Often as an event organizer, one of your responsibilities is creating event sponsorship programs and securing event sponsors. Winning sponsors doesn’t have to be challenging if you look at it from the sponsors’ perspectives.
The right sponsors will want to connect with your audience. They’ll want your event attendees to get to know their brands because building brand awareness and recognition with your attendees can lead to future sales for them. The trick is making potential sponsors understand the value of your audience and convincing them that your event is a better marketing investment than other marketing opportunities.
For every event you organize that needs sponsors, you’ll follow the same three primary steps: find sponsors, offer sponsors something of value, and secure sponsorship contracts. Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in each of these steps so you can improve your success in securing event sponsorships in the future.
Step 1. How to Find Event Sponsors
Ideally, you should start looking for event sponsors several months before your event. That’s because it requires time and research to find companies and organizations to pitch your event to. Before you can think about looking for sponsors, you need to get a comprehensive understanding of who your event attendees are.
Understand Your Audience
Here are three questions to ask yourself as you begin your search for event sponsors:
- What are the demographic and psychographic characteristics of my event’s attendees? Demographic traits include gender, age, marital status, and so on. Psychographic traits include attendees’ personal preferences that can be defined by their hobbies, buying patterns, and the events they attend (including yours).
- What do the majority of my event attendees need? What common problem or pain point do they share?
- Is there a type of product or service that can solve attendees’ common problem or address their shared pain point? What type of company or organization would want to connect with my audience to solve that problem or address that pain point?
With these answers in hand, you can move to your next step, which is to find companies that match your answer to question #3 above.
Find Potential Event Sponsors
Once you know what your event attendees might want from sponsors and you’ve identified the kind of companies and organizations that might want to connect with your attendees, it’s time to find those companies and organizations. The easiest place to start is stalking your competitors’ events or events that are similar to yours. Depending on the type of event you’re holding, you could look for local, regional, or national companies to offer sponsorships.
You can also visit websites that sell tickets to events like yours. When you find a similar event to yours, visit the event website and find out which companies sponsored the event. Not only is this a great way to find potential sponsors, but it’s also an excellent trick to come up with ideas for what to offer sponsors in your own sponsorship packages!
Don’t forget to look beyond the actual event sponsors. Who are those sponsors’ competitors? Might those competitors be interested in sponsoring your event knowing that their rival recently sponsored a similar event?
Build Your Contact List
After you come up with a list of companies and organizations that might be interested in sponsoring your event, you need to identify the sponsorship decision-maker for each one. You can start by calling each company (visit their websites to get phone numbers) and ask for the contact information for the person in charge of marketing or event sponsorship decisions. You’re not trying to actually speak with that person at this point. You’re just trying to collect their contact information.
You can also search for this information on LinkedIn or on each company’s website. Look for employees with an executive or management marketing title as sponsorship expenses typically come out of marketing budgets as promotional costs.
Using the information you collect, create a contact spreadsheet that includes the company name, decision-maker’s name, the decision-maker’s phone number, the decision-maker’s email address, any other contact information you can get, and details about why you believe they’d be interested in sponsoring your event. When you reach out to potential sponsors in Step #3 below, you can add to this spreadsheet by appending information about when you contact each person, when you pitched your event, when you submitted a full proposal, and so on.
But remember, it’s not time to contact the decision-makers yet! First, you need to figure out what you’re going to offer them in exchange for their sponsorship investment dollars.
Step 2. What to Offer Event Sponsors (and for How Much)
Sponsors want to connect with event attendees so they can build brand awareness and recognition. They might even want an opportunity to try and sell their products and services to attendees before, during, or after an event. Therefore, you need to create event sponsorships that provide value to sponsors by addressing their wants and needs. In other words, what you offer to them must be perceived as being or equal or greater value to them than the monetary investment they’ll need to make in the sponsorship.
Keep in mind, the perceived value doesn’t just include the value of your sponsorship benefits. It also includes the opportunity cost they’re giving up by not investing that money into other marketing initiatives. That means they need to feel confident that investing in your event will drive an adequate return on their investment, and their return must be higher than what they’d get from other marketing opportunities.
The best way to prove the value of your events is with data. If you’ve held similar events in the past, it’s a lot easier to get reliable data than if you’re holding an event for the first time. For example, sponsors want to know how many tickets you’ll sell to get a size of the audience their brand will be exposed to through the sponsorship. They also want to understand the demographics of your expected attendees. You can derive this information from prior event attendance records and any prior attendee surveys you’ve conducted. If this is your first event, you can provide expected numbers based on similar events.
Additional brand exposure data beyond the actual event and ticket buyer numbers is also useful. For example, if you’re going to promote the sponsor through the event’s social media channels and through online influencer outreach efforts, then include details about when, where, and how often the sponsor will be mentioned as well as the direct reach (the number of followers your social media accounts have) and extended reach (the full audience exposed to your posts through social sharing) of those efforts. Again, you can pull this from prior event reports or project it.
Data offers proof that a company’s investment in your event will deliver the results it needs. In other words, data provides tangible evidence of the investment’s real value, so gather it and use it to sell your sponsorships.
Step 3. How to Win Event Sponsors
To win event sponsors, you need to offer sponsorship packages that deliver adequate value to companies and organizations. That means you need to balance the price of those sponsorship packages with their perceived value as discussed in Step #2 above. Research sponsorship opportunities for similar events to ensure your packages and prices are realistic before you approach potential sponsors.
You also need to do some preparation work before you connect with potential event sponsors. First, you need to craft a full proposal that fully explains why sponsoring the event is a good investment to companies. Promote the benefits of the sponsorship and explain everything sponsors get as well as the price. Keep in mind, you might have to negotiate with companies to develop a custom sponsorship package. Be flexible while keeping your own budget in mind. If you can’t make a sponsorship with a specific company work, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Next, create a 30-second elevator pitch that summarizes the most important parts of your sponsorship proposal. This elevator pitch is what you’ll lead with when you cold call potential sponsors. Once you have your written proposal and elevator pitch ready, customize them as necessary for each potential sponsor that you connect with.
Don’t rely on email to secure sponsorships. This is a situation where phone calls followed up with email messages usually work better. The relationship between an event manager and a sponsor is a partnership, so you need to start building that relationship from the very first contact. It’s much easier to do this via phone than email. Also, don’t send your full proposal until you’ve spoken with a potential sponsor on the telephone. After that call, you might learn some very important things that require tweaks to your proposal.
Most importantly, listen to potential sponsors and be willing to work with them to meet their needs. For example, don’t just offer to display a sponsor’s logo on your website, marketing materials, and signage. Instead, get creative and offer to create event-sponsored games, lounges, Wi-Fi and phone charging stations, giveaways, and more. Your creativity could be the difference between a company sponsoring your event or a competitor’s event.
Finally, don’t abandon your sponsors during or after the event. If you want them to sponsor another one of your events in the future, you need to follow through on everything you’ve promised. In fact, you should exceed their expectations leading up to and during the event. After the event, send them reports so they can evaluate their results. This could include the number of brand mentions on social media, leads generated for the sponsor, and more. Be transparent and keep the lines of communication open to ensure your event sponsorships are successful.
Your Next Steps
You need sponsors’ money and they need your audience. Together, you can come up with a mutually beneficial partnership, but you need to be persistent and get potential sponsors excited about your event as a beneficial marketing opportunity first. Start by doing your homework and creating your audience profile and your list of potential sponsors and decision-makers. Next, write your proposal and start selling. You’ll get a lot of no’s, but you only need a handful of sponsors to say yes for your event to be successful!