A huge number of events rely on sponsors to cover their costs and make them viable. Probably yours does too.
Breaking even or making a profit can be extremely difficult without them.
Whether you’re running a small networking evening for 50 people and need a sponsor for £200-worth of drinks, or you need a 7-figure festival headline sponsor, the principles for a winning sponsorship pitch are the same.
A sponsor can either provide hard cash or benefits in kind, such as free audiovisual services or catering. But, naturally, you have to offer them something in return.
In this guide, we’ll explain what event sponsorship is, how to create a successful event sponsorship proposal and tips on using cold emails to secure your first sponsors.
Let’s dive straight it.
Why do companies sponsor events?
When a company sponsors an event they’re usually looking for one of three things:
- Access to a specific audience that they wouldn’t otherwise get in front of.
- Marketing value and raising awareness of their brand.
- CSR (corporate social responsibility) reasons.
Sometimes, it can be a mix of all three. Whichever outcome your sponsor is expecting, a return on investment is very much to the forefront and this is something that event teams need to consider. Many event sponsors won’t spend money without being sure about the return they will get.
Creative event sponsorship ideas
The more attractive your event sponsorship ideas are, the more sponsors you are likely to attract. There are many different reasons why a sponsor might be interested in your event, and finding them the perfect opportunity to stand out could include:
- Sponsorship of promotional items – this could be the event brochure, bags, ‘swag’ items like mugs and pens, or even drinks. Why not let your sponsor’s logo be imprinted on a huge ice sculpture? It’ll certainly stand out!
- Event signage – this is any physical branding around your event, like posters, outdoor branding and screen advertising. You could also allow them branding in the food courts, bathrooms or across the party destination for a creative twist.
- Event branding – many events allow headline sponsors to have branding alongside the event itself. This may be a “sponsored by” tagline under the event name, or even the naming of the event itself. For example the “Virgin London Marathon”, named after the key sponsor, Virgin.
- Online branding – consider allowing your sponsor to “take over” your online channels, in a Twitter talk, a Facebook Live session or even using their brand colour on your homepage background.
- Speaker or hosting sessions – providing sponsors with a chance to get in front of their key audience is a great sponsorship opportunity. This could include hosting a roundtable discussion, introducing the speakers or presenting a talk. If you want to get more creative, this could also include sponsoring a sunrise yoga session, a drinks party or a colourful ‘kidult’ play area.
Advantages of sponsoring an event
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. Some of the benefits of sponsoring an event might include:
1. Boosting your brand
- Brand stature: events that tie into a brand’s mission will help the brand to achieve more stature in the marketplace. Not only will their branding be on show, but they’ll also be in a room full of people who are within their target audience.
- Brand attitude: for a brand trying to align itself with a certain demographic and a certain attitude, sponsoring an event is a great way to realign brand positioning. Look at the brand Red Bull that sponsors sports events and athletes. This is because Red Bull wants to attract the attention of a sporting audience.
- Brand loyalty: for a brand that wants to nurture a new audience or customer base, sponsoring an event can help to reinforce their links with that audience and create genuine loyalty.
2. Improving internal marketing
Another advantage of event sponsorship is internal marketing, aimed at the company’s own staff. For staff members who are disengaged, perhaps because they’ve been through a merger or a period of growth, this helps the company to realign their values.
Through sponsoring an event they can a) show staff what kind of a company they are, and b) they can get their staff involved. Event sponsorship these days is about taking part. It’s not just about writing a cheque and seeing your name stamped all over banners. The advantage for these companies is that their staff become involved with the event.
3. Generating leads
Many companies now rely on online methods of lead generation, but event sponsorship poses a great opportunity to get face-to-face with real people.
Sponsors are often given the opportunity to meet with event attendees and capture their data. This could be at a networking party, after a speaker session or on a tradeshow booth. All of which, could help to fill their pipeline for the coming year and generate news leads which will lead to sales, a huge sponsorship advantage.
How can you find the right sponsor match for your event?
If an event sponsor isn’t the right match for you, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to get them to spend money. To determine the right fit, you need to understand what your event is all about.
Who your audience is, what their demographic is, what their beliefs are, what their interests are and how you’re really connecting to them in a way that perhaps a brand can’t. This is what allows you to assess the value you might have to give to a potential sponsor.
How to create an event sponsorship proposal
Before you begin approaching any event sponsors you need to create an event sponsorship proposal.
While no sponsorship proposal or pitch deck can take the place of a good old fashion conversation, having the right introduction or follow-up, in the form of a pdf or ppt sponsorship deck, will play a pivotal role in your success.
Your sponsorship pitch deck will generally be used in 3 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 use-cases, it is important you include all of the most important and value-highlighting facts about your event in the sponsorship proposal – but nothing else.
The event sponsorship proposal – in the form of a pitch deck or pdf – should be short, sharp and supportive of your overall sales pitch. Nothing more, nothing less.
To help guide you through the creation of a great pitch deck, we’ve compiled an event sponsorship template with a completed example which you can download using the form on the right.
How to research potential event sponsors
Once you have your proposal document ready to go, it’s time to find the right people to approach. This is all about research. Think about keywords, age ranges and spending power of the type of vendors you’d like to attract. Find companies within your event’s niche; whether you are talking about extreme sports, music or culture. Then look at what your target companies have sponsored previously. Look at the business news and marketing magazines for little 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 to tailor your pitch and grab their initial interest by showing that you’ve done your research.
How to approach vendors to sponsor an event
If you already have a mutual friend or have met the person in real life, approaching them may be slightly easier. However, if you are starting from scratch as a cold introduction, you may want to use 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.
Using cold emails to approach event sponsors
“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.”
- Give sponsors a reason to open
As you begin to approach potential sponsors, 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 trash.”
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.”
- 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 the potential sponsor will quickly wonder why they opened it in the first place. The same applies if you aren’t clear about what you are asking.
Striking a balance takes practice.
- 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.
- Mention how you’re connected
“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.”
- 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 fifteen minutes to give your expert feedback” is only eight words in length and articulates the request perfectly.
- 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 15:00 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.
- 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.
3 Example Event Sponsorship Packages
Here is an example of a standard, tiered, sponsorship system that you can use to get vendors and potential partners to agree to sponsor your event. You can see how the benefits of that sponsor increase alongside the cost of sponsorship.
Many event organisers will also have one main sponsor, who will have exclusive benefits that are not available to the other, lower tiered sponsors.
|Type of sponsor||Sponsorship package includes:||Example cost:|
Some of the other event sponsorship packages that you could consider are:
- Having one sponsor for each activity or area; for example, a drinks party sponsor or a main stage sponsor.
- Having a headline conference sponsor that’s dedicated just to your conference programme.
- Sponsors for specific sessions, talks or breakout rooms.
- Sponsors who have access digitally to your audience; whether this is on your website, event page, social media or as a mention in your email newsletter.
How to thank sponsors of an event
When sponsors have taken the time and financial commitment to sponsor your event, you want to ensure 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 awards or networking party, to thank your sponsors and make them feel appreciated.
2. Thank them in person
Thanking your sponsors in person during the event will let them know that you haven’t forgotten about their contribution and will also allow them the chance to discuss any feedback from the show. Emotions are often heightened during the end of a successful event and this is a great time to broach future opportunities for partnership.
3. 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.
4. Write a social media shout out
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 way to do this, such as using video, an Instagram story series or using photos of them from the event, to make it entertaining.
5. Re-share sponsor content
Helping to promote your sponsor’s content outside of the event agreement will help generate good will and show them that you are thinking of long-term partnerships over short term gain. This could be retweeting a sponsor’s tweet, resharing a blogpost or adding their videos to your YouTube channels.
6. 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.
It’s true that sponsorship is a competitive market place, with many worthy organisations bidding. That said, there are a great deal of companies out there with budget for this type of activity, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to access it by following the advice above.