No industry leverages sponsorships as well as sports. From major events like the Kentucky Derby (Yum!) to individual teams like Manchester United (AIG) to an entire “league” (e.g., NASCAR’s Sprint Cup or the PGA’s Nationwide Series), sports generate billions via sponsorships.
Three baseball stadiums alone generate tens of millions of dollars annually from three different sponsoring breweries, just for stadium naming rights. Can you match them?
Colorado Rockies Anheuser Busch
Milwaukee Brewers Coors
St. Louis Cardinals Miller
If beer and money didn’t entice you to read on, what about the possibility that you, too, could garner sponsorships and the financial support that goes along with them to boost your events?
This blog article examines key steps you can take to secure sponsors for your events. Don’t expect to land millions from Coca-Cola, but with some effort, you might garner enough funding to afford that hot speaker, cool venue or new program that currently doesn’t fit the budget.
Step 1: Know your audience
You might be that person who finds that rare individual or organization that simply wants to sponsor your program or event out of the goodness of their heart. They appreciate what you or your event accomplish, and want to ensure the show goes on or reaches even more people.
More likely, securing a sponsor will require effort and persuasion. A first step in this effort is getting to know your event’s audience so that you can align their potential wants and needs with sponsors that provide commensurate products and/or services. Determine the demographics of your likely audience, and use that information to pursue potential sponsors with an interest in reaching that same demographic.
For instance, if your event is a continuing education program for dentists and dental students, you might seek dentist offices, dental supply companies or dental insurance companies as potential sponsors. Call Crest. If your summer camp typically serves adolescents, pursue organizations (e.g., retail stores like Old Navy or GameStop, fast food restaurants, orthodontists, dermatologists, etc.) who view your audience as their market.
Another tip in line with this strategy is to invite a specific segment of people to your events (e.g. HR professionals) – where relevant and appropriate (a professional development conference) – to appeal to potential sponsors (office supply companies, benefits providers, etc.).
Step 2: Research your market
Observe similar events. If held in your market, ascertain who the sponsors were and put them on your hit list. If the similar event was held in a different market, find the sponsors’ counterparts in your market and add them as a target.
On a broader level, see what organizations in your market sponsor many programs and events, and gauge whether your event fits the profile of what they typically sponsor. If so, put a “prospective sponsor” check by their name.
Step 3: Create a win-win offer
Defining targets can be easy. Converting them from a lead to a sponsor takes work – and a compelling offer or value proposition. Tight financial times drive sponsors to seek value over notions of civic duty or philanthropy.
In steps one and two, you matched a desired, target audience to your prospective sponsors and vice versa. In step three, define a number of tactics that assure the sponsor(s) get ample opportunity to reach that audience. This could include everything from signage at the event to a sponsor logo on all related publicity (the website’s event page, programs, flyers, newsletter, etc.). It might mean allowing the sponsor to speak at the event, placing their banner on the podium, offering them a certain amount of free passes and placing their “swag” on location.
While putting together a sponsorship package of benefits, you might find it makes sense to create multiple levels of sponsorships, with each pairing increased benefits to increased funding. Another option to consider is in-kind sponsorships, where the sponsor contributes a product or service to your event in exchange for your benefits (e.g., food and beverages, audio-visual support, etc. for publicity).
Be sure to define the benefits of sponsorship and meet or exceed the terms of the agreement. Clear terms up front can prevent a sponsor for asking for additional items as your event draws nearer.
Step 4: Pitch it like Cy Young
You created a tailored, right-sized benefit package and you built a list of prospective sponsors – bring the two together already. Create a marketing piece detailing the benefits of sponsorship and mail or e-mail it to your prospects. Next, follow-up with a personal call or visit, and always lead your conversation with the benefits of being a sponsor.
Network at events or locales that might help you reach the prospect’s decision makers. Mobilize your board members or executives to use their connections to appeal to prospective sponsors. Work friends and family to make the right connections. The degree of difficulty of this step plunges if you’ve already nailed steps one through three.
Step 5: Build teamwork
Once you’ve sold that sponsor, treat them as part of your team. First, thank them for their support. Let them know what to expect next, and keep them apprised of event details. Cultivate a relationship that shows them that the sponsorship begins, not ends, with the exchange of money. You should view this as your chance to make a lasting impression that might win over a sponsor for not just one event in one year, but possibly many events over many years.
Step 6: Deliver the goods
Be diligent. Make sure you deliver those sponsor package benefits on time and as promised. If possible, over-deliver. It may not always be easy, and at times you might feel it is taking attention away from your event. But, there’s a reason you sought sponsorship, and the effort you put toward adding value for a sponsor is the means to that end.
Step 7: Feed the relationship
Share details on the success of the event with your sponsor(s). Provide details on the publicity they may have garnered – send them clippings/photos from any relevant media, from news coverage to your newsletter. Thank them profusely. Invite them to any de-brief meetings related to that event. Invite them to your other events, if appropriate.
Mostly, figure out a way to stay in contact with them to build upon your relationship and keep that partnership alive. That way, the next time your event rolls around – or perhaps as early as your next offering – you’ll have an engaged, recent sponsor primed to sponsor again.
If you have any questions about sponsors, ABC Signup or registration software, please call (866.791.8268x0) or e-mail us at your convenience. If you have some feedback you would like to share pertaining to securing sponsors, feel free to use the Comments section of this blog (below).