How to Renew Your Sponsors Every Year
If you’ve been working with sponsors every year for a couple of years now, then your issue might not be so much with acquiring sponsors at this point but retaining them.
Some of your sponsors gladly sign on for another year of partnership with you while others are more reluctant to do so.
In the interim, you’ve lost some really good sponsors who you would have been happy to work with again if only they had wanted to.
I understand how frustrating it can be to be in your shoes, especially if you’re not even sure what you’re doing wrong to cause some sponsors to decline to work together again.
In this post, I’ll provide some handy information that will help you renew more of your ongoing sponsorships not only for the year ahead but for many more years to come!
4 Reasons to Retain Your Sponsors
Is it really such a big deal if you don’t retain every sponsor?
Maybe if you two didn’t have the best working relationship, then no, it’s no great loss.
However, if a sponsor did excellent work for you, really enhanced your event, and was a big hit among your audience, then yes, it is a big deal.
It’s actually a huge deal to lose a sponsor like that.
Here are some benefits of sponsor retention so you can see what I mean.
Helps You Begin Planning Your Event Budget Immediately After Your Event Wraps
Your event just ended.
You’re going to be exhausted, but this is no time to rest.
As soon as possible, you need to start thinking about next year’s event budget.
That’s right, already!
If your event is annual, then you have fewer than 365 days to begin planning your event. The clock is ticking, so every day wasted is crunch time later.
You’ll have to find sponsors, vendors, an event space, the whole nine. You want to as much time for all this work as possible.
You can’t get started without a budget, and you can’t decide your budget without knowing which sponsors you have on the line for a second year versus which ones you don’t.
When you know for certain that one or even three of your sponsors signed on to work with you again, you can now deduce roughly how much of the budget is covered and then decide how many new sponsors you need from there.
You can also negotiate with your current sponsors for more money in some cases.
Saves You Time and Effort
If getting a sponsor was easy, I would be out of a job.
I’ve said that before, but I want to say it again because it’s so true.
It’s not a quick and easy process to accrue a sponsor. It takes weeks if not months for deals to come together.
You’ll have to do so much legwork on your part on top of planning an event, juggling a full-time job, and all your personal obligations such as wife and mother or husband and father.
Why keep doing that year after year when you’ve found good sponsors?
If you stop letting them slip through your fingertips, then you won’t have to renew the search for sponsors quite as much every single year.
Even if you have one sponsor that you kept, their value is worth two new sponsors.
The time you’re not spending on accruing sponsors can be used to come up with great assets and activations for your existing sponsors.
You can also plan your event more thoroughly since you’ll have more time and energy.
Gives Your Audience Something to Look Forward To
You like your event to keep changing year after year, as otherwise, it becomes too predictable, and the same audience will stop coming.
Yet it’s always good to have some old faithful elements that your audience can rely on. Perhaps your sponsor can be one of them.
Your audience will look forward to seeing that sponsor’s booth (and seeing how their presence evolves through new activations) every year.
They’ll become synonymous with your event to the point where that sponsor’s absence would be sorely felt if they skipped a year or if you two fell out.
The more of those faithful standby sponsors you have, the better for your event.
Increases Your Sponsorship Sales Potential
I saved what is arguably the biggest benefit of sponsor retention for last, and that’s cold, hard cash.
How much money you’ll negotiate for a sponsor is going to vary based on the size of the sponsor company and their budget.
For however much money it was though, you can probably get more the second time around.
You’ve proven your worth to the sponsor and vice-versa. Now that they know what you can do, you have more freedom to spread your wings and take it further.
Your higher-value assets and activations will be worth even more than last year, and you will be rightly compensated.
The additional revenue can allow you to keep expanding your event, making it even bigger and better than last year!
This Is What Everyone Gets Wrong – When to Broach the Topic of Sponsor Renewal
Even among the sponsorship seekers I work with who understand the importance of sponsorship renewal, there tends to be one pretty common mistake made.
They wait. And they wait way too long.
Listen, I get it. If I had to pour months of effort into an event while still dealing with a full-time job and other responsibilities, I would be dead tired too.
Here’s the problem with waiting for weeks or even months.
In the meantime, the sponsor goes their own way and you go yours.
You have no idea what your sponsor is doing because you’re not in such frequent communication with them anymore.
If they happen to make important budgetary decisions while you’re not there and whoops, you miss it, then so be it.
That’s why you want to talk about renewal in a matter of days. Yes, I said it – days!
Ideally, when you produce your sponsorship fulfillment report is when I recommend talking about renewal.
By then, you’re still fresh in your sponsor’s mind, as are all the great benefits you delivered for them during your event.
They haven’t begun planning their budget yet, or they shouldn’t have yet, so there’s still room to slot you in.
Another reason to have the conversation early is on because you can use the talking points from the fulfillment report as a chance to ask for feedback.
Even if you think you did everything right, I’m sure you’ll agree that you can always do better next year, or more next year.
And for those things you didn’t quite do right, you’ll know early on so you can plan to improve in those areas before you get the renegotiation talks underway.
So many times, sponsorship seekers will wait three months, skip the fulfillment report, and produce a new sponsorship proposal based on the proposal for last year.
Then most of their sponsors say no!
It’s not only that their budgets are allocated by this time. It’s also that they’re not seeing the value in what you’re offering.
Before you ever offer a thing to a sponsor for a second year, ask for feedback first. Then implement that feedback.
Here’s How to Renew Your Sponsors Every Year
Okay, so enough of what you shouldn’t do. Let’s get into what you should do to successfully renew more of your sponsorship deals.
Produce a Fulfillment Report
After reading the section prior, you had to know this was coming.
If this is the first time you’ll put together one of these reports, then allow me to explain what the report entails.
A sponsorship fulfillment report goes over everything to do with your event.
You’ll include photos, attendance stats, audience breakdown information, participant feedback, website and social media traffic stats, and all the deliverables you promised in the contract between you and the sponsor.
More so than just listing the deliverables, you’ll also recount whether you delivered them and how well you did, such as just getting the job done, not quite getting the job done, or going above and beyond.
As I always say, you have to be honest here. Your sponsor was at the event, or a representative of theirs was. They saw what happened as much as you did.
If you say you did something, but the other side has proof that you didn’t, then you have egg on your face and you’ll never renew with that sponsor.
It’s better to be honest about messing something up, as you can always learn from it and do better next year.
If you need some help putting together your fulfillment report, I have a template here that will help you.
Book a Feedback Meeting
Once your fulfillment report is in the sponsor’s hands, you want to use this opportunity to set up a feedback meeting.
I want to make it clear – this isn’t a pitch meeting.
Remember how back in those early days of sponsorship, the key to getting a sponsor to work with you was to treat a discovery session as such and not as a sales meeting?
It’s the same thing here. The feedback meeting is for feedback only.
It’s okay if you and the sponsor begin spit-balling ideas for what can be done better next time, but you’re not actively pitching them anything quite yet.
You need to take all the feedback they give you, then go back to your office, sort it, and see how you can implement that feedback.
If you sell your same assets and activations–or slightly improved assets and activations–without taking sponsor feedback into account, you will not renegotiate with that sponsor.
Oh, and please try not to take it personally if the sponsor says they hated some parts of your event or your activations or assets.
That’s normal, so it’s nothing to feel bad about. What’s abnormal is if the sponsor hated more than they enjoyed. In that case, then renewal is off the table as well, but at least you know early!
Making the Sponsorship Renewal Offer
Moment of truth time here.
If you’ve talked over the contents of your fulfillment report, listened to the feedback the sponsor had, and decided on ways to implement it, then you’re ready to renegotiate with the sponsor.
Even if it’s only been a few weeks since your event, that’s fine. Remember, time is of the essence here.
When you make the pitch, you want to be clear that you’ve heard the sponsor’s feedback and plan to respond to it accordingly.
I would parrot back some of the talking points you two discussed regarding feedback so they’re sure you heard the specifics of what they said.
Then ask them the question.
Frame it like this. If you were to do make the required changes and double down on the parts of the event the sponsor did like, would they be interested in looking at a draft proposal about renewal?
That’s it. You’re not asking for money right out of the gate. You’re merely querying the sponsor about whether they want to see a proposal that outlines what next year’s working arrangement could look like.
Your sponsor will answer one of two ways. Either they’ll say yes, they’d be delighted to see the proposal, or they’ll say no.
Well, I suppose they could say maybe, especially if they have to talk with other stakeholders in their company, but either way, you’re going to get a yes or no answer eventually.
If they say no, does that mean it’s a done deal? Possibly, but there’s still some hope.
I would say it’s worth asking the sponsor, “why not?”
Perhaps the sponsor was trying to go easy on you in the feedback department, so they’ve been holding back on some of what they really wanted to say.
That’s not really fair on you, because you can’t possibly improve if you don’t know the full breadth of the problem, but the situation is what it is.
Once you’ve gotten all the feedback (hopefully) that there is to give, you can again talk about renewal. The sponsor’s answer at that point might be the same (no), or they could say yes.
If you get a yes, then you want to set up the next meeting while you’re still in a meeting with a sponsor.
Then get that proposal done in time for the meeting!
What to Put in Your Sponsorship Renewal Proposal
The renewal proposal is not too different from your initial proposal to your sponsor back when they were a prospect.
Omit the parts of the deal they didn’t like, strengthen what they did like, and then offer the upgrade.
Your package can be worth 50 percent more than your first deal or you can offer them a multi-year deal at the same amount as last year.
Don’t Forget to Ask for a Referral!
Your sponsorship feedback meeting is also a valuable chance to ask for a referral, which is something that a lot of sponsorship seekers forget to do or don’t realize they were supposed to do.
All you have to do is ask if there’s anyone else in their network that would benefit from being involved with you.
Should the sponsor say yes, then you’d ask them to introduce you to that person or people.
Once you have that person’s name and contact information, be sure to make the introduction yourself within the same day.
The best source of future revenue, multi-year agreements, and big six or seven-figure sponsorship deals are not with new sponsors but with your existing ones.
It takes you less time and less effort to renew with your existing sponsors than it does to seek out new ones, and long-term sponsors are always worth more.
I hope today’s post helps you strike a renewal deal with your sponsors!
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.