do you know what that is?
The Purpose of the Festival Sponsorship Proposal
I already established that a festival sponsorship proposal in the business case sense can convince a sponsor to give you money, but is that its primary purpose?
No, it isn’t. Rather, you want a proposal on hand so that when a prospect asks for one, you have something to produce right away (especially because some sponsors won’t even meet with you until you have something in writing to show them). After all, your festival is running on a strict deadline, so you can’t afford to waste too much time.
The business case can sell your festival well, at least if you follow the steps that I’m about to share with you. It proves you know your audience and you have a valuable opportunity.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the sponsor automatically opens their purse strings and hands their cash over. Instead, the business case often inspires a meeting. That meeting? It’s the discovery session.
And that is the main purpose of a festival sponsorship proposal, to act as the bridge that guides you to that meeting.
When you think of it that way, many of the contents you might have filled quote-unquote sponsorship proposals with in the past might not make so much sense anymore.
How to Make a Festival Sponsorship Proposal
Okay, so now that you’re clear on what a festival sponsorship proposal is in the context of this guide and what it does (and doesn’t) do, let’s go over the steps required to create your own festival sponsorship proposal or business case.
Step 1 – Share Audience Data
Sponsorship is nothing more than audience and access to audience. As a festival owner or producer, you’re a curator of audience, and sponsors know that. That said, it still doesn’t suffice for you to say, “hi, I own a festival, please give me money.”
Sponsors don’t want just any audiences, after all. They have their own target audience just like you have yours and any business has theirs.
When a sponsor looks at your festival sponsorship proposal, they want to see audience data front and center. More so, they want to see highly segmented audience data with at least 25 data points for each group.
Anyone can extrapolate 25 data points from a broad audience of 10,000 people, but what about your young adults between 18 and 21 years old or your high earners who make $75,000 and up per year?
It’s more time-consuming and difficult to gather 25 data points on groups that specific, but it’s worth doing. When you do, you break down your broad audience groups into smaller, hyper-specific groups.
Once you’ve done that, you can easily turn around and create customer avatars, also known as personas. These avatars are amalgamations of your real audience that mirror some of the pain points your real audience has, just a little more broadly.
I recommend having at least three avatars to start, but if you want to create more than that, that’s fine!
Now, I’m sure you’re going to say, “but Chris, if I break down my audience data so much, and create personas, isn’t that going to leave very little space for anything else in my festival sponsorship proposal?”
It’s not going to leave tons of space, and that’s okay! You want 50 percent of your proposal to comprise audience data. You should want that because your sponsors want it.
Step 2 – Outline Assets and Activations
Once you’ve taken the time to niche down your audience, you can move on to the next step, your assets and activations.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say assets and activations, an activation is an awesome experience for your audience that includes your sponsor. An asset is a tangible or intangible object.
Logos always come up as the most popular asset, but that’s usually only among beginner sponsorship seekers unsure how to think outside of the box.
It’s fine to include logos as part of your festival sponsorship deal, but only as a very, very small part. Logos won’t achieve most goals a sponsor has. They’re not even so good as their primary goal, which is brand awareness.
What about naming rights to the festival (or a stage at the festival)? Now that’s something that’s going to interest a sponsor.
As a festival organizer, you have access to more awesome event opportunities than most. Think of other festivals you’ve gone to as well as events in general. What kinds of things excited you?
I’m sure it wasn’t logos. No one ever goes to a festival or any kind of event and laments, “I wish there had been more logos.” It just doesn’t happen!
Step 3 – Boost Your Media Footprint
The next part of your festival sponsorship proposal is incorporating all your media opportunities into the document.
Who are your media partners? As a big enough festival, you must have at least a few. List them in your proposal, but don’t be afraid to go deeper than that.
What does your media footprint look like? How many media impressions do you get? What media outlets are promoting your festival?
Your sponsor wants to know these things. Those same media outlets that currently promote your festival will promote your sponsor if they decide to align with you.
That’s also why it’s good for them to know the number of media impressions you get. If no one reads the media outlets you’re associated with, that’s not very promising.
If you have low media impressions, it’s like shouting into the wind. No one hears it.
Even if you only have smaller media partners because your festival is in its early stages, or you have but one or two bigger media partners, that’s okay! Proudly list them all.
Step 4 – Write a Short Intro
Besides the content of their festival sponsorship proposals, I very often see sponsorship seekers get too long-winded when putting together the proposal.
You don’t need a page-long intro or a page and a half. You don’t even need a paragraphs-long intro.
Instead, you must keep it short, like two sentences max.
I know your festival history is fascinating stuff. I recommend saving the bio for your website.
A sponsor only wants to know about your audience, activation ideas, and media footprint. They’re not interested in what inspired you to start the festival, what year you started it, or any unrelated information.
That’s not anything to take personal, by the way! It’s not just your festival sponsors feel that way about, but any event, property, program, or opportunity.
Once you realize that and can shove your ego aside, you can put together a fantastic festival sponsorship proposal.
Step 5 – Incorporate Case Studies
Part of what makes you magnetic to sponsors is the inclusion of case studies.
A case study is an example of how you’ve helped sponsors or partners achieve their goal outcomes.
The data shows exactly how much of an improvement the sponsor enjoyed through you, whether that was more social media followers, website traffic, customer conversions, ROI, or all the above.
Get a quote from the sponsor about what you achieved and include that in your case study too. Boost it up with lots of stats, data, and numbers, ideally using charts, graphs, and tables to break up the paragraphs.
Step 6 – Add Attendees, Media, and Followers
Once you’ve got your case study added to your festival sponsorship proposal, you want to continue padding it with data that make you look like a five-star prospect to your sponsors.
I’m talking about including past festival attendance information, email subscriber data, social media followers, and website traffic.
To some, these seem like pointless metrics, but they’re far more than that. Sponsors care a lot about this kind of data. Not at the expense of anything else in your proposal, of course, but they do care.
You should put just the right amount of emphasis on vanity metrics, which means giving them their place to shine but not dedicating your entire proposal to them. I’ve seen sponsorship seekers go overboard on vanity metrics before and want to save you from doing the same.
Step 7 – Include a Strong Call to Action
Last but certainly not least, your festival sponsorship proposal needs a strong call to action.
The CTA isn’t about the sponsor sending you money. Remember, your festival sponsorship proposal or business case is all about getting that meeting, and how do you schedule a meeting?
You call, you email, you send a letter via carrier pigeon.
You must make it easy for a sponsor to contact you, and the best way to do that is by sharing your contact information. Include all of it, from your social media handles to your business phone, personal phone, and email address.
A strong call to action can include something like, “we don’t do gold, silver, and bronze packages because we know they don’t work. We want to build something just for you to help you connect with your target market.”
A festival sponsorship proposal, in the most traditional sense, is a business case designed to attract the interest and potentially the business of sponsors. However, just because the ultimate goal is obtaining funding doesn’t mean all protocols fall by the wayside.
Create the proposal from the mindset of obtaining a discovery meeting so you can get the ball rolling and eventually earn funding. Prioritize audience data above all else, include case studies, and absolutely under no circumstances add pricing and gold, silver, and bronze tiers.
Instead, take that part of your proposal and funnel it toward coming up with great activation ideas. Share information on your media partners, reveal some vanity metrics, and don’t forget a strong CTA.
You’re ready to get started. Good luck!
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.