Because event sponsorships play such a significant role in event revenues – one recent study shows that 63% of event managers rely on sponsorships as a significant source of income – it’s vital that you give yourself and your events the best chance to attract the right sponsors. And it’s also critical that you have the right systems in place to deliver the value your sponsors are looking for.
At the end of the day, an event sponsor is ultimately looking to connect with their target audience – whether to directly boost sales or leads, improve brand recognition/recall, enhance their image by being associated with a cause, or all the above.
In the first of our 3-part series, we outline 14 easy-to-implement steps for how to find sponsors, how to ask for sponsorships and how to create long-lasting relationships with your sponsors.
1. Craft a Unique Selling Proposition
You should think of selling event sponsorships like selling a product or service, because the concept is the same. The fastest way to demonstrate the value of what you can offer potential sponsors is through a Unique Selling Proposition or USP, which outlines:
- Your event’s mission or cause
- What you offer that is of value to sponsors
- What differentiates your event from others
- What defines your event’s audience (size and key characteristics)
- How the sponsor will benefit from the relationship
2. Build a professional brand image for your event
Think about how you evaluate a company or brand you want to hire or do business with. Often the first thing you do is go to their website or request/download their brochure to learn more about them and see if they are legitimate. The same goes for how sponsors first evaluate you. They are going to look you up online, visit your site and browse the web for mentions to see if you are legit.
This is why it’s worth it to either spend some funds on having a professional designer create your brand and marketing materials or, better yet, find a designer who will do this for an in-kind sponsorship. Remember, by sponsoring you, sponsors are aligning their brand image with yours, and if your brand doesn’t reflect a professional, clean image, they will probably take their sponsorship dollars to an event that has the polish and cache they seek.
3. Identify audiences and offerings that interest potential sponsors
At this point, you can start to define the specific things you can offer sponsors, like:
- Speaking opportunities and/or special audience access
- On-stage announcements
- Logo placements (on signage, mailings, programs, etc.)
- Website marketing
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing/mentions
- In-kind sponsorship opportunities (this could be a long list but can include food, beverage, printing, a/v, entertainment, transportation, decor/floral, PR, etc.)
- Complimentary or VIP passes
4. Reach out to your personal network first
The lowest hanging fruit regarding potential sponsors are the people you already know plus their friends and colleagues. So your first outward action should be to reach out to them to see if they would be interested in sponsoring and, if not, if they can refer anyone to you who might be interested.
5. Build a list of targeted prospects that align with your USP
Not every individual and every company is going to be an ideal fit for your event, your audience and your offerings, so you should first create categories of prospective event sponsors – which could include specific industries, verticals or demographics – who would be receptive to what you have to offer.
Once you have done this, you can start researching organizations and individuals to place into these categories and use spreadsheets or a CRM to manage the information.
6. Make first contact via email and social media (not phone calls)
You would think calling potential sponsors would be a more personal and effective method of introducing yourself to them, but in fact many sponsors prefer the first contact be online so they
In addition, many event organizers also first reach out to potential sponsors via social media, again because it is a more casual, less intrusive approach that allows the organization to do some initial due diligence on you.
7. Be personal and concise in your initial approach
As part of Step 5, you should have collected intelligence on your prospects as far as their organizational focus, mission and potential needs regarding sponsorships. Now this information comes into play when crafting a customized introduction to them via email or social media.
Once you have their ear, don’t beat around the bush about who you are and what you are requesting from them. Note that your USP from Step 1 is the perfect opening statement.
8. Pitch prospects information and data that hits their sweet spot
Once the conversation is rolling, you need to ask the prospect some probing questions about what they are looking for regarding event sponsorships and what they want from the relationship. Once you have specifics on these, you can counter with details and data points that will blow away their objections (because every sponsor has objections that they usually don’t divulge upfront).
The more data you have on your audience, the better when convincing sponsors of their value. Understanding your participants’ purchasing power is one of the keys to negotiating with and securing event sponsors. Companies that sponsor events like to know exactly how their investment will pay off, and the more information you can provide about the type of people, their industry and their influence, the more likely sponsors are to agree to your terms.
9. Always, always follow up with prospects who didn’t respond
We all lead busy lives, and many emails you intended to respond to will quickly find their way to the bottom of your inbox, never to be seen again. The same thing will happen to many of your initial sponsorship request emails and social media messages, so it’s vital to reach out to this audience at least once more, if not twice.
10. Customize sponsorship packages based on each sponsor’s needs
Not only do you need to customize your pitch, but during negotiations you also need to customize the event sponsorship agreement based on each event sponsor’s particular needs. A sponsorship is a relationship. Find out what their future plans are and how you can help them get there.
11. Deliver and over-deliver
It goes without saying that you should follow through on every promise and commitment in your sponsorship agreement with each sponsor, because not only do you want their repeat business, but you also REALLY want to avoid word getting out about reneging on sponsors and the possibility of a lawsuit.
12. Keep sponsors involved and informed throughout the process
Your relationship with your sponsors extends far beyond a mere transaction. In essence, they are your biggest clients as well as your partners, because a successful event benefits you both. Hence, it’s critical to keep them involved in every step of the process. Keep them involved in the whole process of your event. They might like to hear about behind-the-scenes information, or an interview you do with one of your keynote speakers, or some PR the event gets. Treat them like a member of the team.
13. Share ROI data after the event
There are dozens of ways to measure return-on-investment (ROI) for every event – headcount, influencer attendance/outreach, social media mentions, press coverage, attendee data collected (satisfaction, pre/post awareness, etc.), unique website visitors, revenues, donations, leads and sales, just to name a few. A good rule of thumb is to select three primary metrics to measure your overall event ROI and another three metrics to measure sponsorship ROI. Once you have this data, present it in person to your sponsors a week or so after the event as part of a thank-you presentation to show your appreciation.
14. Continue the sponsorship after the event is over
Year after year, event sponsors’ expectations grow as they seek more and more value from their sponsorships, and this includes post-event coverage. The one thing that sponsors want to ensure is that they will receive exposure during the event as well as after the event. This could be implemented with social media posts and electronics newsletters to the attendees.
In the end, the secret to how to get event sponsors is to understand their needs and be flexible enough to meet them, and the key to keeping event sponsors is to deliver on your promises and foster an ongoing relationship with them that lasts long after the event is over.