Today’s event creators struggle to land their ideal sponsors. And the challenge doesn’t end once you strike an agreement. Event sponsorship is all about relationships, and if you don’t navigate yours well, sponsors won’t come back.

The good news — once you know what not to, is that you can avoid these pitfalls at all costs.

There are a lot of ways you can mess up a good thing. Here are our top seven.

Event sponsorship mistake #1: Assume your audience is their audience

One of the best ways to sabotage a sponsorship relationship before it even begins? Approach the wrong sponsors in the first place.

Seeking out brands with big bucks willing to fund your event is a short-term strategy. Instead, look for event sponsorship partners interested in investing in your events for the long haul.

Go beyond the obvious choices. For a business event, for example, don’t just stick to sponsors within your industry. Chris Baylis, President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective, advises: “Let’s say your event gathers heart surgeons for an annual summit. Pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers will be on your list. But what about car dealers? Or mortgage banks?”

While these audiences may not immediately seem relevant, think about your sponsor’s audience in terms of lifestyle, not subject matter. For instance, it might turn out that most of the heart surgeons who attend your conference have families, and therefore fall into a bracket that’s interested in buying certain cars and houses. This type of granular information comes from your data

Event sponsorship mistake #2: Give them basic data

In the past, sponsors settled for basic data. If you could prove your ticket-buyers came from a certain demographic, that was enough to seal the deal.

As data has grown far more sophisticated and available, sponsor expectations, too, have evolved. There can be a lot of diversity within a general audience, so it’s no longer enough to look at basic demographics. The same crowd that loves a good reggae fest isn’t necessarily going to buy your sponsor’s soda.

The more granular your attendee data, the better. And the type of data is important, says Larry Weil, President of The Sponsorship Guy™. “Think lifestyle and insights over age and income.” 

Dial in on the level of detail by using a range of data sources. Look beyond your event management platform to Google Analytics, social media insights, aggregated online buzz, and survey feedback.

Event sponsorship mistake #3: Offer them the same old packages

The classic event sponsorship model of pre-packaged offerings is no longer dynamic enough. Sponsors aim to offer attendees an unforgettable, innovative experience — not simply a logo on a banner. They want to customize and even create their own activations from scratch. 

Work closely with your sponsors to design original activations. For instance, ideas might include:

“I like to think of activation as ‘switching on’ your sponsorship,” says Balis. “It’s not just doing what you said you’d do, but achieving the outcomes you promised the sponsor.”

Event sponsorship mistake #4: Ignore their real goals

You might assume that a sponsor’s goal is simply to draw as much attention to their brand as possible. But that’s not always enough.

Often, they want concrete metrics like email signups or social media stats. They want to know you won’t just attract attendees, but inspire them to take action.

This is another area where data becomes important to your event sponsorship relationships. Know what their key performance indicators (or KPIs), are, then break down how you delivered on them with a post-event fulfillment report.

Event sponsorship mistake #5: Leave them out of the loop

Every sponsor relationship is a collaborative affair. From the initial contract to planning and executing activations to following up on metrics, you’ll have a lot of interaction with your sponsors.

“Like all collaboration, regular communication is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship with event sponsors,” says Abby Clemence, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Infinity Sponsorship.

Make sure your sponsor has a single point of contact at your event — someone they can rely on for logistics, scheduling, marketing, and reporting details.

Event sponsorship mistake #6: Forget to be a good host

Treating your sponsors with the utmost respect means being a good host. At the least, your sponsors deserve great seats, access to exclusive areas and experiences, and other amenities. 

Being a gracious host also means being flexible with how you accommodate each individual sponsor. Be willing to make changes to the original plan, within reason, if it will truly improve your event and their outcome.

Event sponsorship mistake #7: Stay in a rut with them

These tips will evolve your event sponsorship strategy beyond what used to work. But it’s up to you to take this initiative. The worst mistake you can make is to stay in the status quo.

Sponsors will respond to what you offer them and how you treat them. If you want to create newer, stronger, and more lucrative relationships with sponsors, be that change.

For more ideas on how to get there, download the free guide, The 2020 Guide to Event Sponsorship.

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