Securing sponsorships can seem confusing and intimidating. But fear not! I’m about to break down exactly how to get the event sponsors you need.
What Are Corporate Sponsors?
Let’s start off with the basics, shall we? What are corporate sponsors?
Basically, corporate sponsors are businesses that give valuable support to your event. In return, they usually receive publicity that will support their own company.
Let’s break down a few types of event sponsors:
Financial sponsors are the most common. They give money to event planners in exchange for a benefit, such as publicity at the event.
In-kind sponsors offer something of value to the event planner that is not money. Perhaps they donate use of a venue, catering, or merchandise for prizes. In exchange, they would receive the same coveted publicity as financial sponsors would.
Media sponsorships offer publicity to the event. This may take the form of news coverage, newspaper advertisements, social media posts, and more.
Media sponsors are a good idea for those who may not have the budget for effective advertising.
In the world of influencers, promotional sponsorships are fairly easy to come by. They promote your event to their fanbase or platform in exchange for money, free goods, and/or publicity.
When it comes to sponsorships, you may see organizations and businesses collaborating with highly established companies.
There is nothing wrong with this, but I encourage you to remember local companies. Why?
- Asking a local business owner to collaborate demonstrates your commitment to the local community.
- Investing in each other is a financial service to your community, as well as a morale booster.
Can your favorite local restaurants do the catering? Can the print shop around the corner create the invitations and flyers? Can you bring in a local master of ceremonies?
Remember, You Can Have Multiple Sponsors for an Event
Sometimes, a company will want to be the main sponsor for the entire event. That probably means their name will be part of the event title.
Or, their logo will be splashed across all of the event merch.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have more, lower-tier sponsors. There are lots of businesses who won’t be able to give ample financial support but would still like to be involved.
So, as we go on, be thinking about the ways, large and small, that sponsors can support you.
Why Solicit Corporate Sponsorships?
There’s no question that it takes work to secure corporate sponsorships. But I promise, there are many potential benefits to bringing an event sponsor on board.
Kick your event promotion into high gear
When businesses invest in your event as sponsors, they become invested in its success. The more people who attend your event, the more people who will learn about their business too!
Here’s an example:
A gourmet candy shop has agreed to sponsor your charity’s annual 5K (hooray!). They are invested in this race being a successful event! So, they:
- Put flyers all over their shop
- Post about it on their social media pages
- Offer discounts to candy buyers who sign up for the race
It’s a win win situation, really. You have your corporate emcee promote the corporate sponsor at your event, and they promote your event (and, therefore, you!).
Now that you’ve mastered the why of corporate sponsors, let’s delve into the how!
How to Secure Event Sponsorship #1: Understand Your Target Audience
I’ve delved into target audiences before, but their importance cannot be understated!
Your target audience are the people you want your marketing efforts to reach. They should have a connection to your mission – it makes sense for you to want them at your event.
Planning a series of nonprofit events aimed at getting kids to go outside and play more often? Your event audience may include parent sports coaches, after-school programs, and local PTAs.
Find sponsors who share your event goals
Identifying your target market will help you make personal, specific asks to potential sponsors.
You can approach sponsors who cater to a similar audience. They will be more inclined to participate because your event attendees are their potential clients.
How to Secure Event Sponsorship #2: Identify What You Have to Offer
Listen, we would love for a corporate sponsor to help out of the kindness of their heart. But realistically, there usually needs to be something in it for them.
So, what sponsorship benefits can you offer?
All things social media
Did you know that 200 million Instagrammers visit a business profile every day? Needless to say, exposure via social media posts can be invaluable.
Offer potential sponsors major air time on your social media channels:
- Have their team do day-long “takeovers” of your TikTok and Instagram accounts
- Post videos of your organization or company using their products
- Create stories with a “swipe up” option to take followers to the sponsor’s website
If you don’t have a huge following right now, still make use of those social media platforms! You’d be surprised at what consistent posting and exciting content can do.
Branding, branding, and more branding
The things we see can seep into our brains subconsciously. If the sponsor’s logo is on all of your event materials, consumers will remember it.
This is why brand exposure is so important. Think about it: are you more likely to use a service you’ve never heard of? Or one you’ve seen advertised prominently with trusted sources?
You can offer to put the sponsor’s logo on just about every part of your upcoming event:
- Print marketing (flyers, billboards, newspaper ads, social media posts, etc.)
- Merchandise (T-shirts, baseball caps, koozies, keychains, etc.)
- Make them part of the event name itself (i.e. “The Pepsi Superbowl Halftime Show”)
Perks for company’s employees
What does your organization or business do? Can you perform that service pro bono for the sponsors’ employees?
This is one of the most fun sponsor incentives because it strengthens your relationship. By sharing what you do with each other, you essentially become each other’s customers. And word of mouth is extremely powerful as a marketing tool.
Consider these ideas for your event sponsorship packages:
- Nonprofit animal shelters can offer sponsor employees a free day of fuzzy animal therapy
- Theaters can offer sponsor employees free season tickets and backstage passes
- Science centers can offer sponsor employees a free family day at the center
Consider Your Event Budget
Ideally, the perks one receives for corporate sponsorship come at no cost to you. Sometimes, however, you’ll find yourself in the position of spending money to make more money.
For example, you may need to pay your staff overtime to lead activities for sponsor employees. This is an expense, but will it be a worthwhile investment in a longstanding partnership?
Consider that question when solidifying sponsorship perks.
How to Secure Event Sponsorship #3: Research Potential Sponsors
Now that you understand your audience and what you have to offer, it’s time to find those sponsors!
This can be the most daunting part of the process. Where should you start looking for sponsors for an event?
Ask yourself these questions to find the answer:
Who are your ideal sponsors?
Grab a piece of paper – let’s do some brainstorming.
Who would be your perfect sponsor? Ask yourself:
- What would they bring to the table (money, in-kind materials, advertising prowess, social influence?)
- Do they have a grand sphere of influence or a concentrated, local following?
- Are they looking for an ongoing partnership?
- Are they an industry leader who could inspire other companies to work with you?
- Is there a plethora of ways for you to collaborate, beyond your commonplace sponsorship?
Now that you have dreamt up your ideal sponsors, let’s make those dreams a reality!
Who matches your mission statement?
Remember when we talked about target audiences? Think of sponsors in a similar way:
Sort of like dating, the idea is to find a great match. If you and your sponsor have shared values and similar audiences, then good news!
Chances are that a partnership will be lucrative for the both of you.
For example, you are acting as a fundraising event emcee to raise money for new school art supplies.
Look for sponsors whose missions also focus on bringing the arts to children. Maybe it’s a local graphic design studio. A children’s museum. The neighborhood arts council.
Who are your past sponsors?
A past sponsor is a potential sponsor. If a company has supported your business or organization in the past, ask them again!
Maybe a boutique marketing agency gave you a cost effective media sponsorship last year. Ask if they’d like to step up for similar events this year. Maybe increase their perks for loyalty and throw in three extra posts on your Instagram grid.
Consistency and respect are the key to long-term business relationships.
Stay in touch with your past sponsors year-round. Support their business on your own time. This builds trust and will make them that much more likely to sponsor your event.
How to do the research:
You have more resources at your disposal than you think. Here are my tips for starting your sponsor research:
Grab your chisel and head to the board room! If your own company has a board, let them know what you are looking for.
Board members are used to fostering connections. Chances are, they will have a few companies in mind for you to approach. Maybe a board member will even make the introduction or the ask for you!
The Chamber of Commerce
Most chambers of commerce list local businesses on their websites. You may think you know every business in town, but you probably don’t!
Head to their website and see if you can find more sponsors with similar missions to yours.
Get Your Followers Involved
Set up a Questions feature on your Instagram story letting followers know what you’re looking for. Let them respond with any ideas or connections.
Cast the net wide! You may catch a champion bass in the most unlikely of places.
Get Your Internet Search On
When you’ve exhausted your interpersonal resources, it’s time to hit the internet! Search for large corporations who regularly take sponsorship proposals. Be sure to pay attention to deadlines – and if one has passed, mark your calendar for next year!
You may also find new sponsors in grantors. Search for funds that support missions like yours and don’t be shy – apply!
How to Secure Event Sponsorship #4: Build and Distribute a Sponsorship Proposal
Okay. You’ve curated a well-researched list of potential sponsors. That was just the beginning!
Now it’s time to get ready for your big ask. But you need to be prepared – before you approach sponsors, you must create a sponsorship proposal.
What is a sponsorship proposal?
A sponsorship proposal is basically an informational packet explaining why businesses should sponsor your event.
You are essentially putting your sponsorship pitch into writing. There are templates you can find online, but be sure to answer the following questions:
- Who are you? (What is your organization or business and what do you do?)
- What makes you special within your field?
- Why would sponsoring you benefit the company you are approaching?
- What sponsorship opportunities are available?
- What perks are included in each sponsorship package?
Share eye-catching statistics
Capture the attention of a potential sponsor with numbers.
Think about past events you’ve hosted:
- What was the event ROI (return on investment) for your sponsors? For you? If you have a great ROI track record, that is an excellent selling point.
- Share attendee data from past events. What demographics do you usually reach? Are they the same people your potential sponsor wants to reach? Attendee data can really sell your pitch.
Make your proposal unique from others by offering the sponsor flexibility. Communicate that you want to collaborate with them to design the most worthwhile sponsorship for you both.
What is most important to the sponsor?
- Do they want a free booth at your event and get face-to-face contact with attendees?
- Would they like event related freebies to distribute to their staff?
- Do they want to see the sponsor’s brand on flyers all across town?
- Is their social media performance slacking? Do they want the sponsor’s content reposted on your pages?
Personalization and tailoring will mean a lot to your potential sponsors. It will also help you build longevity.
Now it’s time to approach the sponsors
Once your proposal is complete, it’s time to distribute!
Depending on the sponsor, it may be better to email the packet and follow up with a phone call. Or, you may benefit from heading to the business itself and pitching in person.
My advice is to keep your mission at the heart of your pitch. Highlight the ways a sponsorship would benefit the company you are approaching. And always lead with gratitude.
After reading this, I hope you feel ready to navigate the process of finding event sponsorships. Let’s recap the 5 steps to securing event sponsors for all of your future events!
#1: Understand your target audience.
#2: Identify what you have to offer.
#3: Research prospective sponsors.
#4: Build and distribute a sponsorship proposal.
You can do this!
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.