Recently, I had the pleasure of leading a local YLC Class on the topic of Execution. Afterward, we had a great Q&A session and I encouraged the class to please e-mail me with any additional questions. The following day I received an e-mail with a question I seem to get asked very often… “How do I go about getting companies to sponsor my event?”
The events marketplace has seen a dramatic decrease in event corporate sponsorship over the last decade for a myriad of reasons:
- Overall Efficiency of Digital Marketing: hard and fast RoI metrics
- Weather Risk (we also are seeing a substantial amount of weather clawback provisions which is exceptionally dangerous to your company as most dollars are spent before the weather arrives)
- Smaller Marketing Budgets
That being said, you can still attract corporate interest in your event but let’s not put the cart before the horse. Some preliminary questions must be answered before knocking on doors. Is your company a non-profit or at the very least incorporated? Have you built out a tight budget so you know exactly what your expense load is with a margin of error built-in? Your goal is to go into your event in the black or very close to it via sponsorship so that you know before the event even starts that you will have money not only to pay your incurred expenses but that you have nothing but pure margin to go towards your bottom line and your mission! Knowing what those expenses are….the next step is identifying the assets you have for sale for sponsorship and pricing those out at a reasonable level. However, you need to make sure that the prices are fair and allow you to deliver ROI beyond the sponsor’s expectations. If you sell a sponsor a false bill of goods, they will not be back and that word spreads quickly.
So what do corporate sponsors want? Once you have your assets in mind, you need to gather the demographics of your event. Sponsors want to how many people will be attending, age group, and other social and economic data points. When we (Hogs for the Cause) were young, we thought, “everyone will want to be part of this, look at what we’re doing; it’s so great.” While that may be true, there are hundreds if not thousands of other events just like you (and us!) who are asking for the same thing! So you better have something the sponsor wants for them to be interested! Know well ahead of time how your event differentiates from others and how you can provide value to your targeted sponsors. An event is no different than a viable business. You must have a differentiated product (how does your event stand out among all the others?) and provide exceptional customer service (how do you give your patrons an authentic, amazing experience?) The first question you should ask any potential sponsor is “What is your goal when you sponsor events?” It could be activations/engagements, it could purely be optics, it could be a market share grab or just making sure their competitor isn’t in it. Will there be media for the sponsor? Earned/Owned/Paid? Whatever it is, know their goal and deliver well and beyond for them. Once you receive a commitment, your job has just begun! Now you must deliver. I would recommend a person on your team whose role is strictly a sponsor liaison.
Finally, a nascent event that is pulling largely from the local market will likely need to start small: local banks, law firms, insurance companies, financial planning companies, etc. Those usually have marketing budgets for community events. Also, are you looking for cash only or will you consider in-kind? You may be able to get more if willing to take in-kind (and this is great if it reduces an expense line item on the P&L), especially in the beginning as it allows you to create a relationship that you can build and start delivering ROI over time. Hopefully, you have a Board or committees in place. LEVERAGE those relationships. When new, I always advise getting as involved as possible in your community. Volunteer for other people’s events. It’s a great learning tool and connects you with groups that will want to help at your event. One minor speed bump you will face is that the winter months are typically Budget Season. Bigger companies spend is pretty dried up by then and they are forecasting where and how much their marketing budget will be for the next year. This is a great time to sell your event and start building that relationship. Events need corporate support in order to survive in this market, but you cannot just accept a check and expect it to be sticky annually. What is your event’s value proposition? Event sponsorship is not unilateral!