Sometimes event sponsorship can mean the difference between a widely successful event and a gut-wrenching failure. Check out this article to learn best practices for finding and securing the right partnerships—in 2020 and beyond.
The numbers don't lie: businesses are increasingly invested in professional events. In fact, over 41% of marketers believe event marketing is the most effective channel for driving business outcomes.
As events capture greater and great shares of marketing budgets across industries, one thing is certain—event sponsors will play a critical role in growth.
Whether you just starting to build your event sponsorship program or you're looking for fresh strategies for attracting and retaining current event sponsors, this guide is for you.
In this guide, you will learn:
- What are Event Sponsorships
- Why Event Sponsorships Are Valuable
- How to Improve Your Event with Event Sponsorships
- Finding Event Sponsors
- Pitching Event Sponsors
- Tips for Better Event Sponsorship Packages
- Great Event Sponsorship Package Examples
- Providing ROI for Sponsors
What Are Event Sponsorships?
Let's start with the basics: what is event sponsorship? An event sponsor is a company that supports an event, usually by providing funds, in exchange for something valuable. Oftentimes this "something valuable" comes in the form of increased brand exposure, access to attendee data, speaking opportunities at the event, or discounted event tickets.
Companies sponsor events in the hope of moving their own organizations forward. If your event presents an opportunity for them to do that, you'll likely be able to secure partners and improve the outlook of your gathering.
It should be noted that not all events will be enticing to potential sponsors. For example, internal events rarely provide enough value to other companies for them to invest in an event sponsorship opportunity—though there are exceptions.
"If I had to choose just one single lever for us to grow year after year, it would be partnerships...where we leverage our community by providing value to our partners, and in
exchangethey provide us with a service or media promotion for our events."
—Vasil Azarov, Co-founder of Growth Marketing Conference
Why Event Sponsorships Are Valuable
We now know the "what" when it comes to event sponsorship. But what about the "why"? Why should you spend time and resources researching, contacting, and securing event sponsors? Is it really necessary?
The answer to that question depends on your organization and the kind of event you plan on hosting. But in general, yes, securing event sponsors is worth the effort for three main reasons:
Running an event is an expensive endeavor. Oftentimes ticket sales alone won't allow your event to break even—at least not while keeping ticket prices affordable. What's an event planner to do? Secure event sponsorships. In 2017, sponsorship spending, according to Sponsorship.com, exceeded 23 billion dollars in North America alone.
This tactic, when executed properly, will allow your event to be financially viable and keep ticket prices affordable, ensuring more attendees will be able to come.
Be honest—all things being equal, would you rather attend an event with no sponsors or one that's sponsored by Amazon? Most of us would rather attend the event sponsored by Amazon, even if both events were being put on by the same company, were on the same topic, and had the same speakers. Why? Because Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world and if they decide to sponsor an event, the general consensus is that they believe in it.
The same thing goes for your events. While partnering with a company like Amazon may be a stretch, securing known and respected brands in your organization's field to sponsor your event will lend it instant credibility and likely increase registration numbers.
3. Other Resources
Lastly, sponsors may be able to provide your event with other resources and perks beyond just money and credibility. For example, perhaps your event partners with a local restaurant. In exchange for promoting their business to all of your attendees, they'll allow you to host the gathering in their event space and will provide catered lunches.
Another perk that sponsoring companies can provide is increased exposure for your event. Let's say a customer of a sponsoring company is browsing the sponsor's social media feeds and sees that they've partnered with you. The customer may decide to attend your event because they trust the sponsoring company.
"Sponsorship sales is a huge focus for us because that's repeatable revenue that can be renewed year over year."
—Dayna Rothman, Author of Lead Generation for Dummies
How to Improve Your Event with Event Sponsorships
It's time to get practical. How do you find potential event sponsors, convince them to partner with you, and create valuable sponsorship packages? That's what we'll cover in this section.
"We work with sponsors to have really fun interactive activations. At Forbes, we really try to guide the sponsor experience so that they're creating meaningful activations that can actually build the event."
—Chardia Christophe-Garcia, Forbes
Finding Event Sponsors
Finding event sponsors isn’t as challenging as it seems. To secure event sponsorships, you first have to find the right companies to partner with. We have three tips for you in this regard:
1. Know Your Event
First, you have to know and understand the particulars of your event. What type of event are your producing? What is your overall vision for your gathering and what goals are you hoping to achieve? Also, what sets your event apart from other events on similar topics?
These are the kinds of questions that potential event sponsors will ask you. If you know the answers to them before you start contacting brands about sponsorships, you'll put yourself in a position to not only answer with ease and clarity but also only contact the kinds of companies that align with your event values.
2. Identify the Right Partners
We just touched on it briefly, but knowing which companies would make for excellent event partners is key. Rather than spamming every business you find and presenting them with event sponsorship proposals, we recommend that you first identify the kinds of companies that would be a good fit. Then reach out and interact with only those brands.
This will save you time — contacting organizations that don't align with your event brand, or don't have a history of sponsoring events isn't productive — and increase your success rate.
3. Use Online Resources
Knowing your event particulars and the kind of companies you hope to partner with is great. But you still need to actually go out and find organizations that fit your criteria. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use online resources like SponsorMyEvent, SponsorPitch, and SponsorPark. These tools make it easy to connect with potential event sponsors and even send them an event sponsorship agreement if they seem like a good fit.
Pitching Event Sponsors
Have you created a list of potential event sponsors? Great, now it's time to pitch them. Whether you’re emailing potential event sponsors or calling them on phone doesn’t matter.You still need to follow these three tips if you want to see success:
1. Research Your Target Audience
At this point (hopefully!) you've already done a bit of research on your target audience. You know that the companies on your list align with your event's topic and vision and each has a history of sponsoring events in the past. Now it's time to dig deeper.
Before reaching out to a company, you should attempt to discover:
- The key decision maker, their personality type, and their contact information.
- The marketing objectives of each company in question.
- How sponsoring your event can help them meet their marketing objectives.
- Whether or not they have the budget to sponsor your event in the way that you desire.
The more information you have on each individual person you plan to contact, the better.
2. Communicate Value
In the last tip, we mentioned that you should know how sponsoring your event will benefit the company you're contacting. Knowing this will help you communicate value, which you must do to secure partnerships.
No organization will support your event out of the goodness in its heart. There needs to be an equal exchange of value and you need to communicate this value in your pitch. To do this, make your pitch about the company you're contacting, not about your event.
Also, convey crucial information like how many attendees you expect to have and their demographics, brands that have sponsored your event in the past, the ROI previous sponsors received, and any other bits of pertinent information.
The kind of details you share will likely vary depending on your industry, how long your event has been running, and the actual person you're contacting. But in general, do your best to communicate value.
For example, for the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin event, the TechCrunch team sent the below email to prospective partners. This was a great way to educate potential partners on how an event sponsorship would benefit them. Event teams can send a similar email to prospective sponsors as a way to educate target sponsorship opportunities.
3. Include Social Proof
Social proof in the form of testimonials from previous partners can go a long way towards convincing a brand to sponsor your event. Just like we all read product reviews before making online purchases, potential sponsors will want to know if previous partners had a good experience with your brand and found sponsorship to be a worthwhile investment.
If you have the ability, consider going the extra mile and creating full case studies with your top sponsors. That's what TED did. Their case study with long-time event partner, Rolex, is a great example. It has helped the annual conference secure other sponsors by showcasing the positive ROI that Rolex has received from the partnership.
"We really try to work with sponsors to achieve their goals, while at the same time, maintaining editorial independence. A lot of these sponsors don't just want to have a sponsor sticker slapped onto an event. They want to do something that has a real conversational element to it."
—Mike Butcher, Founder of The Europas
4. Best Practices for Building Partnerships with Sponsors
The key to both pitching and partnering with sponsors boils down to communication. As you begin to work with sponsors, it's important to have a common language. This allows you to align on key business goals and outcomes that make both parties successful.
For example, Vasil Azarov from the Growth Marketing Conference, focuses on building mutually beneficial partnerships and co-sponsoring programs. This includes providing them with an outline of opportuntiies for additional exposure, collaborating on content—like webinars, leveraging a partner to co-sponsor direct mail campaigns, and initiatives that take place on the event floor.
Fostering a collaborative environment also helps to maintain good relationships with key sponsors in current and upcoming events.
"The key element of building a successful relationship is to make sure that you’re leveraging your strength to make it a win for both you and your partner."
—Vasil Azarov, Growth Marketing Conference
Tips for Better Event Sponsorship Packages
To really kick your event sponsorship efforts into high gear, you need to offer different sponsorship packages. Here are five tips to help you do so more effectively.
1. Include Different Event Sponsorship Levels
When building sponsorship packages for your event, consider creating multiple tiers (at least three) of sponsorship, each equipped with different benefits and sold at varying price points. For instance:
- The Bronze Package: $1,000 - Your company logo on all event marketing materials, a guaranteed booth in the event expo center, a sponsorship grab bag.
- The Silver Package: $2,500 - Everything in the Bronze Package + a branded breakout room named after your company. (Only 25 available.)
- The Gold Package: $5,000 - Everything in the Bronze and Silver Packages + a guaranteed speaking/demonstration opportunity for your company's CEO. (Only 10 available.)
The more money an organization pays, the more benefits it will receive. You can also create different packages for companies as opposed to individuals, give discounts when multiple tickets are purchased at once, and more.
2. Create Unique Opportunities
Source: Vela Agency
There are many different ways to add value to your sponsorship packages. A few standard ones include guaranteeing a speaking slot for the CEO of a sponsoring company, allowing partners to put their company names on breakout rooms, and including a sponsor's logo on the swag bags given to each attendee.
But to really supercharge your packages and entice organizations to spring for more expensive sponsorship options, you need to create unique opportunities.
For example, New Relic, a cloud-based software program for analyzing and tracking data, sponsored TechCrunch's Disrupt Conference for several years.
The entire event started with a hackathon. Participants were asked to create a new product in a very short amount of time. During the after party, New Relic was allowed to serve food and drinks. They even got to announce the hackathon winner and gift them a new MacBook Pro, courtesy of TechCrunch.
This unique opportunity allowed New Relic to build deeper relationships with its target audience.
3. Make It Clear
Your event sponsorship packages will only sell if potential sponsors understand exactly what they will receive once they make a purchase. They'll also need to know how to become eligible for each package. Clarity is absolutely your friend here.
Spell out every package benefit, perk, and requirement in crystal clear language. Potential sponsors should never have to guess at what they'll receive in exchange for a portion of their company's budget. This is especially true when selling sponsorships for large sums of money.
Dreamforce by Salesforce is one of the biggest business conferences on the planet. To secure a top-level sponsorship package, companies must pay 1.25 million dollars. That's a lot of money but Dreamforce spells out exactly what an organization will receive in exchange for the funds in their Sponsorship Prospectus.
4. Exclusivity Sells
Want to sell high-end packages like Dreamforce? Make use of exclusivity. On the surface, this may sound counterintuitive. If 10 people want to pay Dreamforce over a million dollars to sponsor the event, why would they only accept 6 of them?
There are a couple of different reasons.
First, it's a simple mathematics equation. There's only so much time in the day and resources on hand. Dreamforce (and other companies that offer high-end sponsorship packages) can only provide adequate value to so many sponsors. If they were to let more companies participate, the value of the package would go down.
Second, exclusivity breeds desire. As humans, we always want what we can't have. And we tend to feel better about ourselves when we have what others want but can't get.
Making your top sponsorship packages exclusive will increase the chances of people wanting to buy them.
Another way to use the exclusivity principle is to make certain packages "invite only". Meaning, companies can't apply for the limited slots, they have to be invited to purchase them.
5. Make Your Sponsorship Page Enticing and Vibrant
Finally, to increase the likelihood that companies will want to sponsor your event, we recommend that you make the event sponsor web pages on your event website enticing and vibrant. Sponsors care about how their brand is represented. Use rich media elements to make the page, and how sponsors are represented in it, visually pleasing.
Pulse does a great job highlighting sponsorship opportunities. The annual conference for customer success professions has section showcasing their top sponsors. Each partnering company gets a featured logo, a bio section explaining what the company does (when you hover over the logo), and links to its website and social channels.
Knowing that their company will be featured on your event website — especially if your website receives a lot of quality traffic — may be the perk that convinces a brand to partner with you.
Great Event Sponsorship Package Examples
We've given you tips on how to create better event sponsorship packages. Now let's look at a few examples of event sponsor promotion from brands who have taken these tips and used them well. Get ready to be inspired.
Source: Data Center Knowledge
re:Invent is a massive cloud computing conference put on by Amazon every year in Las Vegas, NV. It features workshops, keynote speakers, and hackathons. As far as sponsorship opportunities, Amazon does a great job of outlining the exact benefits partners will receive for each of their seven packages and highlighting past sponsor success. They make it clear that last year's conference produced an average of 1,800 leads per sponsor.
Amazon also does a fantastic job of promoting unique experiences including access to fun, non-work related activities like the re:Play after party and a pub crawl.
Source: Knits For Life
GitHub Universe is THE conference to attend if you work in software development. On the event's sponsorship page, GitHub Universe makes it abundantly clear what kind of people attend the San Francisco-based conference. They offer detailed demographics information which includes attendee job types, company types, and location details. This makes it easy for potential sponsors to gauge how successful a partnership might be. They also include multiple testimonials throughout the sponsorship page for this same reason.
BlogHer is a company that promotes women's voices across multiple verticals such as the health, food, and beauty industries. They've been putting on events for years and a lot can be learned from a sponsorship package that they offered to Sara Lee back in 2010.
BlogHer and Sara Lee-owned companies Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean partnered together. The food companies were offered an event package that included the largest booth on the expo floor — a whopping 80ft by 20ft space — and featured a kitchen where chefs could prepare food, hold competitions, and meet with food bloggers.
This was highly valuable for the Sara Lee brands as they got to connect with their audience, show them new products, and get valuable feedback. Always consider: what can my event do to offer more valuable packages to potential sponsors?
Proving ROI to Sponsors
We've covered a lot so far in this guide. But there's one topic we still need to discuss: proving ROI to sponsors. How can you show them that a partnership with your event has been a worthwhile investment? We have a few ideas:
1. Show Event Data
In proving value, the first thing you can do is look to data collected throughout your event. If you're using event success software, you should have a swath of data to help entice potential partners. A few metrics to include are:
- How many attendees were at the event?
- How many leads or meetings did each sponsor receive?
- How many attendees registered or attended sponsored workshops/sessions?
- If you're using a mobile event app, how many in-app impressions did sponsors receive?
The answers to these questions will go a long way when attempting to prove ROI.
2. Present Event Attendee Demographics
Attendee demographic information can add depth to other data points and can assure your sponsor that their investment is worthwhile. If a sponsor can see that your event caters to their target audience, they'll be much more willing to invest in one of your sponsorship packages next year.
3. Display Attendee Testimonials
Just like sharing positive testimonials from past event partners can help you attract new sponsors, sharing testimonials from event attendees can also provide a qualitative dimension to sponsorship ROI. Give attendees the opportunity to leave feedback with the mobile event app (if your event is using one) or in a post-event survey.
Key Takeaways: How to Improve Your Event with Event Sponsorships
There you have it, a complete event sponsorship guide for 2020. We shared a lot of information. Feel free to re-read this guide if you need to. Looking for a quick recap of the most important tips, tricks, and strategies? Here are our key takeaways:
- Event sponsorships are valuable because they can make your event financially viable, lend your event credibility, and potentially provide your event with other valuable perks.
- To find event sponsors, first know the vision for your event and what benefits you can offer potential partners before sending any of them an event sponsorship letter.
- When pitching event sponsors, research each company you plan to contact, communicate the value they'll receive, and include social proof.
- Event sponsorship packages are essential. Remember to include different tiers at varying price points so that more companies have a chance to participate. Also, create packages with unique opportunities, make it abundantly clear what each partner will receive, use exclusivity to your advantage, and make your sponsorship page enticing.
- Finally, prove event ROI to sponsors by showing event data from your events, presenting attendee demographic information, and displaying attendee testimonials about sponsors.
You now have everything you need to start contacting potential partners and securing sponsorships for your event.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published on February 22, 2019 and has since been updated to be current with best practices in 2020.