In my last blog, I reviewed how brands can evaluate strategic sponsorship opportunities. The goal is to make sure that they’re partnering with the right organization and making a smart investment.
But when it comes to sponsorships, brands have the option of being on the other side of these engagements as well. Rather than sponsoring an event, organization, or person, you may be more interested in developing your own sponsorship opportunity, in which case you’ll be the one seeking sponsors.
Whether you’re a business organization or a charitable nonprofit, creating a sponsorship initiative presents a distinct opportunity to cement your reputation as a trustworthy organization doing some good in the world.
There are no hard and fast rules for developing a sponsorship: it can be a corporate trade show or a nonprofit fundraiser, a one-time event or a year-long partnership. What’s important is to develop a sponsorship that not only attracts the right people and organizations, but also delivers a quality experience that makes sponsors want to recommit for years to come.
Building Your Sponsorship
First things first. Before you can even begin promoting your sponsorship and seeking sponsors, you need to solidify the type of initiative you’re going to plan.
If you’re hosting an event, what type of event will it be? A gala? A fundraiser? A golf tournament? Perhaps you’re more interested in seeking long-term sponsors for an ongoing campaign. Determine what your sponsorship initiative will look like so you can begin planning your sponsorship package, your financial investment, and all the logistics.
Produce an enticing sponsorship package.
The best way to attract sponsors is to craft a sponsorship package they can’t refuse.
I recommend building tiered packages with varying sponsorship benefits to match what a particular sponsor is paying. An event naming sponsor, for example, should get more from the partnership than a session or program sponsor.
As the organization planning the sponsorship initiative, the onus is on you to make sure that your sponsors get what they pay for. So make sure that you’re prepared to deliver on every item you’ve promised in your sponsorship packages!
Consider the financial investment.
Sponsorship initiatives are expensive! If you’re planning an event, the money you make should significantly offset the cost of the event itself—and then some. For example, if you’re holding a gala, you need to consider space rental, decor, catering, entertainment, and more. Some of those expenses may be offset by charging individuals a per plate fee for attendance, but if the goal is to raise funds, you need to do more than just break even. You’ll need a good return on investment to justify the upfront cost.
Map out the logistics.
Follow the maxim “An hour of planning saves 10 hours of doing.” Plan every single element of your sponsorship, from comprehensive contracts to event execution. Make sure all parties know what to expect, and create contingency plans for things that might—and inevitably will—go wrong. Whether it’s ensuring that the step and repeat is printed with the right logos or that a pre-recorded video plays without a hitch, the details matter.
You may have the team in place for this kind of execution, but event coordinators and PR professionals can offer an extra level of support to make sure your execution is flawless.
Finding Your Sponsors
Once the foundation of your sponsorship initiative is in place, you can move on to the next step: finding your sponsors! Here’s how to find and sell potential sponsors on your sponsorship opportunity:
- Approach the right person. Most companies have a marketing director who will recommend sponsorship events and opportunities to the CEO. Go to that person unless you have a pre-established relationship with a higher-level executive (yes, being connected on LinkedIn counts). Starting too high or too low in the organization may not get you anywhere!
- Time the initiative with budget cycles. Companies typically have a budget allocated for sponsorships and similar opportunities. If you know when their fiscal year begins, time your outreach accordingly. If you’ve already missed the deadline for inclusion in the current year, start the conversation early for the following cycle.
- Create a compelling pitch. Organizations are inundated with sponsorship opportunities. To stand out, you need to show them the value of partnering with you. Tell a story about your organization, highlight the benefits the sponsor will get from partnering with you, and then reveal your awesome sponsorship packages. After you’ve made your pitch, be sure to follow up until you get a yes or no! Sometimes people need an extra nudge to officially commit.
- Be flexible. If a person or organization expresses interest but their budget doesn’t align with one of your standard packages, do what you can to make it work. People value flexibility. And make sure not to overlook your lower-tier sponsors. If they have a great experience, they’re likely to make a bigger investment in your partnership in the future.
- Consider non-cash options. In-kind trades like donating food, an event space, or media coverage can be just as valuable as cash. Just be sure to clearly communicate the terms of the deal so that neither party is surprised or feels taken advantage of.
Evaluating Your Sponsorship
When the sponsorship initiative reaches its end, hold yourself accountable—to the sponsors and your own team.
Send an extensive report to your sponsors covering each benefit you promised and what action you took to deliver it. Capture and account for every single item to cover your bases.
In turn, evaluate your own experience with your sponsors. Which people or organizations were pleasant to work with, and which ones acted like divas? A good sponsor doesn’t just contribute financial value to a partnership; they should also add enthusiasm and credibility to your cause.
A well-planned sponsorship initiative is a powerful tool for supporting your organization and providing the financial capital to accomplish your goals. If you’re interested in seeking sponsors for an exciting event or partnership, let’s chat! I have years of experience planning, publicizing, and overseeing special events and initiatives for companies and nonprofit organizations.