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How to Use Audience Data for More Sponsorship Sales

If you want to stop having your emails deleted, phone calls ignored and proposal thrown in the shredder it is essential that you get started in gathering data on your audience immediately.

There is a gap in approach and knowledge between brands and sponsorship seekers.  Many sponsorship seekers do not possess the level of data and knowledge of the audience that sponsors require to make informed decisions.  Sponsors have a limited budget, limited time and limited patience for sponsorship seekers who don’t know the audience they offer.

If you are telling your sponsors that your audience is the “general public” you are leaving money on the table while frustrating them at the same time.

When at its most effective, sponsorship marketing is an exercise in reaching a specific target market and adding value to their experience.  In order for this connection between sponsors and target market to occur, properties first need to understand and identify the audiences that they offer in great detail.

Having access to audience data has become an essential step in the buying decision of your sponsors. If you are unable to provide your sponsors and prospects with data on your audience, you will find yourself struggling to land and retain sponsors (if you aren’t already).

How to Stand Out to Your Sponsors

If you gather relevant data and share it with your sponsors, you will be differentiating yourself from the majority of your competition.  Too many sponsorship seekers believe that sponsors want to sponsor your organization, this is not correct, they want to sponsor your audience. Make it easy for them and start collecting and using data to prove you have the audience that will help them achieve their sponsorship objectives.

The Importance of the Sponsorship Survey

In my experience creating a survey is the quickest and most cost-effective way to get started with data collection for sponsorship.  A survey will collect data that is specifically relevant to sponsorship and will help you retain your current sponsors, target new prospects and land more deals.

When designing your survey, it is important to focus on the information that is most relevant to your sponsors and prospects.  Where is the best place to find out what that information is? Speak to your sponsors!

Speaking with your sponsors will ensure that the results of your survey are as useful as possible.  You want the results to help in every part of the sponsorship cycle, from prospecting right through to reporting.  This is also a great relationship building moment with your sponsors and demonstrates a level of sophistication and commitment to ensuring their success.

Start gathering feedback from the sponsors who are already in your roster.  I suggest at your next scheduled meeting with your sponsor add survey input to the agenda.  Tell them that you are working to improve the way that you report your sponsorship, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the feedback your sponsor can provide.

Sponsorship Survey Design and Post Event Survey Questions to Get You Started

Once you have spoken with your sponsors you will have a good sense of the audience information they need. You can now start building the framework of your survey.  In my experience, it is best to organize the survey into the sections listed below.

Geographic and Demographic

The first portion of the survey is a great place to gain some basic geographic and demographic information about your audience, who they are, where they live, what they do, etc.  This is also a great time to involve your marketing department, ask them what information would be helpful to them as they design the marketing plans.  Improved marketing plans = improved sponsorships. These are the questions that have proven the most effective in providing the baseline audience information.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Annual pre-tax income
  • Number of children
  • Highest level of education completed
  • Employment sector

Motivations, Opinion, Interests and Usage

Demographic information is a great start but you need to drill deeper to properly segment your audience (more on that to come). You also need to know what motivates your audience to participate with your organization, events or programs and how they feel about their experience.  Here are some questions that you can include.

Motivations and Opinions

  • What motivates you to participate with this organization?
  • Why did you choose to attend this event?
  • What are your favorite parts of participating with this organization?
  • What are some of the things about participating with this organization that could use improvement?
  • What holds you back from participating further with this organization?

Interests and Usage

  • What events or programs have you attended in the last 12 months?
  • What was the best part of the event experience?
  • What about the event experience could use improvement?
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Brand Preference and Loyalty

You also want to include questions to uncover your audiences buying behaviours and brand preferences among specific sponsorship categories.  After gathering this information, you are able to report back to your sponsors the opinions and perceptions your audience hold of their brand.  You can track over time how the investment was able to positively impact these opinions and perceptions.  We suggest looking at your current major sponsor roster and include questions specific to those categories.  You may also want to include questions specific to some of the larger and more active spenders within sponsorship, these categories include:

  • Automotive
  • Financial Services
  • Insurance
  • Credit Card Provider
  • Retail
  • Telecom
  • Travel

Learning about your audiences’ preferences and perceptions within these categories can be extremely helpful when speaking with potential sponsors. For example, let’s say the results of your survey show that your audience contains 2000 Honda Drivers with 24% looking to buy a new vehicle within the next 12 months. This would be a very interesting piece of information to share with Honda and even more so with Ford if they would like to influence those purchases away from the competition.  This type of insights will abound once you start analyzing the data, you will be amazed the amount of new opportunities it will uncover for your sponsors

Bonus Points if You Ask These Questions

If you know (or suspect) that a portion of your responders makes up a Business-to-Business audience, you should include questions specific to their professional buying decisions.  Business-to-Business audiences are often overlooked, and if properly identified, they can be an immensely valuable sponsorship opportunity.  If you are not convinced, take a look at how much it costs to advertise to a group of senior level executives on LinkedIn!  If your data identifies that you have 250 senior level executives in your audience and the majority attend a specific networking event in your calendar, now we are talking about a valuable Business-to-Business sponsorship opportunity.  Here are some questions that you can include:

  • How long have they been in their sector?
  • What industry association do they belong to?
  • Annual budget they control?
  • Types of business purchases they make?
  • Number of staff they manage?
  • List of products that have purchased in the last two years?
  • How much do they travel for work?
  • Is their team national or local?
  • Trends or concerns in their industry?
  • What do they spend most money on in their department?
  • What do they wish they could spend more money on?
  • Is their organization publicly traded, privately owned or non-profit?

Choose the Right Technology for Your Post event and Sponsorship Surveys

There are several survey platforms to choose from to make the design and data analysis as quick and painless as possible.  PC mag published a great article and comparison chart for survey tools to help you determine what is best for your organisation. I personally find the pro version of Survey Monkey to be easy to use and the analysis of the results straightforward. Remember to ensure whatever technology that you do choose complies with your organizations security and privacy policy.

How to Implement the Sponsorship Survey

Once you have the framework of your survey completed you want to ensure that your audience will complete it.  The survey is only as good as the people who know about it, open it and complete it, so let’s review a few techniques that you can use to maximize the response rate.

Make sure people know about it

Let your audience know about the survey well in advance of you sending it out. Look at all the ways you communicate with the audience and decide what channels are appropriate to make them aware of the survey.  Meet people where they are, some will prefer email, some will prefer social media, some will prefer your newsletter.  Let them know when you are going to be sending out the survey and the timeframe they have to complete it.

Getting people to open it

You can write the best sponsorship survey of all time and it won’t matter if nobody opens it.  Here are some tips that you can utilize to increase the response rate.

  • Test multiple subject lines and measure what has the best response rate
  • Appeal to the benefit they will receive
  • Let them know the survey will be completely anonymous
  • Use intriguing subject lines and make sure they don’t look like spam

Getting People to Answer Your Sponsorship Survey Question


Send out the survey to your audience and database with an incentive for completion.  If budget is an issue think about providing your participants with a “money can’t buy experience” with your organization.  Be as creative as possible and make sure the incentive is something your audience would really want.

Ask For Their Help

Let them know that the results of this survey are going to help your organization better deliver your mission and it won’t cost them anything but their time.

Tell Them How Long It Will Take At The Beginning

Eliminate all but the most important questions, keep them simple, and use as many multiple choices as possible.

Analyze the Results

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Segment Your Audience

Segmenting your audience is essential for sponsors to reach the right audience with the right message at the right time.  To start off, we suggest using the data to segment into 3-5 different audience niches.

Here are some examples of how using the above segmentation techniques can create good audience segments:

  • 40-year-old, high net worth moms, who live in suburban Chicago, with two or more kids who play baseball and Bank with TD but are not satisfied with their service.
  • 55-year-old, partner track, corporate lawyers, who are responsible for bringing in new business and making purchasing decisions for their law firm, who own two cars and looking to switch from BMW to Mercedes.
  • University of X grads, who studied X program, work on Bay St in Toronto, making X salary, who buy houses in York Region and commute 2 hours daily and whose children attend your summer camp programs.
  • Newly minted tradespeople who are trying to buy a house, work in X trade, need professional insurance, and are currently looking for a mortgage.

Using Your Sponsorship Survey to Improve Your Sales

You can now use your audience segments to come up with targeted prospect lists.  Let’s use one of the audience segments listed above as an example of how to do this.

  • 40-year-old, high net worth moms, who live in suburban Chicago, with two or more kids who play baseball

Brainstorm the products and services that this audience segment is likely to purchase.  The companies can now be added to your prospect list as they are likely to be targeting this audience.  For more information check out our sponsorship prospecting formula.

Include The Results In Your Fulfillment Reports

You can now report the data back to your sponsors to demonstrate how the sponsorship is reaching their target markets.  One interesting technique I have seen is including what percentage of the sponsors target market attended the event along with their recall and perception of the sponsorship.  This was done by sending out a survey upon ticket purchase and then a post survey 24 hours after the end of the event to measure the difference.

Audience Centric Sponsorship Proposals

So many sponsorship proposals include page after page of information that is not relevant to sponsors.  Your sponsors personally care about your mission but professionally cannot reach their marketing objectives by learning how many trees were planted at your events or a message from your CEO.  Instead start talking about your audience and sharing data on how your audience aligns with their target markets.  I have yet to hear a sponsor complain that a sponsorship seeker provided the likely buying behaviours of their audience in 6 months.

Add To Your Sponsorship Inventory Of Assets

Offer your sponsors the opportunity to include questions within your survey to assist them with market research and the measurement of their sponsorship.  If you have already spoken with your sponsors at the start of this process you will already have a list of questions to include on their behalf.

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Value The Audience Segments

In the sponsorship industry the riches are in the niches. Not all audiences hold the same value to sponsors which means there are some that you can focus on that will deliver better ROI than others.  You can determine this by taking the audience segments you have identified and find out how much they are worth to sponsors.  If you are not sure how to do this read out blog post all about sponsorship valuation.

Next Steps in Defining Your Audience With a Sponsorship Survey

Complete this surveying process, analyze the results, share them with your sponsors and start selling more sponsorship.  Data-driven sponsorship is the new reality and properties that continue to ignore their audience are going to be left behind, don’t let that happen to you.


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.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn