We’re sure you know this already, but getting sponsors and increasing your budget can have a huge impact on your event. But how do you actually find these sponsors and convince them to partner with you? Read on.
Figure out what type of sponsor is right for your event
Finding the right sponsor is kind of like dating. You don’t want to go after just anyone—you want to put in some thought to increase your chances that things will work out. While there’s no Tinder for finding event sponsors, here are some tried and true ways to find your perfect match:
First, determine the demographic info of your audience. You can estimate this before you sell any tickets, or get specifics by asking registration form questions. This is an area of your event where the more data you have, the better.
Next, compile the stats. Just like in a good relationship, the benefits should be reciprocal. Your sponsor will want to know how this will benefit them too.
Using the stats you compiled, put together your list of potential sponsors. Here’s where you use some good old common sense. Think about what kind of companies would want to connect with your audience. If you have a niche audience, this will be really easy. If you have a broad audience with a wide range of interests, focus on organizations that are looking for brand awareness and want to promote heavily. Local businesses like restaurants and utility companies can be a good fit here (everyone loves food and electricity, right?).
Increase your odds of getting a sponsorship by starting with the people on your list who you already know. An established relationship can go a long way towards getting a yes. If you get a no, no problem! Use it as an opportunity to get feedback on how you can be more successful with your future pitches.
How to approach sponsors
One of the trickiest parts of finding a sponsor is figuring out the best way to approach them in the first place. An email is a great way to start the conversation, but you’ll need to put in some effort to make sure yours doesn’t get buried in their inbox. Business owners and other decision makers get tons of requests and pitches every day. Here are some questions to consider to help you cut through the noise and get the response you’re looking for:
Who? Know who to email. At large companies, it’s often the marketing team who makes the decisions about sponsorships, so contact them directly. In the case of smaller businesses, you’ll want to reach out to the owner or general manager.
What? Give a brief description of your event (including the date and location) and its goals.
Why? This is the most important part of your email. Tell them why they should sponsor your event. This initial email is not the place to focus on yourself or a specific dollar amount, but rather what your prospective sponsor will be getting out of the partnership. Be as specific as possible about what you can deliver.
How? Show the organization that you’ve chosen them for a reason and that you have a good understanding of what they do. Give them a taste of the ideas you have in mind for this partnership and they’ll see that you’ve put some thought into your decision to reach out to them.
To give you a better idea of how all of these questions can become a great first point of contact, we put together the sample letter below. Use it for inspiration and make it your own.
Keep your letter short and sweet, including only the most important details. A wall of text is a good way to get your email sent straight to the trash folder. Also, consider your audience when determining the tone of your email. You want to be polite and friendly, but there’s no need to be overly formal—especially when you’re reaching out to someone you already know. It’s OK to sound like a real person.
Build a relationship with your sponsor
You emailed everyone on your list and all that hard work paid off—you got a response! Now is the time to deepen your relationship. If possible, try to meet with them in person, because there’s nothing like face to face interaction. If distance or schedules make face to face impossible, try a video call (it’s the next best thing). Here are the top questions your sponsors will want answered:
What is the cost per reach? (And what the heck is cost per reach?) The total cost of sponsoring your event is important, but sponsors are more interested in how much they are paying per attendee. The more aligned your attendees are to their target demographic, the more they’ll be willing to spend to sponsor.
What are the additional costs in sponsoring your event? As you can probably guess, sponsors need to spend way more than just the check they write to your event. The money sponsors spend on independently promoting and marketing sponsorships is called sponsorship activation. This includes PR opportunities before the event, giving out swag, banners at the event and building a booth. Being aware of and showing sponsors that you understand these activation costs is reassuring to sponsors.
Does your event match their company’s core values?
Visa, a company that wants you to trust it with your money, sponsors The Olympics
, an event which has the following values: honor, integrity, determination, and commitment to excellence. The Olympics—dignified, worldly, global and modern—carry the exact brand attributes that Visa tries to convey, as evidenced by its slogan
, “Everywhere you want to be.” Large brands refer to this as matching their long-term brand attributes.
Are there any indirect benefits? If a company sponsors your event, will they get any added bonuses in return? An example of this could be something like free tickets to your event. If you have a celebrity speaker or performer, they could pass those tickets on to their VIP clients, extending the effectiveness of their sponsorship.
Besides answering any questions your potential sponsors may have, it’s also a good idea to anticipate them in your sponsorship proposal. The proposal is your time to tell your organization’s story and show off what makes it unique. If you’ve chosen your potential sponsors wisely, your proposal will also demonstrate how your organization aligns with their company’s values, as well as how your audience matches their target market.
How much to ask for
Money. It can be awkward to talk about and overwhelming to determine a specific figure, but it’s the key part of a sponsorship. Here are the best tips we’ve learned:
A good first step is to consider the type of company you’re approaching for a sponsorship. If it’s a large corporation, it’s highly likely that they’ve already budgeted for sponsorships and have a certain figure that an employee can sign off on by themselves before going to senior management. If you know what that number is, start there. If you don't know, ask. By making it easy for sponsors to say yes, you’ll be cutting down your workload significantly. If it’s a smaller local or independent business you’re going after, adjust your number accordingly.
Tiered sponsorship packages are a tradition in the world of sponsorships, but they have their pros and cons. A tiered sponsorship package can be a good option if you’re approaching companies of varying sizes and budgets. However, they can also be limiting. While some companies are looking for a tiered sponsorship package, many others want a more a la carte option. Be clear from the beginning that you’re excited to discuss their individual needs.
A part of creating a one-of-a-kind experience is thinking about how sponsors can add to your event, not just pay for it. The more your sponsors can add something of value to your event, outside of a straight dollar value, the better your event will be. It will also be more valuable to your sponsors. A valuable experience means your audience will walk away with a favorable view of your sponsors, and your sponsors will see them as highly-qualified leads.
As we mentioned above, it’s great to let potential sponsors know that you’ve done your homework and already have ideas about how they’ll fit into your event and access your audience. Here are some ways to brainstorm:
Be creative. Think about your event’s unique experiences and how you can incorporate your sponsors into them in a way that feels natural.
Keep visibility in mind. A large part of the relationship with your sponsor is their presence at your event. Let them know how they’ll be seen.
Consider your attendees’ wants and needs. If it’s enjoyable or valuable to them, they’ll leave with a positive opinion of your sponsors. Sponsored wifi is always a hit, and a meal provided by your sponsor will definitely go over well.
Make the relationship last
Sponsors want to know up front that they’ll get help determining the impact of their partnership— assistance in measuring ROI. When sponsors think about future events, they think about past events: Did you give them what you promised? Did you follow up right after the event? As the event organizer, it’s your responsibility to document any press garnered, mentions, inquiries, or messages delivered to your audience.
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