Securing Event Sponsorship in the New Decade
Once an advantage utilized by only a few companies, today, more companies understand the benefits of event sponsorship. According to research from the Association of National Advertisers and the Marketing Accountability Standards Board, the 2018 total for North American sponsorship spending increased 41 percent since 2010.
The reason is that event sponsorships reach a large yet targeted audience. Event sponsorship is a symbiotic relationship where everyone wins: the sponsors, the event, and the attendees.
However, securing event sponsors can still be tricky. As an event planner, you will need to prove to potential sponsors that your event is worth their investment.
Benefits of Securing Event Sponsors
Hosting an event is expensive. Attendees expect a level of personalization that is costly in both time and resources – and that’s on top of the top-notch educational sessions, exhilarating guest speakers, and enthralling experimental activations.
Sponsors are how your event can include better attractions and grow attendance every year. The more sponsors you attract, the better enticements you can provide to attendees. As your audience grows, more sponsors will take notice, and the cycle continues.
However, it has to start somewhere, and that is with the sponsorship packages your event offers.
Creating Sponsorship Packages
Just as your event is unique to all other events, even those in the same industry, your sponsors are unique as well. That’s why you do not want to offer a one-size-fits-all sponsorship option. Instead, give potential sponsors alternatives by providing tiered sponsorship packages.
Tiered sponsorship packages start at a low(ish) price point. This is designed to attract first-time sponsors and small to mid-size companies. Typical offerings includes the company’s logo on various marketing materials, an exhibit area, and one more bonus (such as a banner ad on the event site or their logo featured in the event app).
The second tier is a mid-range price. It includes everything in the first tier plus an additional enticement, like a branded giveaway received by every attendee.
The third tier is usually the highest price point (although, you can have as many tiers as you want). This includes everything in the previous two packages plus an extremely exclusive enticement, such as a speaking opportunity for the company’s CEO (or someone in the C-suite). One way to make the top tier particularly enticing is to limit its availability. Exclusivity sells, and if people believe they are getting a special deal (and special treatment), it will increase the perceived value of the top packages.
The above options for tiers are just examples. You know your event, so you will be able to create the most enticing packages for your potential sponsors. According to EXHIBITOR Magazine’s 2019 Trade Show Sponsorship Survey, the opportunities that sponsors believe provide the most marketing potential are:
1. Speaking opportunities
2. Networking events
3. Social media
4. Show e-blasts
5. Show boards/graphics
6. Official receptions
7. Event apps
8. Hospitality lounges
9. Show directories
10. Badge lanyards
When creating descriptions of these tiers, be very clear and straightforward about what is offered (and what is not). Be as detailed as possible to explain what companies will receive for their sponsorship purchase. Potential sponsors quickly become frustrated when packages lack sufficient information. A sure way to damage a relationship with a sponsor is to make them feel like they did not receive everything that was promised.
Additionally, just because you worked hard on creating the sponsorship packages, does not mean that you have to adhere to them strictly. According to the EXHIBITOR Sponsorship Survey, 37 percent of event sponsors like to negotiate with show management so they can create custom packages that align with their specific objectives. If a potential sponsor comes to you with an idea, don’t be too quick to rule it out. If you can agree on terms, you may develop a lasting relationship with that company.
Finding Potential Sponsors
Potential sponsors will have many questions about your event and the value they will receive from their sponsorship. You need to anticipate every question. This is an instance where, “I don’t know; I’ll get back to you,” won’t cut it.
Delve deep into your attendees. Your sponsors will want to know much more than your average or expected attendance. They will need a lot of demographic information, including age, gender, general location, average education level, typical job title, average income, and more.
According to the EXHIBITOR Sponsorship Survey, the most tracked sponsorship metric was sales leads, followed closely by booth traffic, both of which are heavily predicated on attendance. The most tracked metrics include:
So, be prepared to answer questions regarding all of those metrics.
Once you feel completely prepared on your end, it is time to research potential sponsors. You could do a mass mailing or email blast to every company in your general area, but that would be a waste of time and resources. Your efforts are better spent focusing on finding companies that are the best fit as sponsors for your event.
Take a look at events that are similar to yours and see who sponsors those exhibitions. You could also determine the general physical location of many of your attendees and target businesses in their local area.
Before making contact, take the time to research the most likely potential sponsors. These brands are going to want specifics on how your event can help them. They need answers that you will not discover if you just spend a few minutes looking over their website. Delve into their online presence, follow them on social media, and set up Google alerts. You may even need to go offline to discover some crucial information.
Do these brands have any significant events on the horizon, such as a market expansion or a new product launch? How will sponsoring your event help to promote these milestones? Have these brands sponsored a different event in the past? Is so, what was their approach? Is there a way your event can deliver an improvement over their past experiences? In general, what is the company’s approach to marketing, and how does it dovetail with your event’s audience?
During your research, you will need to find the name and contact information for the company’s key decisionmaker. When you reach out to these potential sponsors, email or social media is generally best for the first contact. You may be tempted to pick up the phone, but a cold call is likely going to get screened, and your message may never make it to its intended target.
With an email, you can provide as much information as you think they need. Put the most relevant info at the top because there is no guarantee the recipient will read much further, even if they’re interested. Also, be sure to personalize your message (for example, mention their upcoming market expansion). This shows that you cared enough to research the company and that you have strong attention to detail.
If the prospect shows interest, deliver a detailed project proposal. This is a comprehensive explanation of your event, the sponsorship opportunities you offer, and how they can benefit this specific company.
According to the EXHIBITOR Sponsorship Survey, nearly nine out of 10 exhibitors believe that their sponsorship experiences met or exceed their expectations. So, your event in an excellent position to secure sponsors. If you do the legwork and understand the needs of your potential partners, you can ensure that all parties achieve their goals.