Getting event sponsors is an important aspect of planning a successful event. When approaching a possible sponsor come prepared with information they will want to know for consideration. Recognize that your sponsor is likely to be inundated with sponsorship request throughout the year and it’s difficult for businesses to contribute to everyone that comes knocking on their door.
First, consider if the sponsor would be a good fit for your event because that is what they are going to do when evaluating whether they wish to contribute. Does your event align with their goals and vision for their company? Are the attendees of your event the kind of audience that will resonate with your sponsor’s message? Most sponsors get involved because they want to impress your attendees by aligning with common goals whether that is sales, branding, or goodwill.
However sponsors can get burnt out with requests for event organizers that don’t deliver as promised as far as attendance and demographic. What sponsors are really looking for is value and esteem in exchange for their money, goods, or services.
Have a solid message when it comes to selling the event sponsorship because that is what you’re doing. You’re selling an idea. What is the purpose of the event and do you have a mission statement? How is your audience valuable to the sponsor? Is your event unique in any way so it stands out from similarly aligned events? Who is expected to come to the event?
To come up with a strategy for this, it can help to develop a persona of the expected attendee. This persona should not be who you wish would attend, it needs to be a realistic description of the type of person that would be interested in the event with consideration to what your event offers, the cost to attend, the location, and the time of year. Finally, create a story how their involvement will benefit the sponsor. Eyeballs on their logo or a mention on a website probably isn’t going to be enough to entice sponsors so it’s really helpful to provide a compelling presentation with every statistic you can manage.
A quick email introduction to a potential sponsor could look something like this:
"The team that I coach competed in the State tournament this past weekend and placed second. We are now off to the World Finals at [State Name] University in May. At World Finals, over 800 teams (8,000+ team members and parents) compete in a four-day-long tournament. Almost all of these teams create custom-made shirts each year, just like we did. Imagine the business if they all used DesignAShirt!
The cost to attend World Finals is about $1000/person, and in an effort to defer some costs, we are looking for team sponsorships. I thought this might be a great advertising opportunity for you. I was imagining a shirt that said something like "[Event Name] World Finalist" along with the DesignAShirt logo/url on the front and "Like Our Shirt? Order Yours from DesignAShirt.com!" on the back (or whatever we would decide upon). Then the team members and parents would wear the shirts all over World Finals. We also would be happy to pass out flyers when our kids trade [Event Name] pins with kids from across the US. If you want the international business, we can hand out flyers to the teams from other countries too."
Oftentimes you will be approaching a business that you have no prior relationship to so put yourself in their shoes concerning your image. If you we’re asked to give money to a charity for example but had never heard of them before, you’d likely do a little research to ascertain their legitimacy. A business will want to research your event, and maybe even you personally to see if the event is authentic. Be sure to have a professional looking image for them to find. That means some kind of web presence. Make sure that the information they find on your web page is the same information you are relaying in your conversations or emails to them. That image should align with the businesses image of the sponsorship you’re seeking.
Define offerings for your sponsors like event announcements, banner advertisements, social media shout outs, call outs in emails about the event, their logos on your custom event t-shirts, and other promotional items that would be given away or sold at the event. You may consider different levels of sponsorships like silver, gold, and platinum level sponsorships with bundled offerings depending on the tier they choose to go with. If it makes sense, offering sponsors VIP passes or tickets to the event can be presented in such a way that the sponsor could provide these passes to employees as a perk. There’s an example of an additional value added approach and thought process to your message. If you find your different levels of sponsorship are not enticing engagement for your event, be prepared to be flexible.
Start with your own network of contacts. Prior relationships are a great resource since they already know you. Have you given a lot of your business to a local company? They might be an excellent candidate to contact. Include details about your familiarity with the company and why you’re so familiar but be cognizant to the possibility you might be considered a minor customer depending on the company. Ask your friends to be a referral source for you. Do they have relationships with any business that might be a good fit? If so, send them your solicitation message and asked to be introduced.
If you get shot down by one company you had in mind that would be a good fit for your event, search for similar types of businesses by looking on a search engine for “business like [company name].” You may have to do some extra work but if you find an up-and-comer that needs more advertising exposure, you might hit the jackpot.
Business owners and their employees are typically very busy people so while an onsite visit or a phone call seems personable, people may be less receptive and it can be a time waster for you too. One of the easiest ways to reach out to possible sponsors is through social media. If it’s a smaller business you just might get the attention of the actual owner. If it’s a larger business, you’re likely going to be communicating with an employee or worse, their advertising company. Don’t give up if you don’t hear back after an initial reach out. At that point, a follow up email would be appropriate but if you hear nothing back again, it’s better to put your effort into other opportunities.
When you do make contact, do make it personal and craft each message in a personal way, nobody wants to hear a blanket one-size-fits-all proposal. Explain how their sponsorship to your event could make a positive impact and describe what you’re expecting from them. Do you want money, services, or products? Here again be flexible. In our specific case, it is sometimes far easier and palatable to donate t-shirts rather than money if the goal of the event aligns with our values as a t-shirt printing business.
Present your entire value proposition upfront because it’s rare that you’ll get a 2nd chance. Document that you’re planning on sending X number of email blasts to X size list and that you have X number reach on social. Will you be doing flyers, radio, or TV advertising? Any paid search engine marketing? Sponsors will be far more intrigued with an approach that provides a lot of granular detail.
When you land a sponsorship you’ve really done the hardest part by building a relationship. To cultivate that relationship for next year’s event or sponsorships for similar events, it important that you deliver what was promised to the sponsor at a bare minimum. Giving them more than expected will set you above other event opportunities presented to them in the future. Even providing additional exposure they weren’t expecting on a channel like social media for example. When you do this be sure to make the sponsor aware of the extra perks given.
After the event, follow up by providing all the relevant statistics and results from the event like how much money was raised, how many people attended or participated, and all social statistics like reach, likes, shares, comments, interviews, press mentions, etc.