One of the most important parts of event planning is finding the right event sponsors. Unless you’re a well-established company with a massive loyal customer base, you’ll probably need funding from event sponsors whose target audience is similar to yours. If this makes you anxious just reading it, worry no more. We’ve put together a guide to finding the best sponsorship for your event, writing the perfect proposal, and cultivating important relationships with sponsors.
Choose Your Event Sponsors Wisely!
When you’re just starting out, sponsors are taking a risk by investing in your event. If you’ve been actively reaching out to sponsors and receiving no responses, the first thing to do is stop worrying. This is perfectly normal. Many sponsors are highly sought after and inundated with requests; it may take time for them to even get to your proposal, and when they do they may not decide to take a chance on your event. You might be saying, “Okay, so it’s common to be rejected. But what do I do about it?” Well, in order to overcome this obstacle, you’ve got several options. The most important task at hand is to choose the right sponsor for your event. What we mean by the “right” sponsor is this: Their brand should not only be aligned with your company’s values, tone, and target audience, but should also be realistically attainable. If you’re relatively unknown, definitely don’t shoot low, but don’t shoot over the moon, either. Find a sponsor with a moderate but loyal, growing social media following.
However, we do recommend that you don’t skip over the more established companies in your industry, either. If you can get them on your side, established companies obviously bring major benefits. The biggest advantage you’ll walk away with is way more brand recognition. Once your company is linked with a more popular brand for an event, you’re likely to reach ten thousands more people than it currently does. Just make sure to choose carefully because you’re going to be linked with your sponsor in customer’s minds, blogs, and social media profiles for a long time to come. With the right sponsor, this could be your company’s big break.
However, when seeking out a sponsor, don’t aim for brands that sell or do exactly the same thing as you do. For example, if you sell nutritional supplements, avoid reaching out to another company that also sells nutritional supplements. Companies who sell the same exact kind of product or service as you do will face a conflict of interest when it comes to promoting your event. You’re they’re competition, so why would they want to promote you? So stay within your industry, but avoid sending proposals to your direct competitors. Instead, if you sell nutritional supplements, reach out to local workout chains or stores, or pursue a health bar that sells fruit and green juices.
You may be wondering how in the world a brand that’s still relatively knew is going to attract the attention of an industry giant- or at least a well-established brand. Our best advice when it comes to snagging sponsorship from established companies? Ask them to sponsor your event on a “trial” basis, which effectively minimizes the risk involved. You can do this by asking for a small portion of funding rather than the entire amount. If you go this route, you’ll still have to reach out to find other sources of funding for your event such as smaller sponsors, but you should be doing that, anyway. Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky to say the least.
Being sponsored by an established brand is worth it in the long run if you can pull it off. Being associated with a popular brand really puts you on the map, so if you do score sponsorship from an established brand, you’re probably up next for an influx of proposals from bigger companies. In return for the portion of your event the company will cover, give your sponsor a booth or selling space, a guest speaker, and a logo on promotional items. In this case, it may seem like you’re giving more than you’re taking. But again, it’s worth the cost because you’re very likely to become a lot more successful after the event takes place.
Do Your Homework
Study current events surrounding your sponsor and his or her brand and industry. Is her brand going through any important transitions, such as releasing a new product or hosting an event of its own? Is your prospective sponsor affiliated, partnered with, or working in any capacity with other businesses? (Most of the time, if your sponsor is successful, the answer is yes). If the sponsor you’re researching has collaborated successfully with other brands or events like yours, that’s a good indicator that they’re aligned with your goals- and with others who are, too. If the potential sponsor is launching a new product or service, or they’re currently merging with a new company- you can be they’re in need of marketing opportunities. When you make your proposal, be sure to include the specific ways in which your event could help them. To glean pertinent current info about your potential sponsor, follow their blog and social media channels. Also, factor in their social media following. Remember that the social media influencers with the biggest cult followings are often inundated with so many requests that proposals are filtered through a PR team, which could complicate the process. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it- it just means that the most in-demand people or brands might be harder to snag, and take longer to get back to you. Brands and influencers with moderate followings (which are still big) are more likely to speak with you directly and give you a chance. These are still big enough brands that you’ll gain exposure and brand recognition from linking up with them.
Offer a Package They Can’t Refuse!
Typically, event sponsors want to gain loyal customers, so you’ll need to show them how your event will accomplish that goal for them. To do this, you’ll need to draw a large crowd whose shared interests make them likely to become customers of your sponsor’s brand. You can use your ticketing platform and knowledge of your base to match the shared interests of your attendees with potential sponsors. Simplify the process by going through it on a step-by-step basis. Once you’ve analyzed the needs of attendees, use that information to find companies who can potentially meet those needs. This process yields a long, usually diverse list of potential sponsors. But before you approach companies to sponsor your event, inquire about who is responsible for making sponsorship decisions. Some brands have a marketing or PR manager, while other companies put these decisions in the owner’s hands. But in any case, potential sponsors usually make their decision based on how well you’ve captured their target audience’s attention.
Creating the Perfect Proposal
When drafting your sponsorship proposal, there are a few things you should always include. Firstly, because sponsors want a return on their investment, you’ve got to bring data to the table. Make sure to record ticket and registration sales, and if you’ve hosted events like this before, include attendance records to give sponsors an approximate idea of how much your event has grown. However, even if your attendee population has grown consistently over time, it’s a good idea to include more than just those rising numbers in your proposal. Include other information gleaned from tracking your events, and present it in terms of data. For example, if there has been a rise of attendees in a certain demographic, provide data that shows this growth to sponsors. Does your collective data show that you’re consistently reaching a new age group or other new population? Sponsors will want to know your audiences age, gender, location, education level, job title, and income. (Income is on the list because it gives sponsors an idea of what they can afford to spend on products, services, and events). You should also include non-attendee demographics in your proposal. Present demographic information about media and vendors of your event, and which audiences they consistently attract.
Potential event sponsors will want to know exactly what promotional benefits they’ll gain from investing in your event. You may offer to give the sponsor an exhibit at your event. Offer the space and opportunity to do live demonstrations if applicable. You can also place their logo on event promotional banners or flyers, and mention the sponsor’s brand in blog posts or email newsletters. If your sponsor sells products, you’ll want to provide incentives for attendees who purchase those products or services, such as discounts or free giveaways. Social media also goes a long way when it comes to promotions, so encourage your followers and friends to try your sponsor’s products or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Connect with Sponsors
If you’re not sure how to connect with potential sponsors, we’ve got a few tried and true tips for you. You can connect with sponsors by attending their own events. You should also make it a point to attend other events they’re attending or sponsoring- it shows interest and creates an impression of familiarity with their brand culture. You should also be interacting with them on social media and sending emails about your event.
Most people are actively using social media to promote their event (and if you’re not, then you really need to be!) It’s important to track when and where your event is mentioned on a social media network, website, or blog. Also track of often it’s mentioned on these social media forums. Letting sponsors know where your event is most talked about- and among whom it’s most talked about- gives sponsors a clear idea of what populations you are reaching.
Making the Pitch to Event Sponsors
We recommend drafting a pitch to event sponsors before you send your proposal. If you’re someone whose recall is better when you write something down, write two or three lines about your event. Briefly describe the type of event you’re hosting and its value to the potential sponsor. Then go ahead and request a short meeting to discuss it.
Remember that the people making sponsorship decisions for a brand are typically very busy. So if you haven’t heard back yet, don’t take it as an automatic denial. The best way to get a response is to keep your proposal brief and concise, but pack it with a powerful statement about how your event can benefit them. Back up your claims with the most relevant data for their brand. If you’re invited to meet with your potential sponsor, you’ll have the opportunity to present more a more detailed collection of data at that time.
This may sound obvious or redundant, but it’s so important to get a feel of the company before you make a proposal. Pay attention not just to data but to the attitude, interaction, and tone of the sponsor’s persona. Don’t try to match or emulate it in your proposal and interactions with them, but do base the content of your proposal on what you’ve learned about your potential sponsor. What is most important to the brand, and how will your event help them achieve it? Ask yourself this: In which ways are my values, attitude, and interactions similar to those of my sponsor? Present yourself in a way that lets potential event sponsors know you’re an original, but your values and goals are aligned with theirs.
Be sure to be specific when you let potential sponsors know the estimated funding amount you need from them. A lot of event planners are hesitant when it comes to talking numbers in a proposal because they don’t want to turn sponsors away. But trust us- potential sponsors are well aware of industry costs and would rather know them upfront than waste extra time inquiring. Most sponsors that you would want for your event have at least a steady stream of incoming offers, so if the details aren’t apparent in your proposal, they may not waste time asking about them. In fact, because reaching out would be time-consuming and there are many other offers, they are likely to just move onto the next.
So be specific about your funding needs. Your proposal should specify what portion of funding is required for each category. This usually includes venue rental, travel costs for guest speakers, food vendors, and more.
At the Meeting
If you don’t hear back from event sponsors right away, don’t get discouraged! Typically, the people who make decisions about sponsorship are extremely busy, so have patience. If you’ve gone several weeks without a response, follow up politely by reiterating your value statement and asking again to meet. After that, the ball is in their court. When you do score a meeting, your main goal should be to convince them that you’ve got what they need to help build or expand their customer base. You’re likely to have a lot of data and information, but you’ll need to be able to decide which information is most relevant to your potential sponsor. That’s why it’s important to be a good listener. During the meeting in person, you’re almost guaranteed to learn more about your sponsor and their needs- and you’ll want to show that your event will help them meet those specific needs. Feel free to ask clear, concise questions to get this information. You can do this by asking your sponsors how they define success. Remember, every company has different goals. For example, some companies place more value on quality than quantity, while others are specifically trying to reach new populations. Success does not always mean the same thing to different companies. You’ll want to tailor your event to fit your sponsor’s needs.
I Think I Scored a Sponsor- What Now?
Now that you’ve for their attention, you’ve got to pull out all the stops to keep it. Once your potential sponsor is communicating with you and showing interest, you’ll want to create a customized sponsor package. This package should be representative of both your brand’s values and theirs. To get them excited about your event, be original and create a unique experience that fosters an emotional attachment to your brand. This is called experiential marketing, and it’s a mainstay in the event marketing industry. As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, event planning has become highly interactive, and the biggest trend is personalization. Show your sponsor that you’ve got what it takes to personalize your event experience to cater to niche audiences.
For example, this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival is sponsored by two major alcohol companies (Corona and Smirnoff). But it’s also sponsored by Uber and Tinder- both brands with potential loyal customers to gain from a globally renowned EDM festival. The attendees are usually around the age that people use Tinder and practically abuse Uber, so even though they’re already huge, these sponsors have something to gain by sponsoring one of the most popular festivals in the world.
We’ve recently learned that BottleRock Napa Valley, an annual music festival with a cult following, is sponsored by several wineries. (A classic example of event planners taking advantage of the location of their event). To create a customized, luxurious experiences that attendees won’t soon forget, the wineries host areas with chandeliers and leather couches where people can relax and sip wines in an ambient atmosphere. Once you use experiential marketing to create a unique experience for attendees, craft a VIP experience that is even more customized and exciting. For example, some Las Vegas shows that feature water-based illusions allow cast members to take VIPs on a guided tour through the tricks and skills behind the “magic”. This way, VIPs feel even more like a part of the magic and experience of it all. Whatever type of event you’re hosting, you’ll want to include an impressive VIP experience in your package that attracts potential sponsors to your event. The key is to offer something a lot of events or brands like yours aren’t offering- or to expand on an existing trend to make it better or put your own unique touch on it. After all, both you and your sponsors want people to remember and talk about your event for a long time to come. And these days, building a loyal customer base is all about personalizing their experience.
The more innovative your approach is, the more impressed your sponsors will be. With voice assistants being used on a daily basis and animated graphics adding intrigue to promotional packages, tech innovation is at its peak. You should take advantage of these trends in tech personalization to make your event stand out from all the rest. Generally speaking, the more interactive your event is, the more likely they are to talk about it.
He/She Said Yes!
Once your proposal has been officially accepted, refer often to the list of things you promised them in your sponsorship package. Check them off in a timely manner so that you can establish trust with your sponsors and hopefully build a long-term relationship with them. It also helps with this to communicate consistently with them throughout the process, keeping them informed as your event approaches. You and your sponsor undoubtedly share certain values and goals. (You wouldn’t have decided to work with one another if you didn’t). But even when the culture of your brand is aligned with that of your sponsor’s brand, there can be some differences in your vision of the event. Although we get that you are probably very attached to your own vision, we suggest you be flexible when it comes to making small adjustments. Be open to compromise, but use your creativity and communication skills to try and come up with solutions in which both parties get what they want. If you do have to change a small detail to please your sponsor, have a flexible attitude.
Remember that while your mission is to host a stellar event, your other objective is to build long-standing relationships with trustworthy sponsors. Cultivating these relationships will ideally lead to an influx of brands that are chasing you for sponsorship or partnership. Another way to tantalize sponsors is to give them the VIP treatment (if your budget allows). Try to at least extend partial VIP amenities and experiences to sponsor employees. It will not only keep them coming back to you, but it will make them feel valued and privy to an exclusive membership that comes at the courtesy of your brand.
Important Post-Event Considerations
Post-event, be sure to share data that tells your sponsor how their sponsorship affected the event. What impressions were gained by different demographics? Who is talking about yours and their brand post-event, and where are these conversations taking place? What sales were generated by the sponsorship, and how were the most sales gained? All of these questions will help you and your sponsor decide whether you want to work together again- and if so, what can be improved upon for the next event. Don’t let your contact with your sponsor fade out following your event- keep them coming back by engaging with them throughout the year, and offering them perks or giveaways when you can.