As an event planner or organiser, finding event sponsorship can seem like a daunting and overwhelming process. With so many potential sponsors out there, it can feel like a marathon just narrowing down the ones you want to approach! Don’t panic, eve to the rescue!
With years of planning successful events, we know a thing or two about event sponsorship, and don’t worry it’s actually a lot simpler than it seems! We have created this step-by-step guide to make sure you have everything sorted to find the perfect sponsor for your next event.
So, what actually is event sponsorship?
Before you embark on finding potential sponsors to support your event, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what event sponsorship is and the different forms it can take on.
Event sponsorship refers to a business-to-business transaction between one company and an event. This company will provide financial support or assistance in-kind (don’t worry we’ll cover this shortly) in return for promotional advantages at your event. Financial backing is typically the most popular method but there are many different ways for a company to sponsor your event.
In order for potential sponsors to blossom into successful partners, the agreement must be mutually beneficial for both parties involved. Companies seek to sponsor events as a way of enhancing their brand value and boosting their corporate social responsibility (CSR) by promoting their brand in front of an engaged audience with the potential to increase their own customer base.
Types of event sponsorship
There are four main types of event sponsorship to consider:
This one is the most obvious, and the most popular. A company will provide monetary support to help cover the costs of running a large event in return for advertising opportunities before, during, and sometimes after the event.
This works similarly to financial sponsorship, however instead of receiving monetary endorsement, you receive support in the form of products and services. This can be anything from venue partnership, products, or catering. In-kind sponsorship offers an amazing way to get delegates engaged with sponsors, and one another, through branded prizes or games.
As we all know virtual and hybrid events are rapidly growing in popularity and offer a unique way for potential sponsors to offer their support and promote their brand. Virtual attendees require interactive platforms to stay engaged and involved, such as apps or live polling for example. Finding somebody to sponsor the digital elements of your events is another great example of in-kind sponsorship, and there will be plenty of advertising opportunities in the digital space for your sponsor too!
Have you ever noticed that the media are always present at an event? Media companies, like industry magazines or news outlets, will share the same audience with your event attendees. This is a fantastic and highly beneficial partnership for both parties involved, the media companies will want to get the inside scoop on a big industry event taking place, and you get your event covered in some of the hottest magazines or platforms. Due to the lower costs media partnerships entail, it is a popular choice for non-profits or smaller events with lower budgets too. Sounds like a win-win to us!
There are many ways the media will seek to cover your event, a big one of which is social media. It’s no secret that smartphones are now a staple in our society. In fact, nearly 80% of the UK’s population now use a smartphone in their day to day lives! As a result, social media coverage of events has been rapidly growing in popularity and is a fantastic way for your event to reach the eyes of a dedicated and invested audience outside.
Similarly to media sponsorship, promotional partners use media as the medium for communication. However, these are typically individuals with large followings or an engaged target audience. People like to listen to key speakers, so partnering with a leading industry individual is a great way to establish a positive association for your event.
Choosing the perfect sponsor for your event
So now you are clear on what sponsorship is, you’re ready to go out and start finding the perfect match for your event. But be careful, before you dive headfirst into looking it’s important to do your homework to make sure they tick all the right boxes.
Any business interested in sponsoring an event will have goals they want to achieve. In order to get the most out of it, they will be looking to generate a solid return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO). So, before you pursue a potential sponsor, you need to make sure your audience correlates with theirs. There isn’t much point in promoting their brand at your event if the attendees are members of two entirely different industries!
Studying the demographics is the best way to make sure you’re targeting the right businesses. Demographics relate to anything from gender, age, or industry experience, for example. We know this sounds a bit daunting, but it’s pretty simple to do. If this isn’t your first rodeo then have a look at who attended your past events to establish a solid attendee persona, and don’t worry if you’re newer to the event planner scene, there are plenty of resources at your fingertips. There are tonnes of industry articles out there, and don’t forget your existing network! Call on that contact list and see if anyone can offer up any information or details from past events similar to yours.
Establishing the physical criteria of your audience is just one half of it, next you need to look at how they differ in their thoughts and personal preferences, also known as psychographics. Understanding how your audience members think, reason, and make decisions as consumers are the next steps to aligning your audience with a potential sponsor. Adding another layer to your audience categorisation will make your proposal even more compelling, and certainly convince a brand that you’ve done your homework!
Right, now that you’ve narrowed it down to companies with matching audience personas, the next step is to think about the size of the company you want to approach with a proposal. This comes down to the time scale of your event, if you’re on a time crunch then we advise choosing a smaller business. These companies often close deals much faster than larger ones, as they have a much shorter chain of people to read and approve your proposal. It’s also a lot easier to get to know the leaders of the company and their values, so building a relationship is much easier. Bigger businesses usually follow a workflow for approval which can take a lot more time. Whilst there is the potential for larger investments and bigger budgets, there will also be a lot more competition for their attention, so pick your battles wisely!
How should you approach a business for sponsorship?
Down to the nitty-gritty… how do you convince a company to say YES?
Think of a proposal like a pitch, you will be providing a company with tailor-made information unique to them. Big tip: whatever you do, don’t copy and paste information from one proposal to another! Each one needs to be personal and built around the values of the specific companies.
Include as much detail and information as possible, simple! This will help businesses make decisions faster, rather than engaging in lengthy email comms, as well as ensuring they see you as a reliable and professional business partner. Picture you’re a salesperson for the day, so be convincing! Whatever you’re saying, say it with confidence and passion. Don’t forget to add in the hard facts and figures, crunch the numbers beforehand so they can see the potential ROI and your justification for reaching that conclusion.
As an event planner, this next one might be tricky, but we’re going to ask you to step away from viewing the audience from their perspective as attendees. Instead, think about the audience from your sponsor’s eyes, where is there potential for exposure? Discuss with them how much visibility and value add they are likely to receive at your event.
Get your thinking cap on and come up with some great ideas. Recycling the classic ‘logo on a flyer’ suggestion just doesn’t cut in the current day. Think outside the box and find new ways of getting your sponsor in front of guests’ eyes. What is something everyone will use?
To understand what to offer your sponsors, you need to understand both your audience and your sponsor to see how they are both most comfortable communicating. For example, if your event is largely tech-related, then digital sponsorship is a great way to go. You can rest assured that your audience will be tech-savvy and likely to engage in online apps, polls, or games. However, if your audience is a little more traditional then finding other ways to get the brand in front of their eyes might be better suited. Once you have established what your audience is likely to engage with most effectively, you can start thinking up some creative ideas to pitch to your prospective partners.
Everyone likes to feel important, so at the end of your proposal set aside 15 minutes to ask for their expert opinion!
How to market event sponsorship opportunities
One thing we all know event planners do well is network… so go for it! Advertise your sponsorship opportunities within your existing network and make the most of your contacts from previous events.
Social media is your best friend, jump on and publicise your event and let everyone know you’re in search of the perfect brand to collaborate with. LinkedIn will be especially good for networking, so post on there and ask colleagues or connections to share it. You could even join some industry-related groups to make sure it’s reaching as many people as possible.
Chat to people who have attended a past event, or one similar, for any recommendations on who to approach. The power of word of mouth (WOM) is great, so get chatting to anyone you can and see who they would suggest. If someone has particularly enjoyed an event, they will be able to discuss it with potential sponsors and highlight all of the opportunities and positive associations your event will bring them.
An event will appeal to a certain audience, and work towards achieving a specific cause such as industry learning or network expansion. The trick is to find out who is also looking to reach that audience or align with the same cause (and is willing to pay for it!).
How to maintain relationships with your sponsors
The event has happened, and of course, it was a huge success- just like we knew it would be! Now you want to make sure you maintain a good relationship with your sponsor, in the hopes of collaborating again on future events.
Publish a personalised thank you directly after the event, both privately and publicly on social media. Let everyone know how important their input was for the success of the event, make them think the event simply couldn’t have run without them! Collect the all-important data from your event and offer to share it with them if they want. This shows transparency on your behalf, but it can also be a useful tool for them to study and refine their own operations.
Most importantly, stay in touch! Follow-ups and check-ins help keep your name at the forefront of their minds, and who knows, they might even approach you with some new opportunities too!
If you’re looking to host an event and are feeling stuck on where to have it or what to do, then get in touch with a member of our dedicated and experienced events team today. They will be delighted to help you secure your ideal venue or assist you with the finer details to make sure your event runs smoothly and achieves all of it’s objectives.