Eventbrite presents advice from Nicola Lloyd, head of event marketing for Pearson Frank, on how to attract event sponsors
It feels like almost stating the obvious, but securing sponsorship for your events can be the difference between generating income and making a loss. It is also fair to say that sponsorship can be the difference from your event idea sitting on your hard drive and it actually going ahead in the first place.
On the flip side, as a sponsor, it’s a great opportunity to get your brand visible in front of hundreds or thousands of your target audience, which can lead to new leads and a sizeable profit for your business.
With so much on the line, making the right impression to potential first time sponsors for your event is crucial. So once you’ve got a great idea for an event that’s unique and interesting, it’s time to try and attract some support to bring it to fruition.
Nicola Lloyd, head of event management marketing at Pearson Frank, is here to pass over knowledge that she has picked up over the years.
- Give sponsors the information they need to make an informed decision
It’s all well and good if you have an idea of who your attendees are, but sponsors are equally keen to find out that information. You need to let prospective sponsors know who is likely to attend – age-range, gender, occupation, interests etc. This is important for two reasons:
- Firstly, sponsors need to know that if they are going to invest money into your event, the people that they want to attract to their business are attending
- Secondly, sponsors can often use their own lead generation tactics to attract more attendees to ensure they receive a significant return on investment.
The easiest way to gather this data is by collecting it at the point of purchase; if guests need to register online to attend then you can gather a lot of information that way. Once you have all of this information at your disposal, you can pull together a customer profile to demonstrate to sponsors who will be attending and how they can convert attendees into customers (obviously watch out for GDPR compliance).
In your initial proposal, you should also cover all of the ‘obvious’ information. What will be the name of your event? When is it? How long will it last? Is it a one-off or a repeating event? Where will it be held? The location is especially important for potential sponsors. If attending, they need to know if their staffing capacity allows for representatives from the company in that area to physically attend without significant loss of business.
- Use previous event examples and experiences working with sponsors
If you’ve held similar sized events in the past you could provide case studies that demonstrate to potential sponsors that you know what you are doing and can be trusted to deliver a high-quality event.
Try to provide evidence of how sponsoring one of your previous events has benefitted similar companies in the past, whether it be through growth in their customer base, increases in social media numbers, or positive brand recognition through association. If sponsors can see how their competitors have benefitted, it’s more likely they’ll be interested in investing in your next event.
- Make sure you have a strong social presence
A quick way that sponsors will gauge the potential success of an event is by looking at its social media accounts. Questions such as: Are they connected to their target user base? Do their fans and followers engage with their content? Does the organisation provide a regular stream of content? Can it be trusted to get as many people to the event as it says it can? Judging companies by their social following isn’t by any means fool-proof, but it’s a quick and reasonably reliable way to make a top line judgement call, so ensure your social channels are updated and engaging!
- Use visual resources to help drive narrative
They say a picture can speak a thousand words, so, along with your proposal you should try and include some visuals to help drive your narrative home and make it easier for sponsors to see how they can fit into that narrative. Have you got any infographics about your attendees? Have you got any photos or videos from previous events that will help with striking an emotive chord with your potential sponsor?
Another ‘easy win’ is to go to your venue and take photos so sponsors can see the possible layout and how their brand presence might fit in. If you are quite far along in your planning, a site plan can also be useful for potential sponsors and this gives you an opportunity to segment different areas of the venue to different price points of sponsorship, eg. branding at the entrance compared to branding in the toilets.
- Flexibility to choose a package that’s right for the sponsor
It’s also worth mentioning that the costs of sponsoring events can very quickly add up. Alongside the upfront cost, there is also travel and accommodation for staff, employee expenses, wages for staff who are attending, printed promotional materials (flyers, business cards, pull-up banners, t-shirts, branded merchandise, etc). If you are offering a booth then sponsors also need to factor in furniture and decorations to make them stand out.
Event sponsorship is becoming ever more experiential. Your sponsorship packages should reflect that. Try and leave some room in your scheduled events for sponsored opportunities such as workshops, product demonstrations or speaking engagements. The key is to give your potential sponsors a wide range of opportunities and channels to communicate with your attendees through different ways and means.
What extra incentives can you offer your sponsor?
As well as outlining your own marketing strategy for the event in your initial pitch, think about what ‘extras’ you can also offer sponsors. You could include partners’ logos on your event website, brand mentions in all media releases and PR activity, or mentions on your social media channels. Another thing to mention is if you expect press to be in attendance which could lead to additional, free exposure for the potential sponsor.
As previously mentioned, the mounting costs can be a deterrent to some sponsors. Can you help with some of those costs? Do you have additional bulk-purchased accommodation that the sponsors could use? Could you offer discounted printing costs? You’re looking to form a partnership with your sponsors, something that lasts beyond the event, and giving something back – no matter how small – will always be appreciated.
- Know who to contact
Sending an email to the MD of a company might seem like the obvious place to start, but in reality, they are hard-pressed with their time already and another email to them is like a raindrop in the ocean. Try and find out who handles the organisation’s marketing and communications and send them an email. Scour the company website or look on LinkedIn for a name to use. It’s always best to include a name (even if using a generic info@ or hello@ email address) as, even if your email doesn’t reach the right person at first, it will get forwarded on to the right person and has a stronger chance of being replied to, positively or negatively.
- Return on investment: help sponsors estimate their potential lead value
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sponsorship is a numbers game. You can help your sponsors along by including the following in your initial proposal:
- How many people you expect to attend, and how many people have attended in previous years (if applicable)
- How many attendees are specifically relevant to the sponsor – i.e. how many are likely to convert into genuine customers
- The average conversion rate for previous sponsors in the same industry
- The total cost plus VAT
- Sponsors might really love the idea of your event but, regardless of its aesthetic appeal, the value of the deal needs to stack up in order for them to invest. If they can’t convert attendees into customers, the money they commit has no real ROI. If you can’t convince sponsors that there is a very real possibility of converting attendees into genuine customers then you are going to struggle to attract them. Keep this in mind throughout the entire pitching process.
Getting it Right
Managing your relationship with a sponsor with advice from Event Brite
The more work you put into your sponsorship relationships up front, the higher the reward for everyone – you, your sponsors, and your attendees.
Without that relationship, you’re left scrambling to find new sponsors every time you throw a new event. Ready to nurture your current festival sponsors and develop relationships with new ones? Use these four tips to keep them coming back every year.
- Be transparent from the beginning
When you’re pitching a potential sponsor, start with the basics:
- Are you giving potential sponsors access to a local audience? National? Global?
- How many attendees do you have each year? How much money do they spend at your event? Remember: brands are buying access to your audience, not assets
- Be clear about your objectives. What are you looking for from your sponsors? Funding only? Exposure to their audiences/stakeholders? A multi-event contract?
- Next, you’ll want to dazzle them with details about how you can help them achieve their goals.
- Impress sponsors with your value proposition
Many companies providing sponsorships have a limited budget, well defined objectives, and a rigid timeline. They’re not searching for new sponsorship opportunities but they may entertain your proposal if they see a fit with their objectives.
Whether your sponsor would value exclusive market research into their target customer or an increase in their social media reach, you need to make it clear how your event can connect sponsors with their target audience and help them achieve their goals.
Before you create your value proposition for a sponsor, ask these five questions. Make sure the answers are in your pitch and in your follow up emails:
- What are your sponsor’s key objectives?
- What do they need to be successful?
- How will sponsoring your event benefit their organisation?
- How does your event tie to their brand?
- How does your event tie to their marketing objectives?
- Prove your worth
If you can’t deliver on what you promise, sponsors will walk out the door. In fact, proving your value is the foundation of a long-term relationship. Not to mention, sponsors talk – so if you damage one relationship, you might damage them all.
After the event, you should compile and circulate a report to show sponsors how it all went. If you’re not sure where to find the right data to populate your report, here are three easy ways to get it:
- Surveys – integrate a few sponsor-related questions into your post event survey. For example, you might ask people to check off which brands they noticed during the event. That direct feedback shows how sponsors stand out at your event
- Social media – this is your ally when it comes to proving the ROI of sponsorship. You can provide sponsors with information on things like how many users interacted with sponsor messaging on your social feeds, how many new followers came directly after mentioning a sponsor in a post, and how many times you mentioned a sponsor in social posts
- Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) – if your event is equipped with this technology, you can find out things like how many people interacted with a sponsor’s station. Attendees don’t need to manually enter their information on an iPad, instead sponsors can collect that data and more with the swipe of a wristband or badge.
- Connect with sponsors all year, not just at renewal time
Whether your sponsors opted to renew early or not, continue nurturing your relationships. Regular check-ins will keep your event on top of your sponsor’s mind during their budgeting process. And it doesn’t have to be all about business – send a happy birthday message. That can ultimately lead to more referral opportunities.
Stay in touch when something isn’t going well, not just when things are smooth-sailing. Sponsorship is a partnership. While it may feel counter-intuitive to speak out when there’s been a mistake, it’s as important as relaying your successes.
To show you’re committed to a partnership with your sponsors, ask for feedback. What did they love? Was there anything they disliked? What should you do more or less of next time? As you discuss, use the time to ask more about their goals for next year.
Mini quiz: Are you a desirable partner?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to the following three questions, congrats – you’re a good catch!
- Authentic: Are you truly invested in your relationship with your sponsor?
- Flexible: Are you ready to pivot your strategy to meet your sponsor’s goals?
- Dedicated: Do you have a contact person on your team who sponsors can rely on?
Finding the right sponsors for your event can seem like a fruitless effort – and keeping your sponsors year after year can feel nearly impossible. However, with the right strategy, identifying new opportunities and developing those relationships become second nature.
About the Author
Eventbrite is the world’s leading event technology platform. Hundreds of thousands of organisers use Eventbrite to boost ticket sales, promote and manage events, handle on-site operations, and analyse results across multiple sales channels. To learn how you can be your sponsor’s favourite event, get in touch at www.eventbrite.co.uk or call 0800 652 4993.