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Local Sponsorship: The Benefits of Working with Local Businesses for Your Festival

by | March 16, 2023

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  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

So often, I see sponsorship seekers pursue only the highest-caliber sponsors, especially in the festival sphere. They assume that unless they have huge names for their event that their audience won’t care. Fortunately, that’s anything but the case! I recommend local businesses for festivals just as much as large corporations. What are the benefits of local sponsorship?

Here are some advantages of local sponsorship:

  • Often easier to acquire
  • Strengthens the sense of community
  • Working local cuts costs
  • Audience already familiar with sponsors
  • Expands your brand
  • Introduces new audiences
  • Separates you from competitors 
  • Boosts your SEO

In this guide, I’ll first expand on the above perks of local sponsorship before presenting some tips for finding local sponsors. If you have a festival on the horizon and you’re contemplating working with a local sponsor or several, you can’t miss the information I have for you in this guide! 

10 Benefits of Local Sponsorship

1. Often Easier to Acquire

It’s often first-time sponsorship seekers who approach brands of the scope of Nike or Apple and try to land a sponsorship deal with them. When they don’t hear back, they can be left feeling jaded and confused. 

It’s not necessarily that a sponsorship seeker went about things incorrectly, but that they targeted the wrong sponsors. 

If you don’t have mountains of sponsorship experience, I would recommend focusing on local sponsorship. 

Local sponsors don’t have piles of money like Nike or Apple, but they’re far more approachable than Fortune-500, multi-billion-dollar companies. 

More so than that, they’re usually more open to lucrative business partnerships such as a sponsorship arrangement. 

That doesn’t mean you can waltz right in and cold-email your sponsorship proposal to a local sponsorship prospect and expect them to excitedly respond with, “yes, let me give you all my money.”

Of course, that’s not going to happen. You still need to take sponsorship just as seriously when pursuing a local sponsor as you would a major company, which means following all the standard protocols. 

If you don’t know the basic steps of event sponsorship, check out this post, as I outline all the steps to follow. 

Once you implement those steps, you might find it easier to acquire local sponsors.

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2. Strengthens the Sense of Community

When you create a festival, whether it’s a music festival or an arts and culture fest, you do so with the intention of staying in one spot for a while. That’s where people know to gather each year. 

In doing so, your festival becomes a cornerstone of the local community. Depending on how your festival grows, you could put that community on the map! 

While you never want to exclude those who will fly in from other parts of the country or even the world for your festival, you do want to hold onto those community ties.

What better way to do that than by working with local sponsors? The entirety of your event will have a local backing, which those who live in the community certainly won’t forget.

3. Working Local Cuts Costs

As a festival owner and manager, you know how expensive it is to put on a major production like a live event. 

You still look forward to festival day more than any other day of the year, but it requires a lot of careful budgeting and money management to make your festival a reality. 

The further outside of your local radius you have to go when acquiring sponsors, vendors, and other event partners, the costlier your festival becomes. There’s more outsourcing involved, and that always drives up costs.

Imagine you can scale back the parties you work with to those in your local community or the adjoining neighborhoods. You could still offer the same services and entertainment at your festival but through local partners only. 

Why imagine when you can make it a reality? It begins by obtaining local sponsors.  Then you can expand your festival staff from there.

4. Your Audience Is Likely Already Familiar with Local Sponsors 

One of the reasons that sponsorship seekers want to work with major brands is to benefit their audience. 

No one wants to host an event with a sponsor where your audience scratches their head, wondering who the sponsor is. That indicates a potential mismatch between the sponsor and the audience.

That not only cheapens the festival-going experience of your audience but also affects the sponsor. They won’t have an excited audience of potential customers, which lowers their conversion rate. 

When you keep your sponsorship pool to the local community, that increases the likelihood of your audience knowing who your sponsors are. 

Even though your sponsors aren’t on a Fortune-500 list and don’t rake in millions or billions of dollars a year, there’s still that name recognition. 

When an attendee sees a sponsored activation, they’re going to want to engage because they know that brand. This is how you drive outcomes for your sponsor and ensure your audience has a more enjoyable time at your festival.

5. Expands Your Brand

Just because a sponsor is local doesn’t always mean they’re small. They won’t have a huge reach, but they do have a reach, and they can help your festival cross over in ways it hasn’t.

New festivals especially thrive on branding.

You might look at festivals like Coachella or Glastonbury and wonder how they became household names, but it didn’t happen overnight. These festivals had to build brand awareness and then strengthen that brand. 

Your local sponsors can help you do that!

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6. Introduces New Audiences

Besides the above benefit of more brand recognition, you’ll also expose your festival to new audiences by working with local sponsors. 

Those audiences that get a taste of your festival this year could become first-time attendees next year. Then, once they have a blast at your festival, they’ll become regulars who buy tickets each year.

These new attendees could recommend your festival to friends, family, and colleagues, further expanding your attendance numbers and ensuring you have yet more regulars who look forward to your festival each year with gusto.

7. Separates You from Your Competitors 

Any successful business must pay attention to what their competitors do, and that’s true for festival owners too. 

At the end of the day, a potential attendee will likely only be able to make it to one festival. There’s the matter of cost, yes, but also taking time off and avoiding burning oneself out on too many similar experiences. 

You must have your own unique edge if you hope for potential attendees to choose your festival over your competitor’s. 

Keeping your festival exclusively local could be that unique edge.

8. Boosts Your SEO 

The idea of working with local sponsors might not seem like it would do anything for your search engine optimization or SEO, but that’s not true at all.

Have you ever heard of local SEO? It’s about taking broader SEO concepts and applying them on a more localized scale. 

For example, on your festival website, you’d use local keywords that drive home that yours is a local festival. 

When more people can find you online, that may result in a greater volume of tickets sold.

9. Increases Goodwill 

Think of how it must have felt to live in London in the 1960s or Seattle in the 1990s. You could feel a cultural movement happening, and it truly felt like something special. People had a sense of pride living in that city or town because they were part of a substantial cultural change.

Even if your festival doesn’t harbor a similar cultural change, the goodwill you can generate in your city or town by hosting successful local events is sure to make an impact.

10. Elevates Trust in Your Brand 

The last benefit of working with local businesses for your festival is building trust. 

If your festival is the relative unknown in town, but you partner with a business with a long-standing history in your area, people will pay attention to that. They’ll trust you by association because they trust that other brand.

After all, why would that business partner with you unless there was something good about you? 

Without these kinds of partnerships, you could eventually build that same level of trust, but it could take months or years to do it. 

Tips for Acquiring Local Sponsors

Now that you’ve seen how advantageous it is to work with local sponsors, you probably feel more inclined than ever to seek some out for your upcoming festival. The following best practices will help you do just that.

Don’t Wait 

One of the worst things you can do as a festival owner is wait until the last minute to try and procure a sponsor. 

The process is not an overnight one, which first-time sponsorship seekers often don’t realize. You must have several meetings with the sponsor, and it takes time to set those up.

Plus, the sponsor–who I call a sponsor to make life easier but is often part of a sponsorship department–has someone over their head who has to approve all financial decisions. You have no idea how long you’ll wait on that person, and I can’t tell you either.

You can’t rush the sponsorship process. All you can do is give it due time to play out by planning the right time to seek a sponsor.

That time is…right after your festival ends. Yes, I’m serious.

I’m not saying  you need to lock in discovery sessions on the day after your festival. I mean, if you can do that, that’s phenomenal, but I also understand it’s a tad unrealistic.

Instead, you want to begin researching sponsors the day after your festival and get that ball rolling! 

The Goal Is Discovery

Once you’ve gotten the process underway, the time will come when you begin reaching out to sponsors. Hopefully, you’re not cold emailing or calling, but sometimes, that’s all you can do, especially when you feel like the little fish in the big pond. 

Regardless of how you reach out and whether it’s cold or warm communication, you should have one goal in mind. You want to schedule a discovery session to discuss the sponsor’s challenges and pain points.

That’s how you determine whether your activations and assets are a match. If they aren’t, this isn’t a good partner for you. It’s then back to the drawing board as you look into the next sponsor on your list. 

I’ve so often seen sponsorship seekers surprised that a sponsorship prospect responded to them that they’re not sure what to say or how to direct the conversation after that. 

A sponsor’s time is valuable just as anyone’s is. You must have a clear-cut goal in mind when you reach out. if you don’t, you risk annoying the sponsor and causing them to ghost you. 

Leave the Sales Spiel at the Office

As a festival owner, you have to wear a lot of hats, and one of those is undoubtedly a salesperson. However, there’s a time and a place for sales talk when you have a potential sponsorship deal on the table. 

It’s not during the discovery session or the first few subsequent meetings. During those meetings, you’re supposed to focus on the sponsor’s challenges and how you can help them overcome those challenges. 

Naturally, the conversations will progress to your assets and activations, and, eventually, pricing. 

However, when you try to force the issue the first time you meet the sponsor, you come across as money-hungry and inexperienced. Skip the sales talk, as it will make a much better impression.  

Research Your Audience

When pursuing local sponsorship, it’s all the more important that you have heavily segmented, unique audience groups to present to your potential sponsor. 

You’re definitely not marketing your festival toward anyone, so a sponsor will want to see niched data to tell them which local groups you’re aiming toward.

If you’ve never issued your festival attendees a survey asking them pertinent questions, what are you waiting for? 

This survey best practices PDF will help you put together questions that will yield you rich audience data. You’ll have demographics, geographics, and more psychographics than you can shake a stick at. You’ll better understand your audience’s motivations.

Audience data also helps you prospect for sponsors. If you know your attendees’ favorite milk brand or tech company and it’s local and fits the M.O. of your festival, you should pursue those companies as potential sponsors. 

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Know Your Value

What is your festival worth? Better yet, what are the assets and activations you offer worth? 

The only way to answer that question is by valuating your assets. In other words, you have to go through every asset you wish to offer a sponsor and research its market value when offered by professionals. 

Then you have to compare what you can do and deduce whether you should charge the market research price, slightly under the market research price, or slightly over the market research price.

As you can imagine, it’s a time-consuming process, I won’t lie, but it’s also critical. You can’t rely on your sponsors to correct you about the value of an asset or a property. 

You’ll only know that you overcharged because you’ll never hear from that sponsor again. If you undercharge? The sponsor won’t give you an inkling. They’ll just be happy they struck an affordable deal. 

If You Want to Work Together Again, Ask! 

My last tip for pursuing local sponsors is this. When you deliver the post-event report, use that as a jumping-off point for discussing furthering the working relationship with the sponsor if that interests you. 

When you wait until you’re in the thick of next year’s festival season, it might already be too late. You don’t know what other kinds of obligations your sponsor has, and you don’t have an insight into their budget, either.

The sponsor might not have any availability around the time of your festival, or they could have already spent their budget if you wait until the second or third quarter of the year to discuss working together again! 


Local sponsors can be very beneficial for festival owners to work with. Whether you combine local sponsors with bigger names or only work with local sponsors, these partners could be what it takes to give your festival that unique edge, drive more attendance, and bring your community together!