You know how magnets work, right? They have south and north poles, and opposites attract.
Now imagine pulling sponsors to you like a magnet. It would be effortless, right? The gravitational pull would do all the heavy lifting.
This doesn’t have to be simply something you imagine. With the right strategies, your festival can become magnetic enough to lure in sponsors without you always having to seek them yourself.
This guide will delve into five handy methods for differentiating your festival from the thousands of others so you can attract more sponsors!
Niche Down Your Audience Data
Let’s get straight to the point – the most valuable part of any sponsorship deal isn’t your social media mentions or premium booth space at your festival. It’s not media partnerships or even naming rights or broadcasting deals.
It’s audience data.
How can audience data be more valuable than naming rights? That’s simple – because the value of all those other assets and activations hinges on the value of your audience.
From mom-and-pop shops to major brand names like Coca-Cola, every company strives to grow its business. To do that, they must find customers that fit into their target market.
It’s not that brands don’t have avenues in place to find customers that fit in their target market. Of course, they do, especially the big ones.
Instead, it’s that if they don’t have to do the work, why would they?
That’s where your audience data comes in.
If you want to become magnetic to sponsors, you can’t just use any audience data.
That’s often where sponsorship seekers go wrong. They do the bare minimum in researching their own audience and don’t understand why sponsors don’t jump for vague segments like “middle-aged executives” or “millennials in New York City.”
Well, millennials alone were born between 1981 and 1996, so it’s a pretty disparate group!
When you niche down your audience data or break it down as far as you can, you now have the kind of 400-karat gold data that sponsors go crazy for.
The reason comes down to this. It’s a lot simpler to say, “millennials born in 1981 living in Queens is my target audience” than it is to say, “millennials in New York are my target audience.”
That’s just like how it’s far easier for a sponsor to see how 45-year-old executives in Chicago earning $125,000 a year would be interested in their products and services than it is middle-aged executives.
Again, that group is vague and can include almost anyone.
Produce Case Studies Detailing Your Successes
Nothing breeds success like success. Maybe you have to start with a few smaller sponsors at your festival, but hey, you’ve successfully acquired sponsors, and that’s getting your foot in the door.
As your festival grows, you’ll want your sponsor roster to grow in kind. Part of how you can attract bigger sponsors is by producing case studies.
A case study is a classic marketing tactic. In the case study, go into detail about your most successful sponsorship deal. You don’t have to mention the sponsor by name, as it’s less about name recognition and more about how you helped them.
Remember when you had a discovery session or exploratory first meeting with that sponsor? Think of all their pain points. Mention what you did to help the sponsor overcome their challenges through your sponsorship.
Hopefully, you put together a fulfillment report for that sponsor. If so, you should find it easy to pull all the pertinent numbers and add them to your case study.
Case studies are supposed to be as data-rich as you can make them. It drives home to potential sponsors what you’re capable of when you include cold, hard numbers because numbers don’t lie.
If you have photos from your last festival, include those as part of your case study. This way, future sponsors can see the activations you described rather than just imagine them.
A case study can do more than lure in festival sponsors. The data also lends your festival more credibility, building up trust among all sorts of other partners you have, including vendors.
Focus on the Sponsor, Not Your Festival
When trying to bring in sponsors to your festival, the inclination is to keep the focus squarely on your festival, right?
I know that’s what seems natural, but it’s the wrong move if you hope to become a sponsor magnet.
Even if your festival is brand-spankin’-new and in its first year, your sponsor doesn’t want to read a six-page proposal where five pages are about the event. Oftentimes, sponsors don’t even want to read proposals at all, but I won’t get into that here.
The reason I recommended case studies to become a sponsorship magnet is that, as mentioned, a case study is a marketing tactic. Marketing is the language of sponsorship.
When you speak any other language, such as sales or cash, cash, cash, you can’t communicate with the sponsor. You two end up talking over one another and no one says anything of value.
Marketing is all about driving outcomes, and that’s what you have to focus on above all else. How can you drive the sponsor’s outcomes? Once you can answer that question, you’re in a good spot.
Listen, if a sponsor wants to learn about your festival, they can Google you or ask you directly. You can expect that to happen at some point, but it has to be when the sponsor wants to, not when you want to.
The time will come for your festival to shine. Trust in that and put your focus squarely on the sponsor in the meantime. All the cards will fall into place.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Have you had prior sponsorship deals blow up catastrophically? Or maybe the deal went through, but you felt like you were flying by the seat of your pants the entire time, which left you very anxious.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you will make mistakes. Hopefully, they’re not any of the dealbreakers I recently discussed on the blog, because those could leave you down a sponsor.
As for less egregious mistakes? Although they’ll make you feel horrible when they happen, it’s important not to sweep them under the rug. You want to remember your mistakes, as that’s the only way you can learn from them.
For example, maybe you tried to reach out to sponsors using a sponsorship form on their website. You never heard back, and you waited weeks, which put you way behind in your festival planning.
I really recommend refraining from using sponsorship forms. Even if a sponsor wanted to get back to you, because they’re inundated with so many responses, they can lose yours or forget about it.
Perhaps you sent your sponsorship proposal in your first email. Sponsors never want to see a proposal that early, as it’s not going to have a shred of customization to it. How can it when you’ve never spoken to the sponsor directly before?
Maybe you fell into the trap of chasing a sponsor solely based on name value. This is a mistake a lot of sponsorship seekers make. Instead, you should select sponsors based on your audience data.
Pay attention to the brands your audience mentions using and enjoying, then reach out to those brands first. This way, you know you’ll have a captivated audience.
I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. No matter how you screw up in the sponsorship process, identify your mistake, realize what went wrong, and vow to do better next time.
Keep in mind too though that every sponsor is unique, and so they won’t all respond the same way to the same processes. That’s why you should maintain a mostly fluid sponsorship process and customize things from one sponsor to another.
Promise What You Can Deliver and Deliver What You Promised
Last on my list of tips to make your festival stand out to sponsors so you can become a sponsorship magnet is this.
Only promise to deliver to a sponsor what you can conceivably do. Then do it.
I know, I know, this sounds so simple, almost too simple, right? Yet so many times, I see sponsorship seekers think they have to reach for the moon and stars and give the sponsor everything they can.
They can end up in a big mess when it comes time to make good on their promises and they can’t come through.
This kind of scenario blows up disastrously for sponsorship seekers. When you promise X, Y, Z, and A, B, and C but only deliver Y and C, you severely erode the relationship you have with the sponsor. They trusted you to deliver and gave you the benefit of the doubt.
As it turns out, talk is cheap, and when it came time to deliver, you couldn’t get the job done.
Much more so than disappointing your sponsor and eradicating any chance of working together again, you could also face legal ramifications for your actions.
All the assets and activations you plan to deliver to a sponsor get added to your contract. Once you sign that contract, it’s a living, legally enforceable document.
You can include clauses for certain circumstances where a delivery can’t be met, but otherwise, if you promise to deliver, you’re expected to deliver. Breaching a contract by not delivering puts you in a position of being sued should the sponsor want to legally pursue their rights.
You could use all the festival earnings you make for this year paying for a lawyer, court fees, and the whole nine.
That’s why I recommend you only promise to deliver what you know you can reasonably deliver. You’ll be in a much better position promising less and delivering every objective you promised than you will promising the moon and stars and only delivering the stars.
It’s also more impressive to a sponsor when you deliver on as many objectives as you can. At the end of the day, they’ll remember that you made all your deliverables than how big-ticket those deliverables were.
How do you become a sponsorship magnet for your festival? Well, it’s simple, really.
It all starts with high-quality, niched-down audience data, the kind of meaty data that a sponsor can really sink their teeth into. Make sure you’re focusing on what your sponsor needs throughout the whole process and not trying to sell your festival too hard. The time will come for that.
Further, create rich case studies to show your value and promise to deliver only what you can reasonably do. Good luck!
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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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