Sell Your Tickets Online with In-Kind Sponsorships: How Partnerships Can Boost Value and Increase Sales
Getting an event sponsorship doesn’t have to mean asking for money. To amp up the value of your event without increasing your budget, look no further than in-kind sponsorships.
In-kind sponsorship: a business’s contribution of goods or services, typically in exchange for recognition at your event.
Find sponsors that fit your event
Since in-kind sponsorships involve goods or services, the possibilities are basically endless. To focus your search, a good first step is to look for businesses whose goals or values align with yours. They’ll have a strong incentive to sponsor your event, since your attendees will overlap with their target audience.
A great example of this is United by Blue, a Philly-based outdoor brand dedicated to keeping oceans and waterways clean. United by Blue hosts river cleanups all over the United States and partners with local food and beverage companies. That way, when volunteers are done cleaning up for the day, they’re rewarded with treats like artisanal ice cream or a local IPA.
Reach out to potential sponsors
The process of reaching out to companies for in-kind sponsorships looks a lot like reaching out for cash sponsorships, which we wrote about in detail here. But there are a few specific tips to keep in mind:
  • Know who to reach out to, and how to do it. As with cash sponsorships, this could mean the business’s marketing team. But with larger businesses, they’re often so used to in-kind requests that they already have a section of their website with a form you can fill out. It’s an easy process, but be thoughtful about your answers.
  • Tell them about your event and its goals. Even if you’re just filling out a form, give a brief but compelling pitch that describes your event and explains how your goals align with their company mission.
  • Show them why they should sponsor your event. Businesses want to know that your audience is a good match for their brand, so include specifics about things like buyer demographics.
  • Give some examples of what their sponsorship could look like. Demonstrate that you have a good understanding of their business and have put some thought into how their brand can be represented at your event in a way that engages with your attendees. Include specific ideas if possible.
Takeaway: Whether you’re writing an email or filling out a form, take some time to think about what you want to say so you can show potential sponsors how your event will be valuable to them.
Build a relationship with your sponsor
Once you’ve gotten a response, it’s time to deepen your relationship with your sponsor. Compared with cash sponsorships, in-kind sponsorships are easy and affordable, so you may have already gotten a yes to your request. If not, their response probably means that they want to know more. This is the time to dive deeper into the benefits your sponsor will get out of this--how your audience is a good fit for the products or services they’re donating, and any indirect benefits they’ll receive, like free tickets to your event (a great way to say thank you).

This conversation is also a great time to have your wish list ready, so know what services or products you’d most like to get, plus a headcount for your event so you know how much to ask for. Which brings us to…
What to ask for
When it comes to in-kind sponsorships, knowing what to ask for can be tricky. Here are some things to consider:
  • Know your audience. Have a headcount in mind and do the research to figure out how much you’ll need in terms of food, beverages, assistance, etc. Also consider things like dietary restrictions and the kinds of things your audience is into.
  • Understand the business you’re dealing with and what they can comfortably give. A large corporation and a mom and pop business might not be on the same level when it comes to contributions, so keep this in mind for your request if they haven’t made an offer up front.
  • Think about what value the contribution will add to your event. A contribution of a case of gin from a local artisanal distillery will add a cool, luxe vibe, and will also impress audiences who care about supporting small and local businesses. Identifying value is important because it demonstrates how the partnership is beneficial to both you and your sponsor.
Sponsorship ideas
As we mentioned, the possibilities for in-kind sponsorships are pretty much endless. To give you some inspiration, here are a few good places to start:
  • Ask a local car rental company to donate vehicles to transport the talent for your event.
  • Snack and drink companies are a great resource for providing food for your event.
  • Furniture companies like Steelcase have furniture reserved for loaning out to events that support their priorities.
  • Give out swag that people actually want. If your audience is athletic, reach out to a running company to see what they could offer.
Make the relationship last
After your event, you’ll want to follow up with your sponsors, and not just because sending a thank you note is the polite thing to do. Express your gratitude in a way that also demonstrates the success of the sponsorship, and your sponsors will be eager to continue the partnership for future events. Help them measure the reach of their sponsorship by sharing any attendee data you can find, and give them a way to measure how much sales increased because of their sponsorship.
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