Sponsors can help you take your conference to the next level. But finding the rights ones — and designing conference sponsorship packages they love — can be a serious challenge.

One mistake event creators often make when approaching sponsors is to treat them as one-off transactions. Mass emails and tiered packages just don’t cut it in the new paradigm of event sponsorship, as brands want more from their partners in today’s data-driven world.

Thinking of sponsorships as relationships and crafting a package that meets your sponsor’s unique needs will go a long way in helping you land the right sponsors for your conference. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Research potential sponsors

Create a wish list of sponsors you’d love to partner with, based on industry, location, and past sponsorship history. Then your research begins. Find out what each brand is focused on so you can tailor a conference sponsorship package that will meet their goals.

As you do your research, try to answer these questions about each brand:

  • Are they a good fit for your brand?
  • Do you have significant audience crossover?
  • Can you add value for them with your conference?

Tip: Find out what market each sponsor is trying to reach — and then evaluate if your attendees are part of that target market. If you’re not sure, consider surveying previous attendees to gather more insights.

Step 2: Make contact with decision makers

After whittling your list down to those brands that are the best fit for your conference (and you for them), the next step is to reach out to them. This doesn’t mean jumping the gun and sending off a proposal, though — it means finding out if they’re interested in your event.

A short email or LinkedIn mail to the decision maker is the best way to accomplish this introduction. It should be two to three brief sentences, demonstrate an interest in their goals and challenges, and ask for a meeting. You can also attach your prospectus.

Tip: Track your success by the number of prospects you’ve met with. How many meetings did you have and how many of those prospects requested proposals afterward?

Step 3: Listen, listen, listen

You’ve sent out your emails and scheduled meetings with potential sponsors. You’re likely tempted to pitch your conference sponsorship packages now — but resist that temptation. Now is the time to sit down and listen.

Sponsorship is a partnership between your event and your sponsors, and requires a sincere interest in their objectives and how you can help them achieve their goals. The more you listen to your sponsors, the better equipped you’ll be to create custom packages that unlock tremendous opportunities for you, the sponsor, and attendees. Listening is the foundation for creating a successful conference sponsorship packages.

Tip: As you meet with potential sponsors, ask them to speak about their challenges and successes, so you can validate your assumptions about their goals and objectives.

Step 4: Negotiate for the long-term

When you finally start to build out your package for each sponsor, think about how you can build a lasting relationship with them — rather than focusing on a single idea. You’ve listened to their objectives, now it’s time to put together a tailored package that helps them achieve them.

This is where a conference sponsorship menu comes into play. Don’t use conference sponsorship packages that force sponsors to buy a bunch of assets they don’t need to get involved. Instead, a menu of assets can lead to bigger sponsorship deals and longer lasting partnerships with valuable sponsors because sponsors are getting exactly what they need.

Tip: List your sponsorship assets by activation type (branding, on-site, samples, experiential), to help sponsors quickly understand the value of each asset.

Step 5: Conference sponsorship package valuation

Deciding how much to charge for sponsorship — commonly referred to as sponsorship valuation — can be an elusive step in the process of selling conference sponsorship packages. The good news is: it’s less complicated than you might think.

Sponsors will spend money on anything that improves their business. If you can prove a return on their investment, the only thing that will keep them from sponsoring your event is their budget.

To maximize revenues, you’ll need to find the sweet spot between the cost of each opportunity and the sponsor’s perceived value of it. Use the steps in this post to determine your market value and perceived value and set the price of your conference sponsorship packages.

Tip: If you don’t know where to start, use this Sponsorship Market Rate Valuation Workbook to value your sponsorship assets.

Perfect your conference sponsorship strategy

A conference sponsorship package is just one step in a winning sponsorship strategy. Find out all you need to learn to win big brands in this free Event Sponsorship Course & Certification.

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