The Six-Step Event Sponsorship Checklist
It’s a day you’ve dreamt about for years: your organization’s first event. You’ve been so busy planning all the small details lately, but now you’ve come across a rather big hurdle, getting sponsorship. You want to work with a sponsor for your event, but you’re not sure how to get the ball rolling. Which steps should you follow?
Your event sponsorship checklist should include these six steps:
- Determine the kind of event you want to host
- Choose the right type of sponsor, such as a media sponsor vs. a financial sponsor
- Create an asset list and valuation for your sponsorship package
- Make your sponsorship proposal
- Find the right contact and send them your sponsorship proposal
- Follow up if you don’t hear back
If any of these areas seem fuzzy to you, don’t worry. In this post, we’ll explain each of the six steps for event sponsorship in much greater detail. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a clear roadmap for successfully finding and working with an event sponsor!
Hosting an Event? Follow This Six-Step Sponsorship Checklist
Choose Your Event
It’s tough to find a sponsor for an undefined event. You don’t need to know every last little thing about your event-to-be right this second, but you should have a pretty good idea about the general info at least. For example, do you want to host a festival? If so, what kind? You could throw a music festival, a sports festival, a tech festival, or even a food festival.
You likely would seek different sponsorship opportunities for a tech festival compared to a sports festival, so figuring out what you want has got to be your first order of business.
It’s also ideal if you can answer these questions sooner than later:
- Why are you hosting the event? What do you hope to achieve?
- How will your event stand out from others of its kind?
- Who will show up to the event?
- What unique assets can you have for your event? Examples include presentations, keynote speakers, or even a big sponsor with lots of traffic.
Now you have the skeleton of your event, and from there, it’s all about filling it with meat, so to speak, until it becomes more full-fledged.
Remember that a sponsorship opportunity isn’t a one-way benefits train for you. Your sponsor needs to get something out of the deal too. Whether that’s a boost in traffic or new leads and customers, there are plenty of ROI metrics that matter to sponsors. If you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve through your event and how you’ll go about it, you can focus on how you’ll achieve the kind of metrics that create a mutually beneficial partnership.
Select the Type of Sponsorship You Need
You’ve thought long and hard about what your event will entail, so now it’s time to move on to step two of the process. This is where you choose the target sponsor.
Before you proceed, you should now be able to answer the first question on the list above: what do you hope to achieve with your event? Do you want to throw the biggest event your organization has ever done? Then you’ll want a sponsor with deep pockets and a healthy cash flow. Do you want to grow your audience? It helps if your sponsor has name brand credibility, as they can attract more attendees to your event.
In such a case, you’d want a promotional partner or a media sponsor. A promotional partner will get people chattering at your event, as your sponsor can convince a public figure, sometimes even a celebrity, to attend your event and speak. This instantly launches your credibility to the moon and will all but guarantee huge attendance numbers.
A media sponsor is another gateway to publicity. This sponsor can ensure your event gets the kind of coverage you’ve always envisioned, such as through TV commercials, newspapers in your area, radio ads, and other forms of online campaigning. Such a sponsor will likely heavily brand your event with their name in return for their services.
If you’re seeking a more traditional sponsorship partner for financial assistance, then you’ll want either an in-kind or a financial sponsor. An in-kind sponsor is one who can offer services or products rather than cash donations. The items the in-kind sponsor gives for an event can include t-shirts, branded products you can hand out at a booth, and even hotel rooms.
A financial sponsor is one who gives you money to make your event a success. On your end, you’d provide them promotional opportunities, branding, and advertising.
Once you decide the type of sponsor you’d like to work with, you don’t want to start reaching out to each one who fits the bill. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to begin researching your audience. Surveying them lets you segment your audience into buckets based on demographic and psychographic information such as gender, age, job title, location, marital status, number of children, spending habits, personal interests and hobbies, and attitudes.
Having these insights on your audience then lets you see where alignment exists between your audience and that of your potential sponsor. You don’t want a mismatch here, so try your best to avoid it. For example, a health event wouldn’t have a burger joint as a sponsor, as it would send the wrong message.
One more thing to keep in mind when choosing your sponsor: make sure you have a shortlist of sponsors to pursue. Sure, the first one you reach out to might say yes, and in that case, great! If the sponsor turns you down for any reason though, you want to be able to rebound quickly and move on to your backup sponsor.
Make Your Assets List and Evaluate Each One
As you get to step three, you’re really rolling now. You still have yet to say a word to your target sponsor, but that’s because when you finally reach out to them, you want to really wow them.
To do that, it helps to do a sponsorship valuation. A valuation is a determination of the value of your assets list.
What should go on an assets list? In the beginning, anything and everything. From tangible assets to intangible ones, whatever you think of that can be of use to your sponsor, write it down as an asset. For example, employee benefits, paid media, social media, exhibiting opportunities, program naming rights, traditional media, product giveaways, and signage are just some assets of many that you can add to your list.
You don’t want to be discerning with your assets right now, so don’t think too much about what should or shouldn’t be on the list. Gather with your team, have a good brainstorming session, and create a robust assets list. However long is necessary will be the length of your list.
Just do know that if you come up with a thousand assets, you will have to go one by one and evaluate them all. What makes any one asset valuable will be mostly based on what qualities your sponsor prefers, the asset type, your location, and your audience.
So yes, just as an FYI, if you didn’t already survey and segment your audience in the second stage of this event sponsor checklist, you have to do that now during the valuation stage. Your audience can be one of your biggest assets, after all!
Each asset needs a dollar value assigned to it. If you’re wondering whether you’ve overpriced or even underpriced an asset, we recommend checking banner ads, local paper ads, Google AdWords, trade magazine ads, and other marketing opportunities to see what the competition is doing. Then, price your assets close to the figures you see.
As you exhaustively calculate the value of every last asset on your list, you’ll notice that some are not all that valuable. You’ll want to discard or at least set aside these assets for now. They certainly don’t have any home in your sponsorship proposal, although maybe you can retool the asset into an activation idea another time.
Once you have a dozen or so strong, valuable assets that naturally floated to the top, you’re ready to do arguably the most important part of the sponsorship checklist: make your event sponsorship proposal.
Work on Your Sponsorship Proposal
Your sponsorship proposal offers the sponsor various participation levels, so it must include a few packages for them to select from. You know the classic bronze, silver, and gold sponsorship package models, right? These are okay for beginners, but most sponsors don’t really like it when sponsorship packages are presented this way. You could have an otherwise solid sponsorship proposal but shoot yourself in the foot with the bronze, silver, and gold sponsorship package.
It’s not necessarily the presentation here that’s bad, but the pricing. Rather than stick to the generic package formula, think about what your prospect’s interests and needs are and then price your sponsorship packages that way.
You do want to tier the packages so your sponsor gets the most if they pay more, such as thought leadership, database growth, sampling, product placement, and brand building. That doesn’t mean the lower-tier packages are totally unappealing though. All three options should be worthwhile depending on what the sponsor can offer.
No matter whether you call it a bronze, silver, and gold sponsorship package or something else entirely, the most important thing is that you must be able to live up to your end of the deal. If your sponsor pays the big bucks for your top sponsorship package and you offer them only half of what you promised, you’ll kill that relationship forever (well, unless you have a really good excuse, like a really good one).
Your sponsorship package is only one part of the sponsorship proposal by the way, albeit a really big part. The proposal itself is about six pages, but yours may be a little longer (not too much longer) or shorter than that.
Here’s the breakdown of what should be on those six pages
Your first page is the title page, and as such, you want to keep it really simple. Adding your organization or business name, your logo, and the name of the event program should suffice. Avoid using words such as “sponsorship package” on page one of the proposal.
On page two, you want to talk about your audience. Yes, you have just one page for this, so keep it succinct yet engaging.
Then, on the third page, you want to discuss your organization, its history, and the causes you support. Oh, and this is just one paragraph, since the third page is pretty full. Yes, one paragraph. Write, rewrite, and edit until you can create a blurb on your organization that you’re happy with.
The second paragraph on the third page is all about your event, including what it is, when, and why you’re hosting it.
Moving on to the fourth page now, you want to introduce your sponsorship package, but with very selective language. Like you shouldn’t use the words “sponsorship packages,” you also want to refrain from writing “sponsorship opportunities.”
You may refer to your sponsorship package as a menu, but mention that the menus and the content therein are always customizable per the sponsor’s recommendations. Tell them you’re open to hearing their ideas and would love their suggestions if they have them.
On the fifth page, you’ll list the sponsorship packages, but again won’t use that exact language. Then, on the sixth page, you want a call to action and your contact information front and center. Make it easy and convenient for the sponsor to reach out to you.
Find the Right Point of Contact and Send Them Your Sponsorship Proposal
Yes, we’re five stages in and you’re only now just reaching out to your potential sponsor. It took a lot of time and hard work to get here, but you’re ready.
Your first contact with the sponsor company will likely be through email. Do not, we reiterate–do not–attach your sponsorship proposal in the body of this cold email and think that’ll work. It will almost certainly not.
Instead, you want to find someone within the company so you can schedule a meeting to eventually pass along your sponsorship proposal.
You’re looking for someone in your sponsorship company who works in areas like sales, product development, communications, business development, sponsorship, marketing, and/or branding. Ask around at your organization and see if anyone knows someone who works at the sponsorship company. If they do, it’s so much easier to get your foot in the door when you have a person in contact.
If you’re going in cold, then try using LinkedIn and similar platforms to gain this person’s contact information. Here are some templates you should follow when reaching out to the sponsorship company in writing. The templates are centered around events too, which is perfect for you.
Remember, you’re not sending your sponsorship proposal at this time. You’re only trying to secure a meeting with your sponsorship company. Then you can give your point of contact the sponsorship letter.
Follow up If Need Be
In almost all cases, you’re not going to get an answer right away from the sponsorship company, either a yes or a no. They’re going to want to pore over your proposal on their own, probably several times. A few other employees at the sponsorship company might have to comb over the proposal as well.
Then, the company has to chew on your deal, so don’t be surprised if it takes upwards of a week or more before you get a response. Bide your time and wait, but not forever. If several weeks have passed and you’ve heard zilch, you should follow up.
You can call or send an email. Mention who you are, why you’re getting in touch, and that you sent your sponsorship proposal on X date. Then ask if the sponsor has had a chance to look things over and whether they have any questions.
If the sponsor is a little iffy on the proposal, offer to go through it with them and implement their suggestions so your sponsorship proposal better serves the sponsor. You might even have to schedule a few phone calls or meetings to get things right, but that’s okay.
When your sponsor approves of the proposal in its current state, then congrats! You now have a sponsor for your event.
Event sponsorship in the form of financial backing or promotion can boost your event attendance and bring in new customers.
In seeking a sponsor, most of your work won’t even involve them, at least not for a while. First, you have to know what kind of event you want to host as well as the type of sponsor you’d like to pursue. Gain insights into your audience and then begin going through your other assets and valuing them.
Next, work on your sponsorship proposal, find a point of contact at the sponsorship company, and you’re finally ready to ask for a meeting. No one ever said getting an event sponsor is easy or quick, but if you’re successful, it’s so worth it.
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.