Sponsorship is a $62.7B industry, and that number grows every year. Would you like a piece of the pie for your events?

Of course you do. But wanting sponsors is one thing, finding them is another. To secure the most lucrative sponsors (who are also the best brand fit) you need to do a little legwork. Long before you start writing a sponsorship pitch, it’s important to understand why companies sponsor events, and which would be the best fit to sponsor yours.

Understand why companies sponsor events

What do sponsors want? On the surface, sponsorship is a highly specialized branch of advertising and marketing, connecting brands to their customers — aka your attendees.

This means the sponsors you’re seeking have a goal in mind, like:

  • Raise awareness for a new product or service
  • Generate new leads for their business
  • Recruit new employees or community members

Once you understand the motivation companies have for sponsoring events, you can start to look for specific brands to sponsor yours.

Seek out the right companies to sponsor you

There are a few online hubs where you can find a list of potential sponsor companies in one place. These platforms are marketplaces for connecting sponsors with events. First, you enter input criteria and find out which brands are looking for events to sponsor.

Such hubs include:

Most of these sponsorship hubs also allow you to create a pitch and submit it to the sponsors on your shortlist. But not every brand you might want to work with will be on any given list, so this is just one tactic to use.

Other places to look for sponsors:

  • Word-of-mouth: Word-of-mouth is another valuable sponsor-finding tactic. Others in your field looking to secure sponsors might have tips or leads. Perhaps they’ve talked to a potential sponsor who wasn’t right for their event, but is right for yours.
  • Social media: Social media is yet another effective place to look for sponsor companies. Brands that tend to pop up in the same places you do online are probably targeting the same basic audience. You can also learn a lot about your target sponsors and their marketing skills by following them on social.
  • Similar events: Of course, you can also look at companies sponsoring competing events. These leads are better than most, simply because they already understand the value of sponsoring nonprofit events like yours.

Strike up a conversation

Once you know which companies to approach, what’s the best way to make contact?

To find and woo the right companies, it helps to excel at networking and communicating in multiple ways. For example, you might first encounter a representative from a prospective sponsor at another event and have a chance for an in-person conversation. Or you might end up calling, emailing, or sending an InMail message on LinkedIn.

Regardless of how you make initial contact, your goal is to get to the decision-maker. Sometimes, that takes multiple conversations and tenacious networking throughout the company.

When you do reach that person capable of making sponsorship decisions, remember that you’re not just trying to convince them to sign a contract. You’re also vetting them to see if they are a good fit for you. Long before you start writing a proposal, ask them a few preliminary questions:

  • What are their goals and success metrics for sponsorship?
  • Who is their target audience?
  • Do they have a solid in-house marketing team that can support your event?
  • Will they commit to a certain degree of social media promotion?

As you narrow down your prospects, these initial conversations will help you disqualify those who aren’t the right fit.

Convince companies to sponsor your event

To convince a brand that sponsoring your event will be worth its time, money, and effort, you need to know the market value of your sponsorship offering. To assess this, there are three major factors to consider:

  1. Your sponsorship assets: This goes beyond a logo placement. What else do you have to offer? Speaking opportunities? Complimentary passes? Experiential brand activations? Creative and customized sponsorship packages are an excellent incentive.
  2. Your audience profile: For potential sponsors, you’re a good fit if your audience is their target customer. How well do you know your audience — the demographics, behaviors, and predilections? Check out this workbook to discover the value of your event attendees.
  3. The competition: Try to find out what competitors are charging companies for similar sponsorship packages, taking into consideration attendance numbers. If a festival you compete with draws twice as many attendees are yours, a sponsor won’t pay the same amount to sponsor both.
  4. Your data: Potential sponsors adore data. They want to know not just that you collect data on your attendees, but exactly what kind of data you collect. Use your event management platform to aggregate the kind of data sponsors are interested in — attendee demographics, ticket sales, previous sponsor revenue numbers.

Of course, securing sponsors is not only a matter of proving to them that your numbers make sense. Event sponsorship is a sales job, and that means cultivating positive relationships with potential sponsors over time. As Chris Baylis, President and CEO of the Sponsorship Collective, says, “Sponsorship isn’t an item you check off and forget about. It’s a process.”

To learn more about how to cultivate relationships with event sponsors, read our free ebook The DNA of Relationship-Based Event Sponsorship.

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