Finding sponsors for events can be difficult especially if you don’t have a core set of sponsors established. With that being said, in order to build conference sponsorship, you have to first look at your brand’s purpose and the values of your company. What companies do you know of that can join your event and be of added value? What are your attendees interested in? Take that information and create a pitch. The key to building conference sponsorship is to create a strong sponsorship pitch that sells your event. Unsure of how to do that? We will give you the information you need to get started!
Sponsorship vs. Donations
Today’s sponsorship deals are no longer the classic, we’ll pay you to hang our banner and that’s it. Sponsorship is the activation of marketing a product. Sponsorship has evolved because of advancements in technology and other enhancements that we have today. Many people confuse sponsorship with a donation and they are actually two very different things.
As Peter Poehle, CEO and Co-Founder of SponsorMyEvent said on our recent #EventIcons episode regarding The State of Event Sponsorship, sponsorship is a business deal, a donation is for a good cause. When businesses agree to sponsor your event they are wanting to increase their sales and build their brand. They are wanting to visibly see results for what they put into your event. Unlike when businesses give donations, they are wanting nothing in return.
The example provided was set around food sponsors. It’s pretty easy to find food sponsors because although they do not pay to sponsor your event, they provide food and they are able to visibly and instantly see increased brand perception. If a business wanted to donate food to your event, they would typically not be visible at the event. They would likely donate the items before the event.
What’s the Vision for Your Brand?
Now that you know the basics of conference sponsorship, how do we go about creating a sponsorship deal? First, you have to research the company, find the connection between your brand and their business. Next, answer the question, “Do you really want this company to sponsor your event?” If the answer is yes, then you have to activate the marketing between the two and create a killer pitch.
When you’re creating the vision for your event, you should ask yourself these three questions. First question, does the sponsorship help your brand? If you answered yes, then go to the next question. The second question, does the sponsorship benefit by participating in your event? If you answered yes, then go to the next question. The third and final question is, will the attendees get something out of the sponsorship and your event? If the answer is yes then it’s definitely a company you should aggressively look into sponsoring your event.
The Evolution of Conference Sponsorship
In the beginning, conference sponsorship started off very passive as a way for you to put your business out there. Today, event sponsorship is interactive and engaging. That is why many people confuse sponsorship with donations. Many people think sponsorship is like the banners that are hanging on the walls at events or the commercials that you preview before a video because that is what we like to call stage 1 of sponsorship.
As technology increased we started moving towards push notifications hoping that the more business had the opportunity to get their name out there, the more consumers would be interested in their brand, but that quickly moved us into our 3rd stage of sponsorship, active engagement. This is where you will find committed sponsors that will visibly see their return in being a part of the event because they are putting on their creative hats. They coming up with unique ideas to catch people at your event and pull them in. The fourth stage which will be coming upon us very soon is the virtual reality and gamification world. Some may say we are already stepping into the fourth stage, but it’s definitely something you will need to consider when pitching your event.
The overall goal of conference sponsorship is to build experience and sell the story of your brand.
Tips for Finding Sponsors
It’s always a question of where to find event sponsors. Oftentimes, sponsors start out in the field of seeking sponsorship and then go on to sponsoring events as their business grows. The key is to find the link between your company and its sponsorship. How is their sponsorship going to take your event to the next level? There has to be a connection and reason for sponsoring your event and that’s what you’ll have to research before you create your pitch. Look to see if the connection is based on the type of event or for geographical reasons.
Let’s begin with the question of who do you know? First, look at the sponsors you’ve had for past events and think of the areas that would appeal to their business and secure another year.
Then think of who you know that would be interested in your event. Maybe there are additions to your event that were not there before and you know of companies that would be interested in participating in your event. The key ideas for securing sponsorship is first knowing the purpose of your event, researching the companies that you would like sponsorship from, and creating the right pitch to seal the deal.
Provide Potential Sponsors with the Facts
Sell them on who is already in on the event. Most sponsors want to know who is already involved and what they themselves can bring to the table as a sponsor that is unique. If there are similar companies, that may or may not be a problem if you pitch it the right way. When you let them in on who is at your event, make sure you have a solid reason as to why you want them there as well. Explain how it could benefit their company by participating.
Provide your event ROI and the data that shows the success of your event. ROI is data that should be provided to all sponsors involved because businesses are wanting to increase their sales and build their brand by sponsoring your event. They will want to see your ROI to visibly see results from your previous events.
The second step should be to look at companies geographically. This can be the companies close to the area of your event if you change event locations annually or it can be companies that surround your business area. Most companies enjoy supporting those around them and asking them to sponsor your event to support local businesses would be the way to start pitching the deal. If you are pitching the deal to the event area, let them know why you chose the area and why the local connects to your event. If you are pitching to the businesses that surround your company, let them know how long you’ve been up and running, and why you chose this area to run your business.
Letting the possible sponsors in on a more personal level raises your chances of sealing the deal. Here’s an analogy: most of us pick a location to live in because of what the location can provide us. This is similar to picking an event location or where your company is located. Building that connection can be the missing link in selling the sponsorship, so tell them why you are wanting to increase local sponsorship and why it’s important for your brand.
Know Your Competitors
The next step is to look into competitors events. Looking into events that are similar to yours will give you an outside look into what types of sponsors could possibly be added to your event or to build connecting sponsorships.
The best way to look into competing events is to send people to the events and have them check it out it and if the timing is right, approach the sponsors. Before scoping out your competitors, your outlook should be on how can we make our event better than theirs by incorporating different sponsors? Once you have the list of sponsors, find the similarities and differences between the events and how your event is unique or connects better to the list of sponsors. Once you have the list of sponsors, brainstorm ideas for approaching the companies and building the connection.
Remember that it is okay to be aggressive in selling your event. In reality, it’s important to continue to aggressively push sponsorship because many times they see the email but don’t think anything of it. If you hold conference sponsorship meetings and present the value of their sponsorship many of the companies will begin to see why you were so interested in the first place. Give them ideas on how they can connect to your event creatively to sell their product and bring value to your event. This all goes back to creating a unique sponsorship pitch that sells to that specific company. A lot of work goes into finding sponsorship but it’s worth it.
If you are really trying to sell your event to a sponsor and don’t know how to approach the sale, you can always offer a combined sponsorship. Combined sponsorships to create a grandiose experience. It will not only look good to the companies and your brand, it will benefit your attendees by creating an even more grand experience. Many companies combine sponsorship when they have creative ideas that are out of their realm or they are not willing to buy-in alone. This is something you could offer to first-time sponsors so that they can get a feel for your event and hopefully be a returning sponsor.
Lastly, invite future sponsors to your event.
Organizing Your Sponsorships
Organizing conference sponsorship is crucial for a successful event. There are many ways to organize sponsors and we have a few ideas for you below.
There are several apps out that focus on organization and work well for conference sponsorship. The first one we recommend is Dropbox. Dropbox is a personal cloud that holds files and documents. The next one is OneNote. OneNote is an app you can download that holds documents and is a place to store your creative ideas and collaborate with others. The last one we recommend is Evernote. Evernote gives you a place to come together as a team, create checklists, store scanned documents and create files, we use this here at Endless often.
Building a Creativity Factory
Gather your event planners and set time to have a creative brainstorming session around your event. It would be best to have the layout of the event or event walk through the event space so that everyone can get an idea on where each vendor will be and fill up every inch of space. This is an important part of sponsorship because sometimes when you are physically viewing the event space, you begin to envision how to pull in different vendors.
While you’re walking through the space think of these two words: unique and personal. These two words are important to remember because you will want your event and your sponsors to stand out and make a lasting impact on your attendees by creating unique and personal experiences. For your current sponsors, come back with ideas on how they can add to the experience of the event. Show them how they can collect data from the sponsorship to further their business. Ultimately, it’s important to secure the conference sponsorship by activating the market and coming up with ways to engage your attendees.
Tips for Successful Conference Sponsorship
Include levels of sponsorship for your event. Premiere sponsors put forth the most time and money and are typically recognized (formally thanked) at the event. Then a level down from premiere is platinum. Platinum sponsors are returning sponsors that put forth a lot of time and money. The levels could continue to tier down from gold to silver to bronze. Adding the levels creates recognition and competition.
Successful sponsors should be involved with the event process. Come together to brainstorm ideas on how to uniquely engage attendees and gather data. If possible, have your sponsors walk the event space and give them a detailed tour of what it will look like. Successful sponsorship comes from having an active presence at your event. It’s important to make sure your sponsors maintain visibility.
Make it a point to thank your sponsors for adding to your event. Most sponsors return year after year because they feel like they were a part of the process, they received positive brand recognition and most importantly they felt good doing it. Stay up on your event game by taking time once a year to thank your current sponsors for all that they do to make your event a success!
Lastly, look into ways of reinventing your event to keep it fresh. This helps re-energize your sponsors and your attendees. It’s good to reinvent your event at least every five years. With sponsorship and reinvention, make sure you highlight flexible customization with every event and give your sponsors freedom to be creative and unique.
If you are still having trouble finding sponsors for your event, go to Sponsormyevent.com, created by Peter Poehle. The website will ask you if you are a sponsor or an event planner. From there, the sponsors are able to view upcoming events that are needing sponsorship. Event planners are asked to create a profile for their event which is viewed by possible sponsors. If a sponsor finds an event they wish to join, they can contact the event planner and make secure payments through the website.
SponsorPark is another resource for future sponsorship. Through SponsorPark, sponsors are able to search by specific interests (category, location, and price range) and then review their matches. Similar to SponsorMyEvent, you would post a profile for your event in hopes to attract future sponsorship.
These resources aid as additional help with securing conference sponsorship.
Finding conference sponsorship is hard work, but it pays off if you follow the tools we provided. Securing sponsorship is not only good for your brand, but the future success of the sponsor and it benefits your attendees. In the early stages of finding sponsors, it’s a good idea to create S.M.A.R.T. goals and think about the purpose of the event and the values of your company. Then research what your attendees enjoy. Look into companies geographically, whether that be near your company’s location or the event location. Once you find companies that would add value to your event, dig into the background of each company. Find a reason for their support. Gather a creative factory that will come up with a killer pitch to sell your event. All in all, remember to be flexible, always be willing to reinvent, and take time to thank your sponsors!
What are some steps you take to secure conference sponsorship? Comment below!