Sponsors can elevate your race experience and help your event stand out from the competition. But finding and securing sponsors for your race can be easier said than done.

Use the following tips to help you find the right sponsors for your race and pave the way for long-lasting partnerships with them.

1. Understand what sponsors want

While some brands may sponsor your race out of the goodness of their heart — especially if your race supports a charity — sponsorship is not philanthropy. Event sponsorship is a highly specialized branch of advertising and marketing. Unlike other forms of promotion like banner ads and promoted posts on social media, your race gives brands the opportunity to meet their customers in person.

To effectively sell event sponsorship, you must understand your attendees’ needs and match them to a sponsor’s objectives, which brings us to the next section.

2. Get to know your audience

Brands segment their audiences to help them advertise more cost-effectively. They’ll expect the same from you. Segment your attendee base into sub-groups based on demographics, firmographics, or other traits to effectively communicate the value of your event to sponsors.

Survey participants to ask about their frustrations, goals, budget responsibilities, and other information potential sponsors will find valuable. For instance, you may discover that half of your race participants work in healthcare and are in the market for a new luxury SUV. With this knowledge, you might consider reaching out to pharmaceutical companies and luxury car manufacturers to see if they’re interested in sponsoring your race.

Not sure who your attendees are? No problem. Download this workbook and complete the exercises to discover their value.

3. Determine your value

If you blindly assign value to your race’s sponsorship assets, you could be leaving money on the table.

Calculate the market rate of each opportunity. Look at what other events are charging sponsors. Keep in mind that you’re also competing with other methods of advertising. You should know exactly how much an email blast or logo placement is worth to sponsors before you approach them. Use this workbook to compile your competitive research and calculate the market rate of your sponsorship asset.

Once you’ve determined the market rate of your sponsorship assets, set the initial price. If you’re worried about getting it wrong, don’t. Setting the initial price can be tricky, but no one guesses the “perfect” price on their first try.

Once you start talking to sponsors and become more familiar with their specific needs, you’ll eventually determine the true value of your assets.

4. Connect with sponsors

Once you’ve created a list of sponsorship opportunities and set your initial price, it’s time to start reaching out to sponsors. But before you do, don’t email your proposal.

“One of the most common mistakes I see people make is sending 600-word emails with a proposal attached,” says sponsorship expert Chris Baylis. “They hope the recipient will open, read, and respond by purchasing a prepackaged opportunity 
— it doesn’t work like that.”

As you approach potential sponsors, your goal is to get a meeting — not close a deal immediately. Connect with sponsors by attending events, interacting on social media, reaching out on LinkedIn, or sending emails. Once you’ve identified the decision maker at the organization, ask for a meeting to discuss an opportunity you think they’d be interested in.

5. Listen, listen, listen

Remember: sponsorship is a relationship business. Once you’ve secured a meeting with a potential sponsor, bring your data and leave your proposal at the office. Ask sponsors how they measure success and cherry-pick the information that’s relevant to them. Most importantly, take notes about what they want to customize your proposal.

6. Offer menus, not packages

Gold, silver, and bronze sponsorship packages are overrated.

Instead of bundling your assets, give potential sponsors a menu to choose from. This can lead to bigger sponsorship deals and longer-lasting partnerships with valuable sponsors. List your sponsorship assets by activation type — branding, on-site, samples, post-race — to help sponsors quickly understand the potential value of each asset.

7. Get more expert advice on sponsorship

You know that sponsors add an important revenue stream to your race and help you deliver enormous value to your participants. Using these seven tips, you can lay the foundation for success in the coming year.

For more details on sponsorship success, download the The Essential Guide to Sponsorship for Events. With insights from sponsorship experts like the Sponsorship Collective, this new guide provides you with the top trends and best practices needed to win sponsorships today.

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