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Who to Ask for Sponsorship: Eight Industries to Consider

When seeking sponsorship, money is money and it doesn’t matter where it comes from, right? Not exactly. You have to think of sponsorship more like marketing than corporate philanthropy. Your sponsors won’t just give you money to get nothing back. Whether it’s more promotion or fresh leads for them, a mutually beneficial sponsorship relationship is one to strive for. Keeping that in mind, who should you ask for sponsorship?

The following industries are all good ones to focus your sponsorship efforts on:

  • Banks
  • Hotels
  • Grocery chains
  • Insurance companies
  • Food brands
  • Beer brands
  • Major retailers
  • Airlines

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into all eight of these industries, the departments you may reach out to for sponsorship, and what you should expect. Let’s get started!

Eight Industries to Ask for Sponsorship

The following industry information is culled from a list on ZipSprout for the biggest corporate sponsors. The brands and companies we’re going to name are not guaranteed to offer sponsorships, but are used primarily for example’s sake.

Banks

According to the corporate sponsorship list, Wells Fargo was named the top sponsor with a sponsorship rate of 2.89 percent. That’s not just for banks, but all sponsored companies on the list.

Other noteworthy banks that do a lot of sponsorships are US Bank, Bank of America, PNC Bank, Union Bank, and TD Bank.

As financial institutions themselves, it makes sense that banks offer sponsorship opportunities. If you want to approach a bank chain about sponsoring your upcoming event, make sure you reach out to their branding or marketing departments. Be clear this isn’t a loan you want, but a sponsorship.

Wells Fargo has mentioned that its reason for offering sponsorships is a wish to better local communities. The bank prefers to work with organizations that are 501c3s only. Also, Wells Fargo has several focus areas for the organizations it sponsors, such as:

  • Environmental and civics
  • Culture and art
  • Health and human services
  • K-12 education

That’s just Wells Fargo, so it could be different for other banks. Still, this is good information to have as you proceed with bank sponsorship.

Hotels

Marriott was number two on the list of biggest US-based corporate sponsors, with a sponsorship rate of 1.63 percent. However, they’re also the only hotel on the list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that hotels never give out sponsorships, just that other big chains didn’t make the list.

You can opt to request sponsorship from a major hotel chain or a smaller, local hotel in your neck of the woods. If it’s the latter, make sure the hotel has the funding for a sponsorship. You can typically reach out to their marketing, sales, or communications departments to glean that information.

Grocery Chains

Most people shop at a grocery store every week, so it shouldn’t be surprising that many grocery chains have turned around and given back through sponsorships. Some of the bigger sponsors are Whole Foods Market with a 1.3 percent sponsorship rate, Kroger at 0.46 percent, Heb Grocery at 0.42 percent, Trader Joe’s at 0.41 percent, and Costco at 0.36 percent.

Whole Foods’ Regional Marketing Manager Christopher Danz explained that the grocery store strives for sponsorship to promote Whole Foods’ mission of health and wellness. You wouldn’t necessarily be turned away for a Whole Foods sponsorship if your organization was outside of those two industries. The grocery chain just more closely weighs ROI to determine if the sponsorship would be a good match.

Other grocery chains may be more interested in building the community. Do a bit of research about the goals of your local grocery stores and then reach out to their marketing or sponsorships departments to see what can be done.

Insurance Companies

Another industry you might consider for sponsorship is insurance. State Farm, Allstate, and Geico have a healthy history of sponsorship. If you’ve watched TV even once, then surely you’ve been bombarded with commercials from one (if not all) of these major insurance brands.

In those commercials is always an effort towards uniting a community. Allstate, according to their sponsorship page, also has a special interest in endurance racing, soccer, and college football. Thus, if your organization has a background in sports, you could win an Allstate sponsorship.

Don’t just assume that because an industry like insurance deals primarily in money that that’s the only topic you could potentially connect over.

Food Brands

You gotta eat, right? Besides what you buy at the grocery store, the restaurant and fast food industries are robust, healthy ones. All sorts of food brands appeared on the top corporate sponsorships list outside of grocers. These include:

  • Pepsi
  • Clif Bar
  • Coca Cola
  • McDonald’s
  • Kind Snacks
  • Starbucks
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Gatorade
  • Subway
  • Dairy Queen

That’s a pretty significant list. You’ve got everything from two of the biggest soft drink brands to energy bars, fast food, coffee, sports drinks, and sit-down restaurants. Again, those are just the names that are on the top 60 list. Plenty more food brands abound that could become your potential sponsor.

Clif Bar’s EVP of Food & Innovation Michelle Ferguson said that the brand prefers a more grassroots approach to its marketing. That includes taking the time to build lasting relationships with customers. Sticking within that grassroots vein, Clif Bar takes on sponsorships to foster a deeper connection among the community.

Sometimes bigger brands can have a type of veil over them that makes them seem unapproachable. Once you get a chance to lift that veil, you can see that some of their goals align more closely with yours than you would have previously believed. Try reaching out to a food brand’s marketing department to see what kind of sponsorship relationship could be possible if they accept your proposal.

Beer Brands

Beer and alcohol brands have no problem spreading the wealth at times. Some of the better-known sponsors are Budweiser/Budlight, Tito’s Vodka, Lagunitas, Stella Artois, and Barefoot Wine. Okay, so Stella Artois is owned by Budweiser, but it does give you another avenue for sponsorship.

If you do decide to pursue an alcohol brand to sponsor an event, you must make sure the partnership is in alignment with your audience. Alcohol can be a polarizing topic for some, so the sponsorship shouldn’t feel like it’s too much out of left field. Otherwise, yes, you may have gotten the sponsorship for your event, and people may have even attended. However, you’ve now left a bad taste in your audience’s mouth that won’t wash out easily.

Should you decide to try a beer or alcohol company for sponsorship, their sales and marketing departments may be most receptive to your offer.

Major Retailers

If you’d prefer to stick to a safer sponsorship partner, retail stores are always a good bet. With so many out there, you can surely find one that’s a closer match to your organization. Which kinds of retailers are known for their sponsorships especially?

Dick’s Sporting Goods is a big one, followed by Walmart. Here are some others:

  • AT&T
  • Les Schwab Tires
  • Home Depot
  • Target
  • Toyota
  • Walgreens
  • Ace Hardware
  • Nike

That’s two major sporting good brands. If you want to learn more about how to approach sports sponsorship, we’ve got three really great articles for you. Here’s one about endurance event and triathlon sponsorship, another on golf tournament sponsorship, and a third for any other sports sponsorships.

If your organization is one that’s outside of sports, that’s okay. You still have plenty of options. Major retailer Target, for example, accepts sponsorship requests from public agencies and nonprofit organizations. They do request that expo sponsorships, political or religious groups, conventions, auto racing, pageants, sports teams, and individuals not apply.

Car brand Toyota welcomes general sponsorship proposals, but they’re especially receptive to identity-based or multicultural proposals.

Airlines

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2019, US airlines transported 925.5 million passengers. Some of the airlines that do the most sponsorships are Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

Southwest sponsors a lot of smaller sports teams and local events, which could work out in your favor if you’re an equally small organization. United sticks more with organizations centered around cultural institutions and landmark arts. Again, maybe that’s your milieu. In that case, you could get major financial backing.

You can always check the airline you like most to see which kinds of sponsorship opportunities they offer.  The two examples above prove that the sky may literally be the limit!

Finding The Right Sponsors

Finding the right sponsor is important for striking up a long-term relationship. A common thread between your organization and the sponsor also makes it easy for both of you to reap the benefits of the partnership. This will make the sponsor more inclined to fund more of your future events as well.

The eight industries we shared offer up some great ideas to start with, as do some of the companies we highlighted. Whether you prefer to begin at the local level or go straight for the bigger brands with more money, you now know how to do both. Best of luck in your sponsorship search!

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.

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