Updated Nov 3rd, 2023 by Nicolas Zenker
Events can be entertaining, educational, and inspirational. To achieve this, however, you have to invest money in them.
Research shows that the average corporation spends 21% of its marketing budget on events, which is quite a chunk of change. Clearly, this implies that successful businesses see the value in hosting them.
Nonetheless, it’s crucial to be cost-efficient. One way to do this is by partnering with another organization. Here’s how to secure an event sponsorship agreement with a successful brand and split the costs between you.
An event sponsor is an individual or organization that helps you fund your event. This could be in the form of cash or another in-kind contribution. It’s unlikely a sponsor will do this out of the goodness of their heart i.e. they’ll expect something in exchange for their support.
Sponsors will want to benefit from your arrangement too. They’ll likely desire exposure, valuable data, or something else that’s good for their business. As such, most sponsors are looking for public events with a wide reach, meaning you’ll be hard-pressed to secure sponsorship for a private function.
These partnerships are most commonly between event planners and businesses with something in common. For example, imagine a conference about the state of the internet, which is sponsored by a business that sells domain names.
Event sponsorship comes in several forms. Each of these can be worth pursuing depending on your event’s goals.
The budget of an event will often determine its scale and ambition. Sponsors can help you realize your vision through a contribution of cash. You can use this money for venue hire, staff, sound and lighting, and so on.
Another way to reduce your spending through sponsorship is via in-kind contributions. This is when the sponsor provides something other than cash. For example, many events will hold raffles and prize draws as these are a good way to boost your event marketing. In-kind sponsors might provide the prizes.
This kind of sponsorship is intended to raise the profile of the event. It also increases awareness of the sponsoring organization. The organizer and sponsor essentially agree to boost each other’s brands.
This might mean prominently displaying the sponsor’s logo at the event. In exchange, the sponsor may boost awareness of the event by advertising it on their social media.
Sponsorship agreements needn’t be limited to just one of the above; they can encompass all three if it’s right for the event and the sponsor.
Now you understand what event sponsorship is, you may be wondering whether to consider it. There are three main reasons for doing so. Let’s explore them in more detail below.
You want attendees to leave your event thinking it was engaging, fun, and worthwhile. You have a vision for how things should be, but sometimes, that vision is constrained by your budget. Sponsorship can loosen these constraints.
The money you get from a sponsor can make your event bigger and better. It can help keep ticket prices affordable too, thereby raising attendance levels. It can even assist with the marketing of the event.
Let’s look at a specific example of how a sponsor might help with your event budget. There are a surprising number of things to consider during planning, one of them being your communications setup. You could make a sponsorship agreement with a hosted phone system supplier, where they agree to provide you with communications for free or at a discount. In return, they gain brand exposure.
With a synergy sponsorship agreement, you can boost awareness of your event too. This means you can extend your reach further than would otherwise be possible by securing an agreement with a well-known brand.
The key to this is cross-promotion. You agree to mention your sponsor in any event advertising you put out. In return, the sponsor features your event in communications with its customers.
Ideally, you want a sponsor that has a good reputation, so you can leverage the trust they’ve built among their customer base. Your target audience is more likely to be interested in attending if they hear about your event from a trusted source.
Successful brands often trade off their reputation for quality products or services. Acquire a sponsorship agreement with one of them, and it will lend your event credibility.
This is because it acts as a seal of approval from an already trusted brand. Potential attendees will feel confident that the event will meet a certain standard. After all, the brand they like and trust has put their name to it.
Finding the right event sponsor is crucial to a successful partnership. Firstly, they need to be a good fit—there’s little point in getting Nike to sponsor a conference about cloud PBX systems, for example. Essentially, there should be a connection between the event and the sponsoring organization.
You can find good candidates by asking yourself the following questions.
Take a moment to break down the event you’re planning. Consider your goals, and think about what kinds of questions a potential sponsor may ask.
Figure out what it is about the event that sets it apart. What’s its unique selling point? This will help you clinch an agreement and may be the start of an ongoing relationship with your sponsor.
If you’re planning a recurring event, let potential sponsors know about this in advance.
Your sponsor candidates should each be appropriate to the event. For instance, say you’re planning a film festival—a sponsorship deal with a movie theater chain would be perfect; an agreement with a cleaning products vendor would be less so.
Your interests should align with the sponsor organization’s interests, with your event and the sponsor brand complementing each other.
It’s vital your event sponsor is able to contribute in some way. Avoid approaching businesses that are too small for the event you hope to put on. At the same time, don’t go too big either. If your event is a local gymnastics meet, Adidas is unlikely to give you the time of day. In short, find the right size of sponsor for the event you’re holding.
Do a little research into other similar events too—it’s easy enough to find out who’s sponsoring rival events. You can use this information to target the competition. Your argument should be that their competitor is already getting publicity through sponsorship, so you’re approaching them with an opportunity.
Alternatively, this research can act as a source of potential sponsors. These organizations will have already sponsored similar events and may be amenable to negotiating additional sponsorship agreements moving forward.
Once you’ve decided who to approach, you need to know how to do it. Your best bet is to approach their marketing department unless you already have a connection within the organization. If you do, reach out to them. Send an email, make a call, or send a fax online. They may be able to help directly or, at the very least, point you in the right direction.
Before you pitch to them, find out everything you can about the organization. You’re looking for ways to back up your argument and prove that sponsoring your event is mutually beneficial.
So, try and answer the following questions ahead of time.
They need to be a decision-maker, and you require their contact information and job role. A good place to find this is through LinkedIn. Search the company name, and you should find the profiles of any key players.
It has to be something that meets one of their business goals. Your event could be good publicity or might introduce the brand to new people. Find something specific to help pique interest in what you’re offering.
We touched on this before, but is your target organization the right size to support your event in the way you’re hoping? You should be able to ascertain this information without having to look at its books. For example, you can usually get a sense of this through a business’s social media accounts.
Approach your target with an offer that’s ready to go. There will, of course, be some negotiation, but you’ve got to give them an idea of what’s in it for them upfront.
Supply as much information about the event as is feasible, with the pitch centering around how sponsorship would benefit the business you’re approaching. Tell them what demographics they could reach, and let them know how and where in the event schedule you’d be featuring their brand.
When you pitch, be open and honest. Don’t oversell what you’re offering, but be confident in whatever you can be confident about. Don’t mislead your prospect either—to do so runs the risk of ending a potentially fruitful relationship before it’s begun.
Remember, this could be the beginning of an ongoing co-branding agreement, which might mean bigger and better events in the future. This is especially true for organizations with a history of sponsorship.
Event sponsorship can alleviate your budget worries and make for better experiences for attendees.
Use our in-depth guide today to successfully secure a sponsor for your next event.