Most events – no matter the scale – could benefit from sponsorship. That could be from a multinational corporation or a grassroots organisation; either way, partnerships are one of the most lucrative ways to build stronger events. Not to mention, to make sure they’re viable from a profitability point of view.
That’s not to say all events need sponsors. But if you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you feel yours does. So let’s get stuck straight in.
How does event sponsorship work?
Event sponsorship works on a partnership basis, where you – the event organiser – partner up with another company or organisation in the running of your event. Both parties gain something from the relationship. For the event organiser, that’s often funds to help put on the event or other benefits like access to the sponsoring organisation’s venue or equipment. One of the main benefits the sponsor might seek in exchange is publicity for their brand (more on that below).
There are a few different ways for an event organiser to secure sponsorship, all of which involve approaching the organisations they feel might be interested with a case for why they should get involved. They’ll also communicate what they would like to gain from the sponsorship in exchange for what they can offer. For example X amount of money, in exchange for displaying the sponsor’s branding in X, X and X locations.
If a potential sponsor expresses interest, they might come back with some further requests. For example, a slot for them to give a talk at the event.
From there, the negotiations take place and the partnership is eventually secured with a contract.
What do sponsors get in return?
If you’re looking to secure an event sponsorship, it’s important to understand what sponsors might expect in return so you’re well equipped to make your pitch to them. Some of the main gains sponsors usually expect to get in return include:
Exposure of their brand, in particular to a specific audience
Access to your attendee data
Speaking opportunities at your event
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reasons – so for more philanthropic reasons
How to approach sponsors for an event
To approach sponsors for an event, try following these steps:
Assess your own event in detail
You know that golden rule about job applications that no two CVs should be the same? It’s the same with event sponsorship pitches. Organisations or companies will want to know that you’re keen to work with them because of who they are and how this fits in with your own goals, ideals and brand philosophy.
To make sure they know this, start by digging deep into your own event first. Ask yourself why you’re running it, what your ultimate ambitions are, who your target audience is, what your vision for the event is, and how you got to where you are now. Taking time to really assess all of this will put you in a much better position to justify your proposition to sponsors, and to answer their questions.
Research potential sponsors
Next, it’s time to research who might be a good fit for your event. Try looking at similar events and who’s sponsored them, and do some digging into brands that:
Are likely to be interested in a partnership with you – so that means ruling out major players who, as nice as it would be, wouldn’t consider sponsoring an event of your size, for example
Share a similar ethos to you
Share a common audience with you
Have a history of sponsoring events like yours (although this might not be necessary – there’s nothing to say they won’t be interested in trying something new if your case is strong enough)
Would genuinely benefit from the exposure you’re able to offer them
Start to gather information for your event sponsorship pitch
Now it’s time to start working on your pitch. To do so, begin compiling some core data about your event and what you can offer sponsors in return for their involvement. This might include:
How many attendees you’re projected to get
The demographics of your attendees – backed up by data if possible (for example social media analytics)
Professional indicators about your attendees, for example their seniority level – ‘70% directorship level’ or ‘90% small business owners’
Any media coverage you’ve secured for your event
Indications about online coverage you expect to get for your event, backed up by data from past events – for example ‘500k video views’
Details about performers and exhibitors at your event – for example, X speaker who has X number of followers on Instagram
Put together some official event sponsorship packages
This is where it’s your turn to communicate what you’re looking to get out of the sponsorship. For monetary arrangements, creating tiered packages can be a great way to make potential sponsors feel more in control of the arrangement. By giving them the chance to choose, they may be more likely to warm to the idea of getting involved. For the lower end of packages (say, £1000 or $1,500), sponsors may get their logo displayed prominently on all materials at the event and a sponsorship goody bag.
For the higher end (say, £6,500 or $8,000), the sponsor might get everything included in lower packages, plus a dedicated slot to promote their own product or give their own talk, and a fully branded refreshment area of your event – serving their products only if they’re in the food and drinks industry.
Make sure your packages are meaningful and tailored to the company you’re pitching to
If you’re trying to secure an alcohol brand as your sponsor, it makes sense that you offer to serve their brand of X drink only at your event as part of the partnership.
But if you’re seeking sponsorship from a company based on more philanthropic incentives, it would be more appealing to offer them a talk slot, or even a donation point in their organisation's name. In a nutshell: always be sure to refer back to that initial research you did, and really dig deep to figure out what’s going to appeal to the potential sponsors you’re approaching.
Hone your pitch and get it out to your potential event sponsors
Now it’s time to hone all of your data and packages into a concise, persuasive document. For example, this could be in the form of a pitch deck, which you can present, or a PDF which you can send to sponsors in advance of meeting them.
The key here is to portray all the valuable information you need to in as little words possible. It’s likely that the organisations you’re reaching out to are time-poor, so it’s crucial not to overwhelm them with swathes of information and convoluted language.
Think short, sharp and easy scannable bursts of information that quickly convey exactly what you're offering, and what you’re looking for in return.
Now all that’s left to do is get your proposal out to the organisations you’ve selected – a concise, friendly and personalised email should do the trick (no copying and pasting across a hundred contacts, and definitely no ‘Hi There’s’ – always use the recipient’s name).
It’s a good idea to include some core information about your pitch in the email (like key attendee demographic data), but again, make sure to keep it concise.
And that’s it – now all that’s left to do is wait for the responses to come back, and the exciting new partnership to blossom. Good luck!