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How to Win and Retain Event Sponsors

What you need to do to build a compelling brand and develop sponsorship relationships around it

The right event sponsorship is the answer to many event planning questions. Getting those answers, in the form of the sponsorship you need, does take a lot of work though. So, we thought it would be useful to take a look at what you need to do to attract and retain the support of event sponsors that will, ultimately, enable you to bring your event to life.

crowd throwing juggling equipment in the air in outdoor space

 

First off, you have to turn your exciting vision for your event into something that’s equally attractive to sponsors, potential event crew and – kinda important not to forget them – your target audience. And, you need to make sure your event’s brand image and all the imagery you put out there are fit for purpose and present the vibe you’re looking to be associated with.

Then, you need to put together compelling sponsorship packages and deliver on the promises and value you promote in them to retain those sponsors you win over.incident-bg-lineThe value of sponsorship

Any experienced event planner will tell you how important sponsorship can be to an event’s success. Funds are always short. You’re always looking for cost-effective ways to promote the event. So, any way you can add the right kudos or flavor to your event is super valuable. And, any trust you can build with your target audience is also valuable.

The beauty of sponsorship is in the virtuous circle it can create. When it works well, it’s a wonderful thing….

  • You create a great event and build its image in a way that appeals to your target audience.
  • This brand image appeals to sponsors targeting that same audience – who have, hopefully, already established their brand in your target audience’s world and may be able to offer access to them via the marketing they’re doing.
  • They’re willing to associate your brand with theirs.
  • The appeal of your event is enhanced by its association with the sponsor’s brand and your audience grows.
  • The growth in your audience makes your event more attractive to your sponsor and attractive to other potential sponsors who target the same audience.

incident-bg-line

When sponsors and events match up well a mutually beneficial relationship can be long and sweet. To name just three of many enduring sponsorship relationships:

  • Think Pepsi and the NFL’s Super Bowl
  • Think Coco-cola and the Olympics
  • Think Rolex and TED

To follow the example of these well-known brands and events you need to get five key elements of event sponsorship development right.

  1.    Event image, audience and culture
  2.    Event messaging
  3.    Event brand and reputation
  4.    Event sponsorship packages
  5.    Nurturing sponsorship relationships

Let’s start by looking at developing an attractive and appealing vision for your event, which you can then sell to sponsors..

Event image, audience & culture

Whatever your event is, you’re not going to get far if you don’t have a very clear picture of who your target audience is and what will appeal to them. This should inform every element of your event, from venue and attractions you book to marketing materials, fonts and colours you use on your website.


Simple example: let’s take the arts and music festival Coachella and compare it with the BBC Proms series of classical music concerts, for a broad audience at London’s Albert Hall, and then one for dedicated followers of classical music, the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth Germany.

We’re talking a spectrum from the coolest contemporary music through popular classical music, for a more general audience, to more challenging classical music for black tie wearing aficionados.

There might be some crossover between audiences, but you can bet the Wagner Festival organizers aren’t trying to appeal to the designer t-shirt wearing Coachella-goer or the joke t-shirt wearing Proms-enthusiast. 


Every aspect of the image you build for your event – logo and tagline, language and imagery, look and feel, style and vibe, attractions and suppliers, merchandise and marketing tactics – needs to be designed to be appealing to your target audience. This will create a flavor or culture that you can build your event’s community (team, volunteers, suppliers, attendees, entrants, entertainment, etc.) around.

And, getting sponsors to join that community will be so much easier if they can see that you understand your audience, which will often be their own target market too.

Often? Well. Sometimes sponsors will be less worried about your audience aligning exactly with their target audience. Eventbrite asked 10 event sponsors why they got involved in events they were sponsoring and their answers revealed some other motivations that come into play:

  • Giving back to their local community – sometimes, and often for small businesses, the fact your event is local is enough, even when the target markets don’t immediately align.
  • Building brand awareness – so, obviously, there’s bound to be some alignment between target markets here, but sometimes creating awareness beyond a target market has value to sponsors.
  • Trusting the event creator – personal relationships matter so an existing relationship with a sponsor who trust you to do a good event might tempt them beyond obviously aligned events.
  • Maximizing touchpoints for consumers – if you can offer maximum exposure for their brand, sponsors may come on board – this is where the attractiveness of your sponsorship packages really matters.
  • Because the attendees are their target audience – it’s interesting that this was top motivation for only two of the 10 sponsors questioned, but the other four reasons cited here wouldn’t work for sponsors where the audiences were a total mismatch – you don’t see many nursing homes sponsoring extreme sports events, for instance.

the word yes graffiti painted on a wall

Event Messaging:

So you’ve got your event’s culture sorted out to appeal to your target audience and relevant sponsors. Now it’s time to look at how to fit sponsors into your messaging. The possibilities are, almost, endless.

More traditional opportunities to offer sponsors exposure, such as:

  • Logos on your posters, billboards, etc. – if you’re putting posters all over town promoting your event there’s value for sponsors in that you’re getting their brand out there.
  • Promotion opportunities in print ads – it’s key sponsors know your advertising plans, so they can see the exposure they get before the event.
  • Ads in brochures, flyers, race information, programs etc – local hotels will be very interested in showing up as recommended accommodation options to people you’re attracting to their local area.
  • Branded merchandise – if you’ve got your event’s image right people are going to be keen to show they were there and sponsors’ brands can be displayed on the merchandise.

Exposure through digital marketing, such as:

  • Website ad space and content – eyeballs on sponsors’ ads, sponsored content, “sponsored by” logos in the header or footer of your website, etc.
  • Email marketing – access to people’s inboxes is invaluable: informational email, confirmation emails, newsletters, update email – there’s lots of time your sponsors could be involved in your communication with attendees.
  • SMS messages – if you’re going to update your attendees via text then why not offer an opportunity for sponsors to get their brand involved.
  • Social media - when you’re promoting your event you can give your sponsors the opportunity to sponsor a competition on social media, maybe they can throw in a few branded prizes of their own for the winners.

Note: this works both ways, of course, sponsorship might come in the form of access to space on sponsors websites and exposure in their digital marketing efforts.

Using technology to your advantage:
  • App marketing – if you’re offering an app as part of your event experience, you have more opportunities to get sponsors brands in front of attendees. And, if you haven’t got the budget for an app maybe sponsoring one might work for a potential sponsor.
  • Charging stations – with reliance on cell phones comes reliance on access to a means to charge those phones, and an opportunity to improve your attendees experience with charging stations – another place / service that might need sponsoring.

We’ve just dipped our toes into the pool of possibilities here. Looking for more ideas:

Smartphone in hand with multi-coloured lights

Brand reputation:

Once your event has a history of success it will be easier to generate sponsorship. You’ll have a profile to sell and you should have a good set of data to quantify that profile, press coverage to reference and that sort of thing. If your event has been popular with your target audience, potential sponsors targeting that same audience may already know about your event.

What about when you’re still promoting your vision for your event? At that stage your professionalism and the quality of the brand idea you’re building will be key, as will the quality of the sponsorship package you offer (which we look at next).

At this stage the strength of your pitch to your potential sponsors is in the way you can demonstrate understanding of your audience and event branding that will appeal to them. It’s in the idea itself, your market research, your event planning record and personal brand. And it’s in your ability to communicate a clear picture of how the event will be run and what you have done to cover off all the details.

Assuming you can sell your vision for your event – a well-run event that will appeal to your target audience – the next challenge is to sell the ways sponsors can get involved.

Building a Sponsor Package:

There are all sorts of benefits that an event can offer a brand, but you need to describe those benefits in a compelling way, if you’re going to get sponsors on board.

It’s not just about listing opportunities for brand promotion that you can offer, it’s also about selling your event’s brand as something of value that aligns with sponsors’ brands.

And, we strongly recommend that you create custom pitches for all major sponsors. That way you can demonstrate you understand and respect their brand before showing how well your brand aligns with theirs.

Important to remember: large businesses and well-known brands get a lot of requests for sponsorship; the effort you put into selling your event brand, customizing your package to them and standing out from the crowd will pay off.

rows of gummy bears all the same color except one

Getsponsorships.com offers great hints on the building blocks for a good sponsorship package:

  1. An introduction – your event brand, plus, the who, what, where, how and why of your event – that is, the great vision for your event and culture you have created around your event.
  2. What’s in it for them – don’t make the mistake of forgetting to link how great your event is, or will be, without linking it to the benefits of involvement that it can offer sponsors.

Hint: If your event has already been held one or more times be sure to detail how successful it’s been to help them quantify the opportunity you’re offering.

  1. What you offer – the nuts and bolts of opportunities for involvement you can offer, ranging from naming rights right on down to their logo on the poster.

Hint: don’t forget to mention any help you can offer them when it comes to proving the ROI of their involvement in your event via data collected, etc.

  1. A call to action – if you’re pitching the event in person then your call to action is probably part of your presentation, but a package you’re distributing should also include a carefully considered call to action showing a clear next step.

Hint: an incentive to respond quickly is a good element to add to your packages for minor sponsors.

Need more guidance on putting a sponsorship package together? Check out these examples from Gevme.com or this great process for building a package from Practicalsponsorshipideas.com.

Keeping your Sponsors happy

At this stage, you’ve built a compelling vision of your event supported by appropriate branding, put together attractive sponsorship packages and successfully involved sponsors.

Your work with your sponsors is only just beginning. Now the challenge is to turn what you have achieved into enduring sponsorship relationships by delivering on the promises you’ve made.

To do that, you need to consider and accommodate your sponsors before, during and after your event. They are every bit as important as the star act, key suppliers and your audience.

There’s a lot to think about:

  • How do you involve your sponsors’ teams in the event and what rewards can you offer them? You’ve done your branding well and created a culture that appealed to them. So, things like free merchandise, reserved seats, exclusive access to aspects of the event experience and people involved, and a chance to be actively involved can be very appealing. In short, you need to make your sponsors feel special.
  • Who will look after them? Who’s going to manage your sponsors, if you can’t do it? Someone needs to ensure they’re kept informed of developments and know who to contact when they need help.
  • How will they be kept in the loop? Your sponsors are aligning their brand with your brand and your event’s success. By doing so they’re exposing themselves to the risks inherent in your event. You need to have an open channel of communication with all major sponsors and involve them as your planning progresses, as you set up for the event and during the event.
  • How will you help your sponsors understand the ROI of their involvement in your event? Have you got a plan for collecting data around the event that will make justifying involvement easy? You want your sponsors’ team to understand what you’ve delivered well and be able to demonstrate it to their bosses.

Again, we’re only scratching the surface of the things you need to consider if you’re going to manage your sponsorship relationships in a way that gives you the best chance you’ll retain them. For more information we recommend you read:

Conclusion

The relationship between your event’s brand and sponsors’ brands is one of the key factors in the success of your event. In many cases, it’s what makes an event possible or allows an event to reach a sustainable level of success by underwriting your first few events.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what you need to do to establish and maintain those relationships by creating an appealing brand, selling it to sponsors and continuing to sell it throughout the process of running your events.

Talk to the Blerter team about how our app can help you ensure your events run smoothly, that ROI data is captured, and sponsors are kept in the communications loop before, during and after the event.

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