A huge number of events rely on sponsors to cover their costs and make them viable. This probably applies to yours, too. After all, having successful sponsorship relationships can mean the difference between simply breaking even or making a profit when it comes to both in-person and online events.
Whether you’re running an online event and need a sponsor to cover virtual goodie bags, or are on the hunt for a seven-figure festival sponsor, the same principles apply.
The key to attracting sponsors is creating a valuable offer in return. The more attractive you make this reward, the more sponsors are likely to want to work with you. Some ideas that offer exposure and networking opportunities for potential sponsors include branding on promotional items like swag bags or pens, physical event signage, “takeovers” on your social media channels, and having a speaker from the sponsor organisation give a presentation at your event.
Wondering how to find corporate sponsorship for an event? In this guide, find tips for creating a successful proposal and cold email campaign, as well as some brilliant event sponsorship ideas.
Why do companies sponsor events?
When a company sponsors an event, it’s usually looking for one of three things:
- Access to a specific audience that it wouldn’t otherwise have access to
- Marketing value and raising awareness of its brand
- A way to boost its corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Sometimes, it can be a mix of all three. Whichever outcome your sponsor is expecting, a return on investment (ROI) is very much at the forefront and this is something that event teams need to consider (and be able to demonstrate to sponsors). Many event sponsors won’t spend money without being sure about the return they will get.
ROI is often hard to measure, but your event sponsor will usually be looking for examples of how they can translate the event activity into extra sales, more customers, or staff engagement. Consider the following benefits of sponsoring an event when calculating ROI:
Events that align with your sponsor’s values can help to boost their brand stature and authority, with potential exposure to an audience within their target demographic. For brands looking to nurture an existing customer base, sponsoring an event can reaffirm their links in the industry and encourage loyalty through repeated exposure.
Another advantage of event sponsorship is internal marketing, aimed at involving the company’s own staff – particularly those who may be feeling disengaged after a merger or period of growth. Through sponsoring an event, companies can realign values and show staff the kind of company that they work for.
Many companies now rely on online methods of lead generation, but event sponsorship poses a great opportunity to interact with people – whether it’s an in-person or virtual date. Sponsors can be offered the opportunity to speak to attendees during or after the event and capture their data – all of which could help to fill their pipeline for the coming year and generate new leads and sales.
How to create an event sponsorship proposal letter
Before you begin approaching any event sponsors, you need to create an event sponsorship proposal.
While no proposal or pitch deck can take the place of a good old-fashioned conversation, having the right introduction or follow-up in the form of a PDF or PowerPoint presentation can play a pivotal role in your success. Overall, your proposal should be short, sharp, and supportive of your broader sales pitch.
Your sponsorship pitch deck will generally be used in three ways:
- As the first contact with you and your event
- As a follow-up and reminder of the key points discussed in your conversation
- By your contact to pitch the sponsorship internally to their colleagues
In all three cases, it is important that you include all of the most value-highlighting facts about your event in the sponsorship proposal – but nothing else.
How to research potential event sponsors
Once you have your proposal document ready to go, it’s time to start looking for sponsors. If a sponsor isn’t a good match for you, it’s not going to be easy to get them to invest in your event. This is why it’s crucial to spend time determining what your event is about, including who your target audience is and how your event will connect to them in a way that perhaps a brand can’t.
Then, consider keywords, age ranges, and the spending power of the type of vendors that you’d like to attract. Find companies within your event’s niche, whether that’s extreme sports, indie music, or wellness workshops. Next, look at what your target companies have sponsored previously. Browse business news and marketing magazines for snippets of news about what companies are doing, where their marketing direction is taking them, and how they want to communicate with their audience. You can also use this research to tailor your pitch and grab their initial interest.
How to approach brands to sponsor an event
Not sure how to approach sponsors for an event? There are a number of ways to kick off the relationship. If you already have a mutual friend or have met the person in real life, approaching them may be slightly easier. However, if you’re starting from scratch as a cold introduction, you may want to use the internet’s oldest and most trusted tool: email.
Email’s effectiveness is often dependent on the quality of your writing. To help you out on that front, we brought in the big guns: Grammarly, a company whose service is trusted by millions to make their writing clear, effective, and mistake-free.
“When it comes to email, words matter,” says Grammarly content marketing manager, Taylor Price. “The words you choose need to convince someone that your email is worth opening. And that starts with a good subject line.”
Here are seven cold email event sponsorship guidelines to take note of.
1. Give sponsors a reason to open
As you begin to approach brands for business sponsorship, remember that your goal is not to sell sponsorship. “The average person receives over 120 emails a day,” says Price. “If your subject line asks too much or comes off as needy, it’s likely to end up in the [bin].”
Instead, write a subject line that gives the sponsor context for why you’re reaching out to them.
“Imagine you made contact with someone that works for a prospective sponsor at a recent networking event,” Price says. “If you’re convinced they’d remember you favourably, it’s always helpful to bring it up.”
A subject line that says “Met you at [event]. Let’s connect!” sets the context for your message and extends an invitation to continue the relationship. The same strategy works when emailing a referral, too. All you have to do is say, “[Referrer name] recommended I get in touch.”
2. Start off hot
Convincing a prospective sponsor to open your email is just the beginning. Your next challenge is keeping their attention – come off too pushy, and they’ll quickly wonder why they opened it in the first place. The same applies if you aren’t clear about what you are asking.
3. Avoid “hope you’re doing well”
“It’s a stock opening that we’re all too familiar with,” Price says. “For in-person conversations, it’s socially mandated. But on email, you risk sounding insincere.”
There are better ways to break the ice and get down to business.
“If you’re writing a high-stakes email that needs to get results, it never hurts to do your homework,” says Price. “You don’t have to stalk someone on social media, but doing a little research can go a long way. Include a sentence or two at the opening of your email to show you’re familiar with the recipient’s work.”
Let’s say your prospect was recently recognised as an industry leader by a well-respected publication. A brief note congratulating them on their accomplishments will demonstrate that you’re interested in their goals.
4. Mention connections
“Again, mentioning a mutual connection is a huge plus,” says Price. “People are much more receptive if you’ve been referred by someone they know and respect.”
But while it’s important to give context to your relationship to the sponsor, don’t write a novel. Once you’ve briefly mentioned your mutual connection, transition into the purpose of your email.
Here’s an example: “I recently had lunch with [referrer name], who shared some of your ideas. I was blown away! I think your approach would be a perfect fit for a project I’m working on.”
5. Seek their expert opinion
Remember – sponsorship is supposed to be win-win. Asking a prospective sponsor for help taps into their ego. “We like to be thought of as experts,” says Price. “We like to know that our opinions matter.”
The key to success, according to Price, is making your request seem effortless. “Keep in mind that you’re not the only person asking for their time,” he says. “If you let them know how long your request will take, they’ll be more likely to respond – and commit.”
You can demonstrate how much you respect their time by keeping your request concise. “Spare 15 minutes to give your expert feedback” is only eight words in length and articulates the request perfectly.
6. Ask for the referral or meeting
By now, the potential sponsor should know who you are and what you want from them. The last piece of the puzzle is telling them what you want them to do. Be explicit and include a clear call to action.
“Would you be able to put me in touch with [referrer name]?” or “Does 3 p.m. work for a phone call?” are questions that ask them to commit.
Whatever you close with, avoid signing off with “thanks in advance.”
“If you thank a sponsor in advance for doing something, it can come across as arrogant,” Price advises. “Depending on the context, it could make you sound as though you’re expecting them to do something.”
Closing with an expression of gratitude is shown to increase response rates, so while you should avoid thanking your prospects in advance, a simple “thanks” can go a long way.
7. Take the next step
Sponsorship is a relationship business. The better you can build connections with your potential sponsors and establish trust, the more valuable your event will become.
Event sponsorship levels: 3 sponsorship package ideas
Use event sponsorship levels and benefits to create easy-to-understand tiered options. Below are examples of standard sponsorship systems that you can use to get vendors and potential partners to agree to sponsor your online or in-person event. You can see how the benefits for the sponsor increase alongside the cost of sponsorship.
Many event creators will also have one main sponsor, who will have exclusive benefits that are not available to the other, lower-tiered sponsors.
Gold – £50,000
- Opportunity to address all event attendees in a speaker session
- Brand logo on the cover of all printed event materials and brand profile page
- Conference holding slide with brand logo and Twitter handle
- 20 social media posts to promote attendance prior to the event
- Exhibition stand 20m x 20m
- One-page ad in the event brochure
- Three guest blog posts on the event website
- A key interview in the event podcast
- Website entry
- Main sponsor of delegate drinks networking event
- Sole branding of delegate goodie bags
Silver – £10,000
- Brand profile page in printed event materials
- Small logo on sponsor page of conference slides
- 10 social media posts to promote attendance prior to the event
- Exhibition stand 10m x 10m
- Chance to hold a 30-minute speaker session on the campfire stage each day of the event
- Free printed leaflet in the delegate goodie bags
- Attendance to delegate drinks networking event
Bronze – £5,000
- Brand profile page in printed event materials
- Small logo on sponsor page of conference slides
- Two social media posts to promote attendance prior to the event
- Exhibition shell scheme pop-up stand 5m x 5m
- Attendance to delegate drinks networking event
Some of the other event sponsorship packages that you could consider are:
- Having one sponsor for each activity or area – for example, a main stage or virtual networking sponsor
- Having a headline conference sponsor that’s dedicated just to your conference programme
- Sponsors for specific sessions, talks, or breakout rooms
How to thank sponsors of an event
When sponsors have taken the time and financial commitment to sponsor your event, you want to ensure that they feel valued. Here are some of the methods you could use to thank your sponsors:
1. Thank them during the event
It’s important to give your sponsors the recognition they deserve while the key audience is still present – this is who they’re trying to reach after all. Take a few moments at the end of the last session, or during an award or networking party, to thank your sponsors and make them feel appreciated. This is a great time to gather feedback and broach future opportunities for partnership, too.
2. Send a thank you note
Post-event, send sponsors a thank you note, preferably one that is handwritten and personalised. This shows more effort than an email and is something visible that the sponsor can keep, helping to reinforce your event in their mind.
3. Write a social media shoutout
If you don’t have time to thank all of your sponsors during your event, a social media shoutout will also help them to feel valued and could send more followers their way. Try to think about a creative and entertaining way, such as using video, an Instagram story series, or photos of them from the event.
4. Re-share sponsor content
Helping to promote your sponsor’s content outside of the event agreement will help generate goodwill and show them that you are thinking of long-term partnerships over short-term gain. This could be retweeting a sponsor’s tweet, re-sharing a blog post, or adding their videos to your YouTube channels.
5. Create a case study
Creating a case study on your website about the sponsor and their involvement in your event will help them to receive additional exposure and gives you a reason to stay in touch after the event. This has the added benefit of being collateral you can use to entice new sponsors next time.
Establishing a long-lasting sponsor relationship
Sponsorship can be the key to pulling off a memorable and engaging event, whether that’s virtually or in-person. When it comes to how to obtain sponsorship for an event, research and clear communication are vital. Following the above steps, you’ll be well on your way to not only attracting relevant sponsors, but fostering valuable long-term relationships.