Introduction

For an organization, good events are good culture and good business. This is a statement of truth. Sponsorships are the most effective and mutually beneficial way to provide events with a powerful return on investment and positive culture. At their best, sponsorships raise the brand value of both parties and reinforce their heritage and visions for the future.

Good businesses, the kind that you want to partner with these days, are profitable for certain, but for many people, where culture matters most, they are also likeable, creative, innovative, energetic, purpose driven, responsible, and sustainable. The kinds of places you would want to work for. These days the money alone is not enough. There is an iceberg effect created from of all of these intangibles that can give all of that which sits above the water stability. Get it wrong, and it runs the risk of sinking the ship.

Far too often, event organizers are applying a spray-and-pray strategy, meaning trying to chase any opportunity to find sponsors for their in-person, virtual or hybrid events. They neglect the importance of having an in-depth knowledge about what their potential sponsors are looking for and what drives them to get involved in an event, or in worst case what turns them off. Building a solid partnership between the organizer and the sponsor requires serious groundwork and a clear understanding of factors that matter to sponsors.

What is an Event Sponsorship?

An event sponsorship is when an organization provides financial assistance to an event to achieve promotional advantages. Sponsorships can come in the form of a cash exchange for assets or a barter exchange involving products or services.

Male event professional shaking hands with an event sponsor in the office.

This guide will focus on the importance of building a solid partnership between the event organizer and sponsors. It starts with building relationships, showing value, giving them an unbelievable offer and teaching them how to engage with attendees.

  • Learn what matters to your sponsors
  • How to adapt your sponsorship packages to their needs
  • Event sponsorship best practices
  • How to become a reliable partner that seeks to establish a win-win situation
  • How to create virtual event sponsorship opportunities

How to Choose the Right Sponsor for Your Event

File Folder Labeled as Sponsorship in Multicolor Archive. Closeup View. Blurred Image.

The search for the right event sponsor can be a long, difficult or even grueling task, and the process is unique for every planner and for each type of event. You don’t simply want to accept any sponsors you can find, but rather carefully consider the evaluative steps that will help you in your search. Working these considerations into your event strategy will have a lasting effect on how well each sponsor will fit into your event, how long it will take to establish the sponsorship, and how effective the sponsor will be in terms of partnership engagement and quality.

Money Matters

Money, of course, plays a crucial role for sponsorship and its potential delays. Generally, the larger the sponsor (along with the costs associated with it), the longer the onboarding process will be. In fact, higher budgets can easily take a couple of months of negotiation before the sponsor will commit and transfer the money. To help speed up the process, planners need to be able to calculate event ROI and justify it to their sponsors. For event planners looking to ensure a more reliable budget, especially those who plan annual events, it could be worth investing in session tracking event technology to prove to your sponsors your ROI in a measurable way.

Keep an Eye on Company Size

Small businessman aiming at a big businessman with connection and network concept

Smaller companies and larger corporations bring different strengths to the table. In a small company, typically the owner or one of the partners decides whether to sponsor an event or not. This essentially speeds up the process and facilitates the negotiations. Getting to know these leaders, what their company stands for, and what they can bring to your event, are all important facets of the event sponsorship decision making process. Bigger companies—on the other hand—typically follow a hierarchy and workflow for approval, and quite often your contact person might not have the power to decide over a budget alone. Depending on the number of involved persons, this can take a few days, up to even a couple of weeks in the worst case. Additionally, there are far more opportunities for plans to fall through. Do your best to evaluate which type of sponsor is best for your event, and always have a backup plan.

Perfect Your Pitch

Taking time to really personalize your pitch will pay off in the long run. The more complete the pitch is, the more streamlined the negotiations will be. Be sure to include these key elements for your pitch:

  • A careful and comprehensive description of the event, to ensure you and the sponsor can focus on really relevant questions instead of wasting time later trying to figure out basics.
  • The reasons why the sponsor should get involved, including attendee demographics (gender, age, industry and title, etc.) and examples of the visibility the sponsor can expect at the event. Additional information about the marital or employment status, as well as regional demographics might also be crucial depending on the type of the event.
  • Engaging sponsorship packages and any other details that may be deemed relevant.

Close up of businessman drawing money making formula

Event planners have an obligation to come up with compelling proposals of how to include sponsors and how to add value to their events, while sponsors today have to contribute to the success of the event. It is always extremely helpful to put yourself in the position of the sponsor to anticipate the questions they will ask you. This will speed up the process and avoid unnecessary pitfalls and roadblocks. It can be helpful to see the sponsor as someone who is investing in your mission and event, rather than simply considering them a cash-cow.

Prepare Yourself

Do you have everything ready in advance like contracts, invoices, asset-lists, etc.? The sponsor might ask you to provide these things even before anything is signed, and if no one has them prepared them, it can considerably slow down the process. It not only puts yourself in a stressful situation, but you will make a very unprofessional impression to the sponsor. CRMs provide great ways to streamline the sponsor outreach and to handle the entire deal-flow. They might include tasks, to-do lists, document management, tracked emails and many more things that help event planners getting things done. Starting early and being efficient pays off. It is time consuming to follow up on every point of contact, but event planners should not make the mistake to hope for a quick sale after the first contact has been established. Set milestones and deadlines, and stay on top of them often.

Recommended Resource: Are you struggling to create and run an event that attendees want to take part in? Our free eBook Your Event Essentials is the digital guide that will take you on a four step journey to enhancing your event success by giving you the most essential tips and tools to keep your attendees happy and increase ROI.


Virtual Event Sponsorship

virtual event attendee at desk with laptop screen of a sponsor

Just like in-person events, virtual and hybrid events are rich with opportunities and are not all that different. When planning your sponsorship package think about what you would offer sponsors at an in-person event some of those options might still apply for your virtual events. 

Generating Sponsorship Revenue for Virtual Events

  • Recognize sponsors with customized pages. They can grab attention with rotating product banners, videos, links to website resources, live product demos, and one-on-one chats.
  • Drive traffic to virtual exhibit hall booths via your event app. Send sponsored push notifications to segmented groups of attendees. Exhibitors can drive traffic to virtual booths regardless of attendees’ physical location.
  • Enrich sponsorship and exhibitor packages with robust ROI reports, sharing data on virtual booth traffic, leads, sessions, demos and downloads. Leverage insights from surveys and alertness checks, too. Prove value with reports that say, for example, “90 percent of the audience was engaged throughout sponsors’ sessions.”
  • Let sponsors and exhibitors see how their content is being consumed, when and by whom. Data-rich reports provide deep buyer insights companies can use to bolster their marketing with personalize event follow-up.

Monetize Your Mobile Event App

Businesswoman holding a smartphone with cash on screen

Event organizers can also use a mobile event app to convert live event sponsorships into digital ones with various in-app sponsorship options including:

  • Sponsored posts
  • Push notification
  • Premium listings
  • Product brochures
  • Banner ads
  • Logo placement
  • Sponsored session

Mobile event apps are not just for in-person events; virtual experiences can utilize them as well to provide easy ways for attendees to connect, sponsors to advertise, content to be shared and accessed, and event planners to gain better insight into their registrant behavior.

Recommended Resource: Technology changes quickly and it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the pace. The mobile world is no exception! Discover how event apps bring added value not only for your attendees, but also for your sponsors, speakers, and finally for the organizer. Download our free eBook Event App Blue Book, so you can start increasing the ROI of your event, protect your precious marketing dollars and become an expert in event mobile apps!


Effective Ways to Engage with Sponsors

Excited business people giving high-five in meeting room at an office

Organizers have an obligation to make sponsorships compelling and they shouldn't dare come up with any outdated proposals sponsors no longer respond to. Today’s organizers need to understand the objectives sponsors are interested in and they need to make sure that the expectations of the sponsors are fulfilled.

Everything starts with a simple statement: "Dear Sponsors, My Event is Your Event". Sponsors are companies and companies want to sell more. Therefore, they are looking for solid ROI or, more often today, ROO (return on objectives) to measure the success of their sponsorship.

As an event organizer, you can make a couple tweaks that can make your sponsorship proposal more attractive for sponsors.

Understand Your Sponsors Needs

Potential sponsors are choosing to be a part of your event because they are expecting to see some kind of return on investment, hopefully a big one. While you can’t guarantee a big return, you can give them a little peace of mind by letting them know the buying power of your event audience. If you let potential sponsors know that your audience is capable of buying and that there will be big decision makers in attendance, it may put their sponsorship contract on the fast track.

Once you have the attention of some companies, you need to create your sponsorship proposals. Skip the usual sponsorship packages and create packages that are targeted to the needs of these companies. The key is to listen to what they want, without compromising your bottom line goal.

When you reach out to potential sponsors, see if they have any great ideas that will bring more innovation to your event and help them to meet their marketing goals. Then, create a sponsorship package together that has your event goals in mind, but also meets the needs of your sponsor. Team work is very important and your sponsors will remember that you took the time to make sure that their needs were met.

Have Goals Aligned with Sponsors

Other ideas when it comes to engaging with sponsor is to think about what the sponsor is trying to accomplish this year. What are their big goals for what they're trying to do? Instead of saying to them, 'Oh, yeah. We'd love to do this crazy, thing and just slap your name on it” instead say, “What's your brand all about this year?”

Red Office Folder with Inscription Goals on Office Desktop with Office Supplies and Modern Laptop. Business Concept on Blurred Background. Toned Image.

For example, let's say a software company says “our big initiative is related to sustainability this year. We're trying to encourage people to be more sustainable, to use less paper.”

If you say to a sponsor, 'Hey, we're trying to do that, what you're trying to do that. What if we made it so that the sustainability element of the event was brought to you by your brand?' Now you're associated with this sustainable movement, the sustainable effort that's trying to be made. Also, again it enhances your event and it helps you accomplish and find ways that you can align your goals together.

Treat Event Sponsors Like Event Partners

puzzle pieces coming together to symbolize  event organizers and sponsors forming partnerships

As I said, teamwork is important and you need to stand together with a common goal in mind – to have a successful event. Sometimes in order to get sponsors on your side you need to show them that they are a part of your team and not just funding your event. This may mean offering them a little something extra to give them brand awareness or a bigger ROI.

  • The small plus: a demo table during lunch, an email blast the week before, or an interview onsite.
  • Include them in the event debrief after the event to get their feedback.
  • Allow them the opportunity to have some positive buzz when you partner with a charity for the event, or give them the opportunity to co-create content to be published before or after the event.

Attract Sponsors with the Right Speech & Timing

Understand that for different sponsors and contacts you are going to need to approach things in a different way. What might appeal to one person, may not to the next. For example, a sales person is going to respond positively to leads. When you speak with them, make sure that you mention the big decision makers that will be at your event and the amount of attendees. On the other hand, when you work with a marketer you are going to need to show them concrete data – results from last year, differentiation, added value and opportunities. They will also care a great deal about the price of the sponsorship.

Businesswoman in conference room sitting looking up at digital world map displaying her target audience

Everyone has objectives that they need to hit in order to achieve their goals, so educate yourself. Show people that your event is the right event for them. That means you need to know your target audience, behavior of the target (will they buy), results from last year, potential reach, market size and more. Seriously, do your research - you will get asked these questions. Would you buy a house without looking at the market value and having an official inspection? No, it is too risky. Don’t make the decision to invest in your event risky for your sponsors.

Finally, make sure you know when to pitch your event. Most businesses make their sponsorship decisions in the last quarter of the year, so plan accordingly! It will take several months to get approval on sponsorships from the right people, so make sure you have your pitches out months before that.

Where to Find Event Sponsors

Now that you have a plan on how to get your sponsors, you need to know where to find them. You can’t just type into Google, “sponsors for technology event.” You need to do your research. See what companies make sense for you to have on board and if you can get referrals from others. Here are our tips on where to look:

  • Social media, specifically LinkedIn is a great way to find the right sponsors by searching through groups. You can see what their interests are, their company and where they have done business before.
  • Create an advisory board with previous sponsors to help attract future sponsors. Your past sponsors can give feedback on sponsorship incentives/ideas/targets.
  • Create a referral program with other sponsors, so they can recommend key people in the industry and act as references to share what they gained.

Drawbacks That Turn Sponsors Off

event sponsors hand with finger on light switch, about to turn off the lights

The success of a majority of events depends on sponsorships. Yet it’s surprising how often event organizers make crucial mistakes when attracting sponsors. Dozens of events are reviewed by sponsors every day and many are sent back or are denied because they are not good fit. And many of their drawbacks could have been easily avoided. Here are some common mistakes event organizers make again and again when reaching out to sponsors.

Missing Sponsor Focus

Reaching out to sponsors isn't the same thing as reaching out to attendees. You need to provide tailor-made information for sponsors. Sponsorship packages with descriptions that are clearly copied and pasted from an event profile is major turnoff for sponsors. The sponsor is not interested in attending your event; they want to know how much visibility they will get at your event, and that’s fundamentally different from what attendees are interested in. Organizers need to think of their event from a sponsor's perspective, which means looking at the audience and not as a member of it.

Businessman is pulling up circle progress bar with the word VALUE on dark tone background

All the elements of a sponsorship package need to be revised and oriented towards the sponsor, paying particular attention to the visibility and added value the sponsor can expect while getting involved in the event.

Description Hiccups

Continuing with sponsorship packages, many organizers make the mistake of only having one or two sentence descriptions in their package. With a lack of information, sponsors will struggle to think of event organizers as reliable and professional business partners (because sponsorship is B2B). Of course the description texts should remain reasonably short and concise, but the organizer shouldn't forget to clearly highlight why businesses should sponsor the event, instead of just providing basic event information. It's one of the most crucial points in the whole package.

No Demographics

Sponsors are business people and therefore are striving to generate a solid ROI or ROO through sponsorships. That means that they want to bring their brand, product or service in front of the right audience. In this case, the right audience means the sponsor's exact target group. The most fundamental demographics that every event organizer should have ready for their event are the gender, age, income situation and the education level. Additional information about the marital or employment status, as well as regional demographics might also be crucial depending on the type of the event.

Seasoned event organizers will not have any problems when it comes to providing this information to sponsors, but newer professionals many not always think to be prepared. Always assume that the sponsor will ask for these demographics. An event organizer who’s unable to answer these questions will not be a happy camper throughout the sponsor negotiation process. 

Boring Sponsorship Packages

 Tired businesswoman at her desk, showing yawning gesture while talking to someone on mobile phone.

Sponsorship has a boring history - and it is still often boring today. Luckily this is changing with a shift in mindset towards interactive sponsorship techniques. An increasing number of sponsors have become aware that they need to be seen as added value for an event instead of being a necessary evil. But how can you avoid boring while organizers still proudly put “logo on the flyer” as an option in their sponsorship packages? Organizers have an obligation to come up with compelling proposals of how to include sponsors and how to add value to their events, while sponsors today have to contribute to the success of the event. This can only happen if the organizers involve the sponsors early on in the event planning process and give them a certain amount of space to develop creative ideas. Coming up with interesting ideas means a lot of brainstorming, as well as the willingness to disrupt tradition and follow new paths. 

Unprofessional Follow Up

It's surprising how many event organizers are missing out on the opportunity to sell their event to sponsors by messing up the sales follow up instead of learning how to apply proven sales techniques. Of course it is time consuming to follow up on every contact, but organizers should not make the mistake to hope for a quick sale after the first contact has been established. The bigger the sponsorship is, the longer it will probably take to close the deal. The way to go is to establish a working sales funnel. There are plenty of great tutorials around how to build a sales funnel. Setting milestones and a clear schedule for follow-up activities is an obvious choice - yet many organizers neglect these basic rules.


Creative Event Sponosrship Ideas

event trade show exhibit hall

You don’t want to be ordinary. Anyone can do that! It’s easy to do the “same old same old” and just let the sponsorship machine chug along the same old track. OR you can leave your comfort zone, add new value and experience to the event and improve the ROO and ROI for your sponsor. This will bring your sponsor back year after year, engaging with your customers and investing in your bottom line which makes for a happy event manager! Nothing is better than when a sponsor thanks you profusely for allowing them to invest in your event! We know the proof is in the pudding so below are few examples of how you can turn the ordinary into extraordinary when it comes to event sponsorship.

Belly Band on the Event Directory

We all know customers buy them and we also know they often end up on the floor, torn up, and spilling out of the garbage cans near registration. However, you can easily resolve this by putting your sponsors ad on the belly band, which wraps around the event guide but with a call to action that entices attendees to fill out their name and info on the inside of the belly band. They would then bring it to your sponsors booth to enter their name to win a prize also creating a qualified lead.

Coffee Breaks

connect better over coffee

Wonder why nobody buys them?  Because as the status quo, they don’t provide real value to the sponsor! Traditionally you would add the organizations name on napkins with easel sign recognizing sponsor. A more creative way to attract attendees to these stations would be to provide the hot cup coffee wrap on each cup, plus napkins and a special give-away that prompts the attendee to go to the booth to qualify to win a prize!

Floor Decals

We know they are fun, but do they really drive value? Floor decals are a great place to increase revenue by including monetization options such as premium listings. It can be used as an add-on for sponsorship packages, as the increased visibility will help drive traffic to those booths. When going this route use creative graphics and adhere them to floor with a “wow” factor in the image. Even better, you can use the same adhesives on tabletops and put personalized “placemats” on the top of every table where everyone will be eating lunch. Same product, same production costs, much better impact!

Sponsored WI-Fi

Wifi tracking

Because almost all events have Wi-Fi and because attendees have come to expect events to have free Wi-Fi, this technology provides a great opportunity for organizers to sell Wi-Fi sponsorships.

Wi-Fi Name

Think about the Wi-Fi set up. You can give your sponsorship some brand recognition that costs you zero money and it's super-duper easy to do. For example, you can sponsor the network name of the Wi-Fi your attendees will connect to at your event. So instead of just calling it 'My Event Wi-Fi,' think about how you can use this opportunity to engage with a sponsor.

Wi-Fi Password

The second portion of that is you also have the password for the Wi-Fi. This is almost where you can hit two sponsors in one. Let's say you name your Wi-Fi Drift, but you make the password Demandbase. Boom! You have two opportunities where there's brand recognition.

girl using a digital generated phone with free wifi on the screen

Now let's look at the two other options you can use Wi-Fi for. Again, it's just an example of something that you probably already have but has so many-faceted options for sponsorship.

Let's say, for example, you want to do what's called a captive portal. That's when you connect to the Wi-Fi at let’s say a coffee shop and it says, “click here to connect” or maybe you have to give your email address or for a hotel, you have to put your room number. That's also an opportunity for branding. You can put some logos on there, some graphics, use it to promote next year's event, you can collect email addresses and then the sponsor can email attendees afterward. The best part is that technology doesn't cost any money.

Wi-Fi Password Posters

Lastly, you should also think about how people are always going to be wondering how they connect to the Wi-Fi. You can post posters everywhere with the Wi-Fi password. This is again a sponsorship opportunity. On the poster, you can write “Wi-Fi brought to you by Aventri”. This costs you almost no money to do and we all know sponsors who love to have their name all over the Wi-Fi because they know every attendee is going to want to use it.

So, that's an example of how you can think about the technologies you are bringing in for your event and how you can integrate sponsorships with them. Because a lot of technologies include screen time or some interactivity element, you can brand these things, you can throw logos on it, you can use it for lead capture, etc.

Reuse Sponsorship Content After Your Event

Speaker giving a talk on corporate Business Conference. Audience at the conference hall. Business and Entrepreneurship event.

Create new opportunities for your sponsors by applying the motto, "work smarter, not harder" to your events. Specifically, extend the length of your event sponsorships by repurposing sponsorship event content. 

The other big major portion of sponsorship opportunities relates to thinking about your event as a media house. Far too often, especially in conferences and in conventions, there are tons of breakout rooms, general sessions where you bring in these big A-list celebrity speakers. Why are you not filming these and then turning them into assets for later? Always try to think about how you can take all the stuff your making at an event and reuse it, repurpose it, and continue to use that all day long.

Recommended Resource: When it comes to events, an attendee’s first impression is often made with the technology they interact with; how and where it’s used, how seamless it is and how it drives convenience as well as engagement. Our free eBook Optimizing the Attendee Journey was developed to help event planners around the world make better, more strategic decisions when it comes to onsite technology.


Conclusion

win win situation

Sponsorship will always be a win, win situation. It is a good way for you to enhance your event financially and add new services, entertainment or learning for your attendees.

On the other hand, it is good for the sponsors because they have the chance to create new business, have more brand awareness and hopefully a good ROI.

When you are in the process of attracting sponsors, creating packages and convincing people to invest in your event, think of it as a journey of discovery. Prepare to engage in lengthy and sometimes frustrating negotiations that may fail at any moment.

Finding sponsors is more like running a marathon: the strategy and preparation matters just as much as the execution. You are embarking on a new relationship with an organization and get the chance to collaborate - it is more than just a hunt for money! 

before you cancel or postpone your event, go virtual


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