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(Published 13 May 2020)
Who should you approach?
When deciding who to approach for sponsorship, consider which organisations would best align with your event’s values, brand and objectives. For example, an organisation that provides services to children may be interested in sponsoring an event that will attract young families.
Research potential sponsors by visiting their website to identify business objectives, activities they are currently supporting, personnel, and media coverage. Many companies also publish sponsorship guidelines on their website. If not, you have an excuse to phone the company and ask for their guidelines, and use the opportunity to introduce yourself and your event.
Get a meeting
Meeting sponsors in person can have a much bigger impact than just emailing through your proposal, as some corporates receive over 20 proposals for sponsorship each week!
Getting the initial meeting is often the hardest part. Here are a few tips:
- Teaser – Send potential sponsors a “teaser” brochure or one-page outline explaining why you would like to meet or, even better, what is in it for them. This way potential sponsors aren’t receiving a full proposal that could lead to a standard rejection letter as the full extent of the offer is still unknown. Ideally, they will be curious to know more.
- Network – Attend corporate functions, exchange business cards and casually suggest you should have coffee to talk about “synergies” or any potential opportunities. It is a lot easier to call someone and ask for a meeting once you have met them. It also increases the likelihood they will return your call and actively arrange a meeting with you.
- Referrals – Ask your colleagues, other sponsors and board members for referrals. Let your network know about the opportunities and ask for recommendations and introductions to people who may be interested in sponsoring your event.
- Cold call – If all else fails, find out the right person to speak to in the organisation. Phone them and ask if you could have 15 minutes of their time to discuss an opportunity that may be of interest to them.
It is important in the first meeting to make sure that you do not go in with a full proposal, but an overview of the opportunity. The key is to ask what is important to them when the organisation considers sponsoring events. Then listen. You should not talk any more than they do in the initial meeting. Consider it an “information gathering” opportunity and limit the conversation to talking about what may be relevant or attractive to their organisation.
If you have tried to set up a meeting with an organisation without success, ask if you can put a few questions to them over the phone and state this will only take five minutes.
Apply the following listening and information gathering principles:
- Make it relevant – Know what is important to the potential sponsor and tailor the proposal in line with their target markets and marketing objectives.
- Think and make it easy for them – Outline how the organisation’s brand or product aligns with your event. Provide examples of sponsorship opportunities and benefits, including how the investment will achieve marketing objectives. Yet, ensure your offer is flexible in case the organisation has other great ideas.
- Use props for delivery – If you are seeking a food sponsor, you may include an edible pack with your proposal. This will show you know quality and tasty food when you come across it and make your proposal stand out.
A tailored sponsorship proposal should be prepared for each organisation you approach and contain:
- an event description and details of the organiser
- an outline of how your event will help your potential sponsor achieve their business objectives (such as engage new audiences, brand experiences, enhanced reputation)
- a description of the opportunities on offer, such as activations, signage, logo on publicity material and hospitality at the event
- support you are seeking in return
- sponsorship evaluation methods and success measures, including increased attendance, increased digital engagement, positive brand experiences and sponsor name recall survey.
Design your proposals to stand out from others so potential sponsors read and remember it. It is important that your proposal is professionally presented. Even if you have a rapport with the contact and they know the detail of the proposal, your proposal is likely to pass through many hands in the organisation.
Again, the best way to deliver a proposal is in person at a meeting. This gives you the opportunity to “sell” the contents and answer any questions they may have on the spot.
Consider also promoting sponsorship opportunities via:
- the event website
- industry websites such as Sponsorship News
- teaser brochures
- industry databases
- networking functions and conferences.
Once you have secured your sponsor
Once you have secured your sponsor, you should:
- communicate the value of the sponsors to your team and encourage them to build positive and appropriate relationships with the sponsor
- develop a written agreement, or contract a lawyer to draft an agreement, outlining what you would like from the sponsor and what you will deliver in return
- nominate one contact person from your organisation to liaise with the sponsor
- update the sponsor regularly about progress of event planning and implementation (do not wait until the end of the event)
- provide the sponsor with a report after the event
- work hard to maintain your relationship with your sponsor, as it is easier to keep an existing sponsor than to gain a new one
It is important that teams across your organisation know the sponsor’s objectives and build relationships with them. So, your CEO should get to know their CEO, your marketing manager should know theirs and so on. This will help with servicing the sponsor and in gaining an overall understanding of the sponsor’s needs.
Set objectives with each sponsor
Set objectives with each sponsor on an annual basis and then work on strategies for achieving them. The outcomes then become the basis for post-event reports.
In addition to establishing agreed objectives, it is important to determine sponsor post-event evaluation wants and needs. This might include a report documenting:
- the number of people who attended
- where they came from
- how old they were
- whether attendees were alone, with a group, with their family
You should hold regular meetings with sponsors to monitor progress against your agreed timeline, including meeting dates, deadlines for sign-offs and upcoming functions and events.
Under-promise and over-deliver
Sponsorship is like a marriage. It needs constant attention and maintenance to make it work. Building on this analogy, it is the little things that count. Make your sponsors feel special, give them an extra few tickets to a function (outside the contract) or ask them out for a coffee just to say thanks from time to time.
If you are planning a large event, there may be scope to have levels of sponsorship, such as:
- major sponsors or sponsors
- partners or community partners
- major supporters or gold, silver and bronze supporters.
If there are a number of events under one large umbrella event, such as in a festival:
- a partner or major sponsor might “own” a particular event
- a supporter, who makes a much smaller investment, might receive acknowledgement in the official program and hospitality benefits at the events.
Sometimes it will be easier to request a small level of investment from an organisation. Introduce them to your programs and organisation, kill them with kindness and then suggest an upgrade to a sponsor.
Aim for a multi-year contract with each sponsor so that your annual review is not about if they will renew but how you can enhance and improve the partnership.
A long-term contract will make the relationship much more secure and mean that more time can be spent on servicing them, rather than in negotiating terms of the agreement on an annual basis.
It also gives you vital financial security and the sponsor the guarantee that the event is theirs and they can develop long-term leveraging plans.