Sometimes, even really great events need a little helping hand. Whether you’re new to the event planning game or a seasoned pro, a time will come when you need to attract event sponsors.
But to be successful in this endeavor you will have to do more than show up on their proverbial doorstep with your hand out. You will have to make sponsorship opportunities both appealing and beneficial.
Garnering corporate sponsorships can do so much more than help your event turn a profit, they can give your event some clout and dramatically increase your exposure.
So, how do you find the right sponsors for your event and how do you convince them to partner with you?
Luckily for you, we’ve got the answers right here!
Start by Making a List
Before you begin sending out sponsorship requests, you need to make sure you are asking the right people.
Think about your event. Who is your target audience? What type of event are you planning? Are you planning an in-person or virtual event? Is it a fundraising event or corporate conference? What are your brand goals?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start to create a targeted list of potential sponsors.
This list should include sponsors that speak directly to the needs and interests of your audience but try to think beyond the obvious. What else might speak to your attendees? You can further narrow down this list by considering the needs of the potential sponsor as well. Who is their target? Can they benefit from exposure to your audience?
Do not forget to leverage your own network for event sponsorship opportunities. Often, the most successful partnerships can be found among your friends and family. Be sure to reach out to past sponsors as well.
Now that the list is complete, do some research to find out the proper point of contact for sponsorship requests. There is no use in sending your request to the person who works reception! So, to increase the likelihood of success, find out who makes the financial decisions and get their contact information. Brand managers are often a good place to start. Their job is all about public relations and they should be able to give you the answers you need early on in the process.
After gathering all of this information, make sure there is a way to track the details. Create a spreadsheet for you and your team that includes:
- Company name
- Company contact person
- Date contacted
Doing this will save you lots of headaches down the road by giving you a quick glimpse at where you stand with each sponsorship request and where follow-ups are required.
How To Attract Event Sponsors
Now that you have a list of potential event sponsors, how are you going to win them over? Here are some steps to follow that can turn your request into a “can’t miss” opportunity.
Create a solid sponsorship package
Creating event sponsorship packages should be the first step in soliciting sponsorship. This package will do a lot of the talking for you and tell potential partners everything they need to know about the planned event.
Your sponsorship package should include:
Event Description: Include all of the relevant information about your event. Let potential sponsors know the where, when, and who the event is for.
Why you’re holding the event: Take some time to discuss the history and background of your event. If it is a fundraiser, discuss the organizations or charities that will directly benefit from the funds raised. If it is another type of event, discuss, in practical terms, the industry benefit to attendees and participants. If you’re getting sponsorship for virtual events, emphasize to sponsors the largely untapped opportunity for selling ad placement.
Your Request: Obviously, this part is the heart of your pitch. Let potential sponsors know how they can partner with you and what exactly their contribution can mean to the community.
Include Statistics: For annual events, be sure to include hard data about your past success and any growth that has been observed over the years. Growth is music to a potential sponsor’s ears! Include ticket sales, attendance data, traffic from your event website, social media mentions, and any traditional media coverage, if relevant.
Contact Information: Finally, include all of your contact information. Let potential sponsors know where they can send their contribution or who they can reach out to for more details. This is also where you will want to include any materials you may need from them to finalize your sponsorship agreement. This can include logos and any relevant specs for marketing materials.
Offer incentives: For corporate sponsors to sign on to your event, they need to get something in return and oftentimes that will need to be something more than a mention at the end of the event. There are lots of things you can offer that will be enticing. Here are just a few ideas:
- Include sponsors’ name and logo on all event signage
- Include sponsors’ name and logo on your event ticketing platform
- If using a mobile fundraising platform, include sponsors’ name and logo throughout the donation pages
- Mention sponsors in any blog content, social media posts, and email newsletters
- Include sponsors’ name and logo on event materials like a program or event agenda
- Create a photo backdrop with sponsor logos. This is where the media will be invited to take photos of attendees and more often than not, attendees will share these photos on their social media pages, increasing social impressions
- Encourage social media followers to like and follow sponsors
- Offer sponsors free event tickets or a free booth at a trade show or exhibition
- Make an announcement at the event thanking the biggest sponsors
Do not limit yourself to this list! These are just a few of the things you can offer to make sponsoring your event more appealing. Choose incentives that suit your event, your demographics, and your target sponsors.
Reduce the Risk
When it comes to event sponsorship, “risk” is a dirty word. No one wants to shell out money or attach their name to an event that is not going to succeed. For new events or unknown brands, this can be a particular concern. This is one of the reasons why event branding is so important!
To mitigate some of the risks involved in event sponsorship, you can offer sponsorship levels. These sponsorship tiers should be included in both your event sponsorship packages and your event registration page. With options, businesses that are thinking of contributing can choose how much support they give. They can be a silver, gold, or platinum sponsor, for example.
What each of these levels entails is up to you but they allow potential sponsors opportunities to support your event and build a relationship with your brand (especially if you are new), without wasting their money or harming their reputation.
From naming rights to free tickets, sponsorship levels enable businesses to examine the benefit to the community and decide whether or not sponsoring your event is a marketing partnership that makes sense to them and their customers.
So, instead of asking for a lump sum upfront, let the sponsor decide.
Use Data from Past Events
Every event should be tracking its success across a range of key metrics. The data this generates, along with the responses to your post-event survey, will enable you to share some important details with potential sponsors.
While your mission and financial goals are significant, they aren’t necessarily the most important points for a sponsor. Certainly many brands love to sponsor nonprofit events because it is good for the community in which they operate, but it also has to make financial sense for them.
Use your past experience to your advantage.
Share details like:
- Gross revenue from promotions
- Industries represented in your event attendees
- Visit-to-purchase conversion rate
- Number of event check-ins versus event registrations
- Social media engagement metrics
- Potential reach on and offline
Anything you use to measure a successful event can potentially be shared with sponsors. If you’ve seen increased attendance or a marked shift in brand recognition, share those details. The more successful you can show yourself to be, the more likely you are to appear like a valuable sponsorship opportunity.
Time it Properly
When looking for sponsorships, it is important to begin early in the planning process. There are several reasons for this. For starters, if you are thinking about sponsorships in the early planning stages, you can design elements of your event and marketing to create better, and more appealing, opportunities. From signage to sponsored meeting rooms, tables, and entertainment, anything you can offer to highlight sponsors will be helpful in attracting them in the first place. If you have the resources, consider forming a committee to focus on this task and increase potential donor engagement.
But just as important as figuring out your own timing, you need to also consider the internal processes of your potential sponsors and make your request at the right time.
Knowing when to make your pitch can be useful. For example, many people take their holidays and vacations during the months of July, August, November, and/or December. It is unlikely that you will get much traction if you make your request at these times. Offices may be completely empty or the decision-makers you need may be away. Your sponsorship request will get lost in the shuffle. On the other hand, May, June, and September appear to be perfect times to ask for support.
Be patient. It can take time to find the right person to speak to and the final decision may have to be approved by a handful of people before any money can flow your way. The more time you can give yourself to work through these processes, the better.
And remember, always be respectful of other people’s time. Do not send massive email blasts or pester them each and every day with a phone call. Keep things as brief and direct as possible. This level of respect will go a long way toward creating a successful relationship.
Always Follow Up
No, we aren’t contradicting ourselves! While it is important not to pester and harass people, it is just as important to follow up on your requests.
Your sponsorship requests are a priority for you, but they aren’t likely to matter as much on their end. In your initial request, be sure to indicate when and how you will follow up. If your initial request is an email and you plan to follow up in one weeks’ time via telephone, be sure to do it.
If you prefer to do your outreach via phone, ask the individual when and how it would be best to follow up. Include that information in your sponsorship spreadsheet and stick to the schedule.
Remember, just because you have not heard back from someone, it does not mean that they are saying no. It may just mean that something has come up and they didn’t have time to respond to your requests or it is still being mulled over by the organization as a whole. Taking a moment to remind them, or prompt them, will only benefit you.
Again, don’t go overboard. There is no need to call every single day. Create a schedule, stick to it, and track the responses in your spreadsheet so that no time is wasted and no efforts are duplicated. Work smarter, not harder!
To attract event sponsors, you need to be methodical and organized in your approach. Clearly explain who you are, what you are planning, and who will benefit. And most importantly, demonstrate how contributing to your event can benefit the sponsor.
For more information on attracting event sponsors, read our Ultimate Guide to Fundraiser Sponsorship.