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Sponsorship: 9 Things You’re Forgetting to Do

by | January 19, 2021

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Did I lock the door before I left for work this morning? What starts as a small question can become a gnawing feeling that’s so distracting you have to rush home and check your locks. You don’t want to go into a sponsorship with that awful feeling of having forgotten something, yet sometimes, that’s just what happens. What are some things companies and organizations forget to do when approaching sponsors?

Here are 9 things you might forget to do in sponsorship: 

  • Pursuing the smaller sponsors too
  • Doing audience research 
  • Thinking from the sponsor’s perspective
  • Following up
  • Asking discovery questions at the meeting
  • Objecting rejections
  • Building a relationship with your sponsor
  • Tracking important metrics
  • Having a sponsorship renewal plan

Listen, we all forget very important things from time to time, such as locking the front door. The more front-of-mind these mistakes are, the harder they’ll be for you to forget. Make sure you keep reading, as it will only help your sponsorship plans! 

Feeling Absentminded? Don’t Forget to Do These 9 Things When Pursuing Sponsorship!

Pursue the Smaller Sponsors

Okay, so this one isn’t so much that you’re forgetting to chase the smaller sponsors, but rather, that you’re deliberately avoiding them. There’s the misconception among some companies and organizations that the only way to get your event on the map is through a huge sponsor with household name value.

It’s true that that’s one way to do it, but fortunately, it’s far from the only method. 

The best way to grow attendance at your event and generate buzz that will have people speaking about it for weeks is to take a multi-pronged approach. You want to make sure, first and foremost, that the bones of your event are good. Are you planning a genuinely engaging event that people will want to attend? Why should they go to your event over someone else’s?

Thinking like this will open up space for the brainstorming of activation ideas, which are one of the best ways to add value to your event. Unsurprisingly, rock-solid activation ideas are also a top means of adding value to a sponsorship program. 

The last part of your approach should be living up to the promises you made at the event. It’s really that simple. Your audience will gush about what a great time they had, your sponsor will probably want to work with you again, and everyone goes home happy (yourself included).

Do you need a large sponsor to pull off any of that? No. The only exception would be if you asked for significant funding for an event, in which case a bigger sponsor likely has deeper pockets. Even still, you can partner up with several small sponsors and still get the money you need.

The market for huge sponsors is severely oversaturated. These sponsors receive so many requests for time, money, or promotions that they probably don’t have time to answer most of the companies. 

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Smaller sponsors get far fewer bites, so they’re going to have the time and incentive to seriously consider your proposal. For that reason, it might be easier to secure sponsorship with a smaller sponsor. Don’t discount them! 

Do Your Audience Research

You know who your audience is. I mean, c’mon, they’re your audience. Of course you have a general idea of their pain points and needs. That’s how you draw business, provided you’re for-profit. If you’re a nonprofit, then understanding which causes resonate with your audience encourages more donations.

Yes, maybe, but when was the last time you’ve done some deep digging into your audience? If your answer is six months ago or longer, then it’s time for some audience research. You know as well as I do that a lot can change for a company or a not-for-profit over six months. 

You could have gained a huge influx of customers or even lost a good chunk of them. Their needs might have shifted as well. You might have introduced a new product or service that has changed the landscape of what your company does.

There are so many variables at play that it’s always worth taking the time to perform this crucial step of securing sponsorship.

Besides, no one likes old numbers and data. If I gave you a stat from 2017, your first inclination would be to look up something more current to make sure the stat is accurate. I don’t blame you, as I would do the same thing. 

So would your sponsor. They don’t want numbers from six months ago or even six weeks ago, but audience insights that are as fresh as you can get ‘em. 

An audience survey would be really useful in your case, as you have  audience data but maybe some that’s not as up-to-date as it could be. After you get your survey feedback, you can compare the new data against the old stuff.

A customer will be a few years older and perhaps they moved or had another child or two. They might have changed jobs or even industries. Their motivations have likely evolved too. 

Once you know all this pertinent information, you’re readier to bring insights to your target sponsor that will really matter. 

Think from the Sponsor’s Perspective

This is something I’ve talked about on the blog a lot lately, and that’s only because it’s so important in your approach to sponsorship. You have to think like a sponsor.


Let’s say you’re a fisherman. If you want to catch anything, then you have to think like the fish. Where in the lake would the fish be most likely to gather? What time of day are they most active? Does this fish species respond best to live bait versus the fake stuff?

If you didn’t think like the fish as a fisherman, then you could haul out your boat at 4 o’clock in the afternoon because that’s when you feel like fishing. You’d then proceed to catch absolutely nothing.

You can come up just as empty in sponsorship too.

Right now, you’re only thinking from your company or organization’s perspective. You need money or promotions and your event is next month. 

Give yourself a break from thinking like yourself and pretend you’re the manager at a sponsor company. Imagine you’re receiving your sponsorship proposal. You open it and read it through.

Then, be honest with yourself. As a pretend sponsorship manager, would you accept your company or organization? 

Okay, you’re saying, but you have no idea what makes a target sponsor say yes or no. Sometimes it seems completely random.

Oh, but it isn’t. I’ve written about 7 reasons a sponsor accepts sponsorship that you should definitely read if you haven’t already.

Remember, at the end of the day, the target sponsor is a business too. They have needs akin to yours, such as generating more leads, increasing sales, and retaining customers. The sponsor wants positive publicity and to outdo their competition at every turn.

By thinking like a sponsor, you can tailor your proposal in such a way where their needs are a high priority. Suddenly, a sponsor that wouldn’t have given you the time of day is going to pay attention. 

Follow up

You’ve finessed your sponsorship proposal, pricing your package with the guidance of the sponsor. Then you send the proposal into the ether and wait and wait and wait.

Again, this is a case where you’re not necessarily forgetting to follow up, you just get scared. If you get in touch too soon after sending the proposal, won’t it annoy the sponsor? Should you call versus email when the time comes? Maybe it’s just easier to wait for the sponsor to get in touch with you instead. 

Let’s jump back a few steps here. First, I would always, always dissuade you from emailing your sponsorship proposal, especially in a cold email. You want to wait until you’ve had several meetings with the target sponsor before the proposal comes up.

You should also do some research into the target company to see if you have anyone in common. This way your cold email feels a little less cold. 

But okay, if you already cold-emailed your sponsorship proposal, there’s no undoing that now. You may still be able to save this sponsorship opportunity, or maybe not. Either way, you have to know, and the only way to do that is to follow up.

You can’t rely exclusively on the sponsor company to respond to you. Yes, they should, and in a perfect world, they would. But it’s not a perfect world and probably never will be.

You can’t even say with 100 percent certainty if the email ever arrived in the target sponsor’s inbox. Perhaps the attachment was too big or the email got sent to spam. You might have mistyped one letter in the sponsor’s email address and sent it to the wrong person.

Even if the target sponsor got your email, opened it, and is possibly considering it, sponsors are busy people. You are too, so you know how things go. Sometimes people need a little nudge to get back to you.

I would recommend following up if at least a week has passed with no word from the sponsor. You can do that however you want. If you have the sponsor’s phone number, you can give them a call or you can send another email. 

What if you hear nothing from then even after that? Then wait another few days and follow up again. If no word comes through at that point, then it’s time to call it a wash. 

You have a time-sensitive event on the calendar. You can’t afford to waste precious time on a sponsor who clearly doesn’t want to work with you. Move on to the next target sponsor on the list.

Ask Discovery Questions at the Meeting

Here’s how the first interactions should go with a target sponsor. As I said before, it’s always better to see if you share a point of contact. It doesn’t have to be someone you know directly, but a friend of a friend or a colleague of a colleague. Reaching out to somebody that you semi-know will make them more willing to read your email, at least ideally.

When you two exchange some emails, the goal is to meet in person (or on Zoom in today’s pandemic times). Before the meeting, you need a list of discovery questions.

Since organizations are the ones asking for something rather than providing, it’s easy to think you’re in a lesser position than the sponsor. Even still, you have every right to walk away if the partnership won’t work between you two. The sponsor also has that right. Discovery questions let you learn more about the sponsor to see if you two gel.

That link above has more than 30 awesome discovery questions to get you started. Make sure you check it out!

The point of the first meeting is not to pepper the poor sponsor with a barrage of discovery questions. Ask five questions tops. You’re also not pulling out your sales materials during the meeting. It’s just about getting to know each other.

By walking into the first meeting without having discovery questions prepared, it can look to the sponsor that you’re not really taking this seriously. It’s also a huge detriment on your part.

Imagine going on a first date and not asking any questions about who they are, what they do for work, or what their hobbies are. You just like them because they’re really attractive, so that’s enough. 

A few months into the relationship and things are super toxic. If only you had asked some questions at the beginning of the courtship that could have prevented all this.

In sponsorship, relationship toxicity is one possibility. You could also alienate your audience by working with a sponsor that doesn’t align with your goals and values. Don’t just choose a sponsor for their money, but because you two are genuinely suited for a business relationship.  

You must ask discovery questions to find that out! 

Object a Rejection (At Least Once!)

Let’s rewind back to the art of following up for a moment here. Instead of crickets on the other line, you actually did hear back. Excitedly, you open the email, and then your heart drops. It’s a rejection, and it’s not the first one you’ve gotten from a target sponsor.

When you collect yourself emotionally, go back and reread the email. What did the sponsor mention about why they’re turning you down? Is it that they don’t have time? Maybe their budget is super-tight? 

What the sponsor says is important here, so pay attention. 

I want to repeat to you something that a boss of mine once told me: “No matter what a prospect tells you…believe them.”

Let’s go back to the rejections the sponsor gave you. If they said something like “I don’t have time right now,” do you notice one word that’s not in that sentence? That’s right, it’s “no.” The same is true if the sponsor tells you “our budget is too small right now.” That’s not an outward no, either.

So sure, you’ve been rejected for now, but forever? More than likely not, at least if you play your cards right.

In this article, I talk about how to turn rejections into approvals. If a target sponsor tells you they’re busy right now, ask them if they know when they’ll have more time. Perhaps the sponsor is in the middle of a huge project that will wrap up in a month, so your timing is just bad. 

Then ask the sponsor for just five minutes of their time for a quick call. That’s it. Five minutes. Unless the sponsor really has no interest in moving forward, then they’ll be able to give you that much time.

If the sponsor company’s budget is microscopic, then you have plenty of options. You might ask for less money or offer to split the sponsorship payments. You can also accept promotions or other non-cash offerings such as other sponsors or donors. 

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Being able to identify when you’ve been flat-out rejected or when the sponsor is raising objections is important. Even still, you might not always get a yes, but at least you have a firm no so you can move on. 

Build a Relationship with the Sponsor

Some organizations and companies look at a sponsor and see nothing but dollar signs. I know, I know, the funding potential of a sponsor is huge. As that article I linked you to in the last section proves though, cash is not everything. 

Your sponsor company is comprised of real people. If you think of the sponsor as only an ATM, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to build a long-term professional relationship with the sponsor. 

Having that relationship means you can reliably fall back on the sponsor for another event. Even if the sponsor’s budget is a little tight the next time you talk, the sponsor can provide value in non-monetary ways.

Imagine not having to scour the corners of the web for a caterer or DJ or light technician because a target sponsor knows someone. Or picture a sponsor vouching for you to another target sponsor. This is all a lot more valuable than a one-time cash payment.

Track Important Metrics

You managed to find a sponsor in time for your event. It’s the day after and you’re feeling tired but celebratory. Now what do you do? Plan for the next event?

Well, yes, but that’s not all. Please don’t forget in the all the post-event hubbub to review your event’s analytics. Otherwise, you have no idea if your event performed to the expectations of both your organization and the target sponsor.

I recommend reviewing metrics that are centered around ROI especially. They include email open and click-through rates, customer feedback, donations, product sales, web and social traffic, attendees, and conversions.

Besides event attendance, a lot of this data is very hard to track after the fact, so make sure you have the right framework in place for analyzing these metrics. Email and customer relationship management or CRM software can review your web, social, and email stats. Customer feedback surveys sent through physical mail or email is a great chance to get comments on your event.

For reviewing attendance numbers, you don’t have to sit and count tickets all day, which is quite tedious work. Instead, you can review badges scanned, mobile check-ins, or USB cards swiped. 

When you first agreed to a partnership with your sponsor, you promised them certain things in exchange for money. These assets are both tangible and intangible. Most of the intangible assets don’t come to light until after the event. Your sponsor needs to know if you fulfilled your promise, and the only way to do that is with analytics. 

Have a Sponsorship Renewal Plan

I talked before about why it’s worth building a professional relationship with your sponsor. Even if you two are tight, so to speak, is it guaranteed that they’ll sign on to your next event? Not without a sponsorship renewal plan, no.

This is one part of the sponsorship equation that’s easy to forget, I’ll give you that. Once you’ve produced your analytics report and the chips have settled, you want to present a proposal of renewal. If the sponsor agrees, then you can lock them in before someone else tries to snatch up their precious time or funding. 

Don’t forget about sponsorship referrals as well, which are also quite useful. A sponsor can refer you to other sponsor companies as well as vendors, as I talked about before. 

Forgetting this step only hurt you really, not the sponsor, so please don’t miss it! 

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It’s okay if you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast this morning, but you want to be more clearheaded when it comes to your sponsorship approach. Otherwise, very big things can fall through the cracks that can preclude you from getting the sponsorship your organization or business needs.

I hope this article has solidified what the most important parts of sponsorship are!