The Event Sponsorship Guide
It might come as surprise to some that the subject of sponsorships still eludes event organizers or conference planners. It is, after all, not an easy feat to find a company or corporation that is willing to sponsor anything that costs money at your event these days, what with today’s challenging economic situation.
While there may be some truth to it, event organizers can easily overcome these challenges by understanding the value of sponsorship programs for both sponsors and conference planners and maximizing relationships with sponsors.
What is Event Sponsorship?
As event organizers, many of us have heard of event sponsorships, but till today it remains a mystery to most. Let’s start off by getting on the same page through defining what an event sponsorship really is.
An event sponsorship can be defined as a critical source of funding for all kinds of events where companies, nonprofits, and small businesses give a certain amount of cash or incentives in exchange for both visibility and brand awareness at an event.
Back in the day, a lot of event organizers acquired sponsors to supply the necessary funding to offer more exciting programs and cover rising costs. It was, and still is, an effective and powerful marketing tool to increase and reinforce brand awareness among targeted niche markets.
Types of Sponsors
- Media sponsors
For large-scale and high-profile events that require plenty of publicity, media sponsors will certainly be advantageous. They are, by definition, companies that are able to provide financial aid in securing media coverage for your event. For example, a media sponsor might pay for an advertisement at a local paper or cover the cost of filming a TV commercial. In some cases, they may also publicize your event through their social media channels, write an article in a publication, or even publish a blog post about your event and organization on their blog/website – all done in an exchange for sponsorship benefits. These include:
- having a banner or booth at your event
- logo recognition in print materials and on websites
- priority access such as VIP and exclusive interviews
- Cash / Financial sponsors
As the name suggests, cash or financial sponsors are sponsors that literally give money to an event organizer in exchange for benefits outlined in a sponsorship agreement, including logo placements on signage or promotional materials, pre-event content creation, promotions and keynote speeches.
- In-kind sponsors
Unlike cash or financial sponsors, in-kind sponsors donate products or services instead of offering cash. For example, a hotel may offer the free use of its facilities as a form of sponsorship. In this regard, the hotel is not making a cash contribution, but rather serving as a location sponsor.
- Promotional partners
Similar to media sponsors, promotional partners are people who are public figures, bloggers or local celebrities who have a lot of followers to help promote your event to their own customer or fan bases.
Sponsorship as a marketing driver for your sponsors
- Events are fast becoming digitalized and interactive
In an effort to stay ahead of the curve, it is no wonder a majority of event organizers are actively implementing digital marketing strategies to promote their events. It is no longer just about planning great topic discussions, but also about creating new memorable experiences for attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. It should come as no surprise that there are dedicated mobile applications developed and designed specifically for these events, where people can focus on participant engagement and networking.
With the rise of mobile apps, event organizers may offer buy-ins to sponsors by featuring them on event apps, providing them with high exposure placements as a means to drive traffic to their businesses and/or brands. As the industry moves away from pens and pads of paper to take notes, attendees arm themselves with internet-connected devices such as tablets and smartphones – which makes for a more interactive relationship with audiences.
- Creates visibility for their business/brand
These days, it is no longer enough to simply network at meetings or business occasions. In a world where digital content and social media are fast becoming preferred marketing and advertising platforms for businesses and brands, having a presence at an event position your sponsors’ businesses or brands as prevailing voices in the relevant industries. This includes having their logos featured on event collaterals such as program booklets, backdrops and the event website for brand recognition. In addition, it helps them to focus on the attendees who have demonstrated their enthusiasm for the industry. In fact, in many cases, interested attendees who are eager to find out about sponsors go to them directly, rather than the opposite.
How do you acquire sponsors for your event?
- Prepare a sponsorship proposal
Before your initial approach to a potential sponsor, it is important to at least have a sponsorship proposal written which highlights the anticipated impressions that their sponsorship would yield, marketing opportunities at the event, potential sponsorship opportunities available and who your event audiences are. Especially with large corporations, they are far more interested in seeing the value in their monetary support, more than how their money will help you with your event. While you’re at it, be sure to tailor your proposal according to the type of sponsorship package you are offering to your potential sponsor (refer to point 4).
- Conduct research on your prospects
It is certainly worth the effort to speculate what you can provide for your sponsors as a way of helping them discern what’s in it for them. As an event organizer, you would want to take time to learn as much as you can about the organizations and companies you intend to pitch to. Knowing who your prospects’ target audiences and key values are, understanding their corporate identities and figuring out their goals in advance puts you in a much better position in pitching a sponsorship opportunity that will surely interest them.
- Set different sponsorship types
Among the many steps to selling sponsorships for your event, defining each sponsorship level and the benefits included are the most important factors. Having a wide range of sponsorship levels not only gives interested corporations, companies, and organizations more options to consider a sponsorship program that suits their marketing needs and budget, but they also allow you as an event organizer to monitor the various sponsors and their entitlements depending on their choice of sponsorship buy-ins.
Some sponsorship levels you may want to include are:
- Publicity in your online marketing or event website
- Featured advertisements in newsletters and event collaterals
i.e. program handouts, conference booklets, etc
- Visibility in your event banner and décor
i.e. stage backdrop
- Title sponsorship
- Tickets to any VIP receptions at the event
- Reserved tables for sponsors
- Follow-up with your prospects
Acquiring sponsors is very much like sales. While it is not always easy and fast with your prospects, it is important to remember to always remain consistent and maintain close contact, especially when you do not hear from your leads right away. Follow-up with calls, emails and even voice messages. Do these in moderation, bearing in mind to always keep your options open as you continue with your constant search of other potential leads.
- Nourish your relationships
The way to cultivate your relationships with your sponsors is not by giving them the impression that you only cared about their money. The first thing to do after receiving their cheques is to send thank you letters to your contributing sponsors. Be sure to remind them of their sponsorship benefits in accordance with the sponsorship level they are buying in. It is also likely that your sponsors will attend your event as they would want to make the most of their sponsorship benefits, so make sure they are well taken care of. Photos were taken and videos shot during the event should be shared with your sponsors once the event wraps up. Any other information that evidently reflects the success of the event and impressions you estimated in your proposal should also be included.
In summary, with new emerging platforms available that can help expand sponsorship opportunities and produce credible marketing results, you as an event organizer are better equipped to put together a truly cohesive event that not just aligns with the goals you set out to achieve but also allows your sponsors to get their money’s worth. Gone are the days when event sponsorships seem like an unattainable goal for many. The key to succeeding at event sponsorships is more than having the knowledge surrounding it. It is carefully taking into consideration the needs of your sponsors and strategies you have in placed to obtain the best results for your event.
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