How to Professionally Pitch Sponsors for a Live Event
So you want to host a live event, but you’re struggling with making the numbers add up. And you’ve read other posts on this blog like the different types of event sponsors you can work with or how to create a killer sponsorship package, and you have ALL the knowledge about HOW to actually go about doing it…
But you’re still a little stuck. It’s your first event, you feel a little shy asking people for money and you’d LIKE to go after some big brands and big companies, but you’re feeling a little too “small potatoes” for them. Maybe you have a great social media following and you’d love to incorporate some of your media assets into your sponsorship packages, but you don’t want to look like you’re just one business owner or blogger sitting behind your desk, asking people for money (which, to be honest, you are...and that’s okay!).
So how do we make this “sponsorship pitching process” look streamlined, professional, and efficient? How can you DELIGHT brands with your attention to detail, your quick response time, and your professional looking sponsorship packages?
Today’s blog post is going to make sure that sponsors are so excited to work with you because of how organized you are, how quick you are to respond, and how you have a process that makes them feel like you REALLY know what you’re doing (and you can steal all my tips and tricks, if you snag my “Sponsorship Pitch Script” below)!
How to Pitch Sponsors Professionally So that They Say YES to Working with You
1. Leverage existing relationships
The BEST way to get sponsorships is to go to your already developed relationships and contacts. Most people say “But I don’t know anyone!” which is completely UNtrue. You probably have a relationship with someone who works at a restaurant or who maybe does letterpress or makes handmade goods who could be a sponsor for your event.
Sometimes, people overthink this crucial step, but the reality is that you’re more likely to get a YES from someone who knows and trusts you than you are from a cold pitch. It’s often easier to start with in-kind sponsorships than it is for monetary, but if you’re ready to ask for money, try to have 1-2 sponsors on board (even if they’re in-kind or lower level) because ALL monetary sponsors always ask...
“Who else is sponsoring?”
You want to make sure that you have some brands on-boarded so that you can confidently answer that question.
ACTION: make a list of all the people you know at different companies that may be a good fit for your event. Snag my swipe scripts (drop your email below to get them!) and draft 5 emails to the top companies who you’d want to be sponsors.
2. Make sure your pitch is appropriate and specific
If you’re reaching out to a brand new startup, it may not be a great idea to ask them to be your headline sponsor. Similarly, make sure that the company you’re asking for product from is a good fit for your conference (aka if you target female bloggers, it may not be a good idea to ask a financial institution to sponsor, because female bloggers likely aren’t going to want to engage with a brand like that).
It’s also REALLY helpful for sponsors to feel like you have a custom package for them in mind. Some examples of this include “Welcome Party Sponsor” or “Lunch Sponsor”, which allows partners to add some creativity to the “mini-event”, and even get involved with the execution of that mini-event.
Another important piece of this is the "specific" part. Lots of people make the mistake of simply sending a sponsor some information and saying "let me know which one you'd like to choose!" However, it's WAY more powerful to tell the sponsor "I think that because you have a great brand and want to connect 1:1 with some of our individuals, the XYZ sponsor is going to be the best bet for you this year. Are you interested in hearing more?"
Do you need a pitch script? Drop your info below and I'll send you my Sponsor Pitch Script (aka exactly the language I use to pitch sponsors)!
3. Send them a professional looking pitch deck
Most of the time, newbie event hosts and business owners don't have a "pitch deck" per se; they simply reach out, ask a sponsor for an item, get a yes or a no, and move on.
If you REALLY want to wow your sponsors (and convert more potentials into actual sponsors), I highly recommend creating a powerpoint presentation (also known as a "pitch deck") that shows the who, what, when, where, why, and WHY they'd be interested in sponsoring the event.
Here is an example of the sample cover of a pitch deck that I give to my clients to create for their events:
The KEY to this is not to send the pitch deck IN advance! You want to get a phone call on the books and scheduled PRIOR to sending the pitch deck over, if at all. You don't want your potential sponsor to go through your pitch deck, look at the pricing, and then turn you down before you've walked them through the amazing benefits.
You want to keep that pitch deck close to your chest until you have them on the phone.
4. Make sure your packages are simple and encompassing
SO many people get caught up in making sure their sponsorship packages are "full enough" or "give enough value" or "are really enticing." They also really want to make sure there's "something for everyone" so there are a list of 50 sponsorship opportunities.
Nope! Keep it simple! If it's your first time, create 3 levels of sponsorship PLUS an "in-kind" sponsorship level (which means anyone who donates products up to $XXX gets the in-kind benefits). The simpler your keep your sponsorship packages the more likely people are to choose, because they aren't suffering decision fatigue from simply making a choice of 17 sponsorship opportunities.
When I say simple AND encompassing, I mean that I want you to think about what other avenues you have to offer sponsors in order to make sponsors feel like they're getting value. Do you have a large Instagram following? Offer to tag the sponsor as a benefit. Got a large newsletter list? Tell the sponsor you'll do a guest post about them on your blog and then shoot it out to your email list. Remember, you're not JUST giving sponsors visibility at this event; you're hoping to give them visibility to the rest of your community that didn't attend the event.
Which leads into my next point...
5. Remember that sponsorship is a LONG conversation
You're going to get some "nos" from some of the sponsors. That's okay. Your success with sponsorships is directly related to how many times you're willing to say "okay, that didn't work out, so let's ask 3 others."
Even if a potential sponsor says no, do what you can to thank them and then continue to update them on your event or company's progress. Send them a card, or even a gift at the holidays. Sponsorship sometimes can be successful pretty early in the relationship, however, don't get discouraged if a sponsorship conversation doesn't pan out. You never know what that sponsor may need in a year or two, so it's best to keep those relationships closely nurtured in case you want to ask them for sponsorship in the future.