You’re going to make your event happen no matter what. But let’s be real, sponsorship is the best way to increase your revenue and your brand’s reach. Okay, well, that sounds great- but how the heck are you supposed to secure sponsorship from established brands who are already in demand? It may seem like a daunting task, and it certainly takes some patience and persistent, but obtaining event sponsorship is so much more attainable than it seems. If you apply the right strategies and enough initiative, you will connect with the right sponsor for you- and quite possibly, sooner than you think. We’re happy to let you in on the best secrets and strategies to get your next event sponsored- and your brand on the map.
Do Your Homework
We don’t mean to sound like a teacher admonishing a student (really, we don’t!). But developing a sponsorship program is hard work that requires commitment, consistency, and determination. More than likely, you’ll be turned down more than your fair share of times before snagging a sponsor. That’s normal- don’t take it personally. Most of the time, the rejection has very little to do with what you have to offer, and is a result of factors you can’t control. It can’t be emphasized enough that potential sponsors are often inundated with requests, some of which take priority over others.
The first step to finding sponsorship is to do a little (okay, a lot) of research. We know that event planners are already pulled in too many directions on a daily basis. Between keeping up a steady stream of communication with vendors and clients, engaging on social media, and keeping up with trends in a fluctuating industry, you’re swamped. Time really is money for an event planner- a fact you know well. But the good news is that implementing a sponsorship program can be integrated into your marketing strategies rather than exist as an entirely separate endeavor.
In this industry, establishing oneself is about connecting with people in an experiential market. Odds are, you’re already using social media to interact with your audience about shared interests and build long-term, meaningful relationships. And in order to connect with your audience in ways that have value to them and to you, you’ve got to research them. Obviously, forming long-term relationships with a loyal customer base takes time; it involves interacting with them and analyzing data over long periods of time. But as you do this continuous research, you can seamlessly integrate your sponsorship agenda.
Knowing which sponsors to reach out to- and how to catch their interest- means that you have to know what’s important to your audience and theirs. Think of sponsorship as a give-and-take relationship with a goal of mutual benefit. When you have personal information about your audience- what’s important to your audience, what their values are, how they like to spend their time- you can form a solid idea of what they want from your event. From there, start looking closely at the potential sponsors who are likely to be aligned with your audience and help you meet their needs.
And of course it goes both ways- a potential sponsor will only be interested in you if you have something to offer that is of value to their audience. This is where experiential marketing reveals itself to be paramount in this industry; success is saliently reliant on how intimately you know your audience. Despite their dependence on technology, the millennial market doesn’t value material possessions nearly as much as they value quality experiences. Millennials view themselves as conscious people whose sense of belonging is contingent on the unique contributions they make to society. And as well all know, part of doing good in a technologically progressive society is letting everyone know you’re doing it. (We don’t mean to sound cynical, but that’s the way it is- social media has become a central mode of communication and self-expression. It’s the way millennials connect with the world around them in a self-actualized way).
So think of it this way: Your job is not just to find out what your audience really cares about, but what your sponsor’s audience cares about, too. Connecting with sponsors is about the big picture, but it’s also about the details.
Ironically, although today’s event marketing is based on so many experiential concepts, marketers still look for specific markets to promote their products. Obtaining detailed demographic information is vital to determining one’s target audience. So what are your demographics? Consider factors like age, gender, and psychographics are important. Here we’re circling back to experiential marketing: What values do your potential customers hold? What is their lifestyle like? What are their interests, attitudes, and how do they prefer to express themselves?
Obtaining this kind of information takes time- and the right data collection technology. Digital tools such as event marketing software, event management software, and mobile event apps all help event planners track and measure the effectiveness of different aspects of their events.
Navigating Event Technology
There are so many digital tools at your disposal, it can be difficult to know which ones best serve your purposes. To begin, look at your short and long-term business goals (which include securing sponsorship for your next event). It’s important to know what marketing trends are relevant to both you and potential sponsors. What specific personalization needs do you need to fulfill in order to satisfy your target audience? Remember, your target audience now includes the target audiences of potential sponsors. That’s a lot of information to glean, but you can use the same technology to do it all.
Anything you can do to customize your ticketing and registration pages, as well as your post-event surveys, is beneficial. For example, when you create post-event surveys, don’t just ask multiple choice questions. Ask open-ended questions that elicit more detailed, personalized information from attendees. By doing this, you’re learning how to improve your events for your specific audience- and this information informs your sponsorship decisions. Just as imperatively, it informs the strategies you use to engage potential sponsors- but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Yes, we’re aware that this all may sound redundant- it’s possible and preferable that you’ve already been doing this for quite some time. But that just means you’re on the right track. Collecting data is vital to narrowing down the specific markets where you’re most likely to find a compatible sponsor.
What Exactly Do You You Have to Offer?
Once you’ve determined your best potential sponsors, it’s time to show them what you have to offer them. Before reaching out to sponsors, make a list of your assets. If you’re having trouble determining exactly what they are and how to sell them to sponsors, you’re not alone. Of course you know what you do best, but you’ve got to think about those assets from a marketing perspective. Ask yourself:
● What are my social media assets?
If you have a large or even moderate following on Instagram or Twitter, you can help potential sponsors broaden or specify their reach. For example, if you’ve done your homework and know which niche audience a potential sponsor is trying to reach, evaluate whether your following is part of that niche. If your following is an asset to a hopeful sponsor, identify general and event promotion strategies that would help the sponsor connect to your following. Would you advertise their product on your Instagram page? What live features of your event would satisfy the needs and desires of both of your target audiences?
● What public relations resources do you have to offer?
PR plays an important role in the development of any business. If you have access to web or print advertising, which you should, let your sponsor know you’d be happy to get their message across. Give potential sponsors access to your PR resources, but also ask them if there are any specific messages they want you to help them convey. For example, if they’ve recently launched a new product, you might offer to advertise it on your website, print ads, or feature it on your blog if you have one. If you’re putting out a press release for your event, offer to mention your sponsor’s new product or service in it.
● What data and marketing research assets can you share?
Getting briefly back to event technology, it’s very possible that you have access to a tool that they don’t. Even if your technology isn’t nearly as sophisticated as some emergent markets, it might be unique in ways that are beneficial to your sponsor. So make a list of the event tools you’re currently using, and describe how each one might be useful to a potential sponsor.
You’ll also want to let sponsors know that you’ll include them in any other promotional strategies you’re using. Examples include t-shirts or other memorabilia, event banners and signage, prizes, and more. Let them know you’ll be including their logo on website and/or other media, such as print.
Are you involved in any promotional events or segments related to your event or industry, such as a podcast feature or even your own podcast? If so, include your sponsors in these whenever possible. It’s all about sharing the wealth.
Connect with Sponsors Genuinely and Be a Good Listener
Just like you should at networking events, approach conversations with sponsors naturally. When people do finally get that sponsor on the line, they can overcompensate for nerves by trying to get everything they have to say out in one breath. If your palms sweat a little at the thought of talking to a potential sponsor, don’t worry- it’s totally natural. But launching into a pitch too hastily or going off on tangents about your business will make sponsors feel as if you’re trying to sell them something. (Of course you are, but the people are much more open to your ideas if you share them as you would with a friend. If your interest in them seems sincere, potential sponsors will immediately feel a connection).
It comes down to being a good listener. Before you launch into details about your event or make a proposal, make eye contact and smile; let the conversation develop naturally. Once you’ve done that, be a good listener. Ask questions and listen without mentally formulating your response. Again, if people get the impression that your interest in their company and work is sincere, they’ll feel more of a connection with you. After al, that’s really the foundation you need to start building a mutually beneficial relationship.
As you start discussing the details, make it clear that you intend for your relationship to be as beneficial to them as it will be to you. You can express this by describing the assets you have to offer them, and how they would work to their advantage. Before long, the communication will flow naturally, and a mutual creative process will begin.
Now that you know what steps you need to take to find and pitch to the right sponsor for your event, what are you waiting for? You have everything it takes to win that dream sponsorship- all you have to do is commit yourself and get the ball rolling.