You know how you go to all those fancy conferences, and they have boatloads of company logos on all their printed pieces, or you see posts like "Thanks to CRAZY COOL COMPANY for being our awesome sponsor!" and you think:
How the heck do small fry events like this one get people to give them money to put on an event?
I know, I get it. Asking for sponsorship can be nerve wracking at best, and terrifying at worst, and a lot of it is because we believe that trading hard-earned money in exchange for promotion is icky (or something similar).
The reality is that, most companies are too busy to do the hard work it takes to gather a group of people together, and then they're WAY too busy to deliver the event. They want to partner with someone else who will do a lot of the hard work, and then reap the rewards.
But, sometimes, event organizers don't know what the rewards actually are for company sponsors.
In today's post, we're going to get into the minds of sponsors and hopefully make it a little easier for you to ask for sponsorship for your next event.
1. Start with sponsors with whom you already have a relationship.
Asking for money is tough, so to soften your nerves a little bit, I recommend reaching out to people you may already know. Take them out for coffee or lunch, then tell them a little bit about your idea. A lot of times, passion is a great way to help sell people, and sponsors who love the idea of doing a collaborative event will get on board if they hear how excited you are.
If in-person is too tough, try email! I've had lots of luck asking for sponsorship over email, especially when the ask is in-kind or a smaller sponsorship.
I don't recommend asking for sponsorship dollars over email, since you want people to get excited about your mission, and that's best communicated over the phone or in person.
2. Set up packages for a variety of levels -- but not too many.
One of the things that we as event organizers think sponsors want is LOTS of choices. The reality is, they don't, and as an organizer, you don't want to have to deliver on all those promises. Usually, having one very high level sponsorship available is standard, as well as 3 mid level sponsorships, and maybe 3 smaller sponsorships is a good amount. If you have more help, you can do more sponsorship packages, but the reality is, sponsors often get overwhelmed with the choice of too many packages. Keep it simple.
Standard packages include: name and logo on marketing materials, verbal thank you during the event, a ticket or five to the event, and opportunities to make mini-presentations throughout the event (usually only reserved for very high-level sponsors).
For the most part, if your event is aligned with a sponsor's goals, they're going to want to be in the room at the event, and speak to the crowd at the event. Know that those two things are very coveted, so be sure to price them accordingly within your sponsorship levels.
3. It's okay to solicit sponsors after you launch -- especially if your event is new.
A lot of times, new events have a certain amount of intrigue to them...sponsors are curious if you can back up your claims, and they're always looking to get in the door on new, exciting initiatives that have legs.
However, it can be a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Sponsors won't commit early because they want to know that you can sell the tickets. If you don't have sponsors, people may not view your event as legitimate, and you also may not know how to price tickets.
The best advice I have here is to not count on any sponsorship dollars in your first year, and try to price your tickets accordingly. The second best advice I have is to start soliciting sponsors early enough where you can possibly get one or two on board before launching your ticket sales. Usually, sponsors will want to know who else is sponsoring, and if you can get a few sponsors on board in the beginning, you'll have luck with other sponsors who also want to buy in.
Additionally, sometimes sponsors wait until ticket sales are ROLLING in before they commit. That's fine too, just be sure that you ride high on the momentum and announce when you sell tickets to help build excitement around your event and to make it desirable for sponsors to participate.
Want to know what exactly I say to my sponsors when I email them? Click below to get a PDF of the exact sample letter I use.
4. Try to find the decision maker before you approach a big sponsor.
Ain't nothing worse than emailing an firstname.lastname@example.org email address to solicit sponsorship. Try to reach out to your network and ask your friends if they know anyone at a particular company they can introduce you to.
The other method I've used before is Instagram or Twitter. I've searched people in the marketing department, reached out via social media, and asked for a phone call. A lot of times, it takes a little while to get to the right "level" of decision-maker, so don't expect immediate results from one phone call. It's all about following up, maintaining the relationship, and being gracious if they decline.
5. Don't feel bad about following up.
Most people are just busy. However, if you haven't asked for a meeting or a phone call, please be sure to do that. (Want to know the exact wording I use to ask for sponsorship? Enter your email information below to get my sponsor letter swipe script!)
In your first email to a potential sponsor, you should absolutely ask them not only if their interested in sponsoring, but also if they have 15 minutes to chat about why you think they'd be a great sponsor for the event. You want to make sure that they're a good fit for the event, as well as see if they're gung ho about your mission, or so-so.
I try to follow up within a week of the initial send, and then a week after the second follow up. If I don't hear anything after that, I move on to the next sponsorship.
6. Make sure you say thank you, immediately and often.
The biggest mistake event organizers make is that, once the event is over, they forget about their sponsors until next year. You've got to treat your sponsors like people! Send them a little gift, take them for coffee to ask about their experience as a sponsor, and be open to really honest feedback about their experience.
Sponsors are the lifeblood to event production, so it's important that you treat your relationship with them like you would an old friend. Send them articles that you think are relevant to your or their industry and generally keep them in the loop with what's going on with your event. Also, don't forget to ask them to sponsor your event the following year! It's so important to maintain good relationships with sponsors, and communicating with them and keeping them in the loop is the best place to start.
Want to know my first touch point with most sponsors? Enter your info below to snag your free sponsorship swipe script!