Sponsors can make a big difference to your event. They may even be the reason you host an event in the first place. Yet securing and managing sponsorships is one of the biggest challenges organisers have to face. What kind of sponsors make sense for your event? What kind of packages can you offer? How many sponsors do you need and how will you manage expectations? More importantly, how will you ensure your sponsor will be happy with their investment and take part again the next time round?
Have a look at the key things you need to think about when considering sponsors for your next event:
1. Decide Why Your Event Needs Sponsorship
Objectives, objectives, objectives – they are drilled into event organisers. Understanding the desired outcome of an event is essential before starting the planning process. And it makes sense to have similar goals in mind when seeking event sponsors.
Whilst one of your objectives for sponsorship is likely to be to bring money in, you also need to consider other reasons why you would like sponsors. You might want to develop your brand awareness and partnering with a reputable organisation will help you do that. You might want to connect with existing and prospective buyers. Or you might want to work with an event sponsor to demonstrate your social responsibility work.
Your objectives need to be relevant to your organisation and the actual event. It doesn’t matter what your competitors are doing. What is important is that you understand what your event sponsorship objectives are. From there you can make your plan.
2. Find the Right Sponsors for Your Event
Sponsors have to be right for your event. You may find that there are a number of organisations that would like to get involved in your event – especially if it’s already got a proven track record. However, it’s important that you choose wisely as having event sponsors that aren’t a good fit will adversely impact your event and its reputation.
Finding the right sponsor is all about understanding your delegates and deciding if the sponsor is a good fit with them. For example, there would be little point in having a luxury brand as an event sponsor if your event is about ‘issues of homelessness’ as this pairing would be incongruous.
It’s going to take some time to work to establish who is right for you. What are the values, energy, style, feeling that come from your event and will an event sponsor add or detract to that? For example, if you have sustainability as a core event value, would you want a supplier of single plastic products as a sponsor? Probably not.
Once you have identified the right sponsors you can then decide what you would like from them.
3. Decide on Different Types of Sponsorship
Having found the right type of sponsor(s), you can now ask them for what you’ve put on your wish list. Money is usually the first thing that springs to mind for many event organisers.
However, money can be provided in other forms and sometimes it will work better. This is particularly the case when the event sponsor has no budget left but can provide goods or services instead. This is usually referred to as ‘in kind’ sponsorship.
For example, you may want a quality registration system for your event to help you save time and get a better picture of your registration and attendance data. Unfortunately, you don’t have enough money to invest in the technology. What you could do is approach a registration company and offer them event sponsorship in return for them providing their registration system for your event. This way both you and your sponsor benefit from the arrangement. They receive the benefit of being in front of all your event delegates – and you get the benefit of an automated registration system.
Other items that could be ‘in-kind’ sponsorships include:
- Event apps
- Photo booths
- Water bottles
In fact, the list could go on and on. The opportunities of finding things at events that could be sponsored is always evolving (think live-streaming).
All you need to do is to decide what event sponsorship you need and in what form. Is it monetary or in-kind, or a mix of the two?
4. Decide How Many Sponsors
Once you have decided what you would like from sponsors in terms of money and ‘in kind’, your next task is to determine how many sponsors would be good for your event. Remember, the greater the number of sponsors, the more time and resource you will need to manage their expectations. But don’t let that put you off. Refer back to your event sponsorship objectives and you will stay on track.
Deciding how many sponsors isn’t just a numbers game. There are other issues for you to consider such as whether you want just an event sponsor or a strategic one. A strategic sponsorship goes wider and is usually for a longer period. The sponsor could be involved in your event, webinars, mailings and a whole range of other activities.
If you decide on a strategic sponsor, would that limit your choice for future event sponsors from other companies or is it better to have a guaranteed strategic sponsor for a period of time?
As well as deciding between one-off or strategic sponsors, there is also the issue of competing sponsors. If you have competing sponsors what impact will that have on your event? Will it enhance or detract the attendee experience? You could decide to have a number of event sponsors on the basis that they offer different products and services to each other.
When you have decided on sponsors to approach, do it in good time in advance of your event. No potential event sponsor wants to feel that they were only asked last minute to fill a gap.
5. Prepare to Manage Expectations
Managing expectations with sponsors is very important for both your organisation and your sponsors. After all it’s not a one-sided agreement. You will need to make sure the event sponsor gets exactly what was agreed and they in turn need to fulfil their obligations to you.
To help with this, your sponsor agreement will need to include terms and conditions which state who does what, when it’s to be done and what the process is, if something isn’t done. For example, you invoice the sponsor before the event but they don’t pay, the event is delivered and they took part. However, your attendee numbers are lower than anticipated and the sponsor decides that they didn’t receive the full value they expected of being the event sponsor. So they decide to make a smaller payment than was originally agreed (or no payment at all!). What do you do? Thinking of these scenarios beforehand and setting expectations in your contract can help you avoid these situations.
Also in managing expectations, it’s a good idea to have a sponsorship communications plan. Assign one person who manages that relationship, set deadlines for when you need collateral and keep your sponsor(s) up to date on emerging opportunities or challenges. Good communication is one of the best ways to manage expectations. If you have bad news to deliver, don’t sit on it. Deliver it quickly and be straightforward and honest about it.
6. Agree ROI with Your Sponsor
Discussing with your sponsor what they should expect from their investment is an essential step that shouldn’t be ignored. ROI is a challenging topic but both you and your event sponsor need to agree what a successful outcome looks like. You need to do this at the start of your discussions. If you don’t then you are setting yourself up for failure plus you could also lose any future deals with the sponsor.
When it comes to the ROI discussion, be prepared to negotiate so that both sides are happy. Your sponsor could have a whole list of things that they would like. And there may be things you won’t be able to provide, even if you wanted to. It’s also important to remember how data protection regulations like GDPR can affect sponsorship deals. In times gone by, sponsors were sometimes sent delegate lists as part of the agreement. This can’t be done as easily as before.
The good news is that once you have agreed measurable ROI you can work on demonstrating the value of your event. Successful events will encourage existing sponsors to sign again for the next edition.
7. Get Feedback After the Event
Arrange a de-brief session with your sponsor soon after the event. It is a great opportunity to listen and find out from their perspective what worked well, what could be improved and what they would like next time. You can also provide feedback from your side. Was there anything that was promised but not delivered? Did the sponsor cause you any stress by supplying collateral at the last minute?
Straight talking and being honest on both sides will enable improvements that could be made next time round. After all, it’s a two-sided agreement and has to work for the both of you.
Think about new opportunities for your event sponsor. Maybe next year they could increase their presence by sponsoring the live streams of your event in addition to having a presence in the form of an exhibition stand on the show floor.
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