Most events need sponsors to ensure they are financially viable to run. For those that operate via a ticket-based model, it’s still worth considering sponsorship as a way of unlocking extra budget, which can make a real difference to the quality of speaker, venue and experience you’re able to offer.
Looking for sponsors is not easy, but every single event will have an ideal supporter – they just need to find them. Let’s look into some of the ways you can go about this complex but rewarding task.
Nowadays, we have unlimited access to potential sponsors via social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. These free tools give you the luxury of searching through lists and lists of people, often with their job titles and company names attached, until you find someone worth talking to.
If you’re looking for sponsors but cannot picture the right type of personnel, here’s a bit of a checklist to go off:
- Right company? Try pairing your event up with businesses that carry some kind of link to its subject. For instance, if I’m holding a literature festival, I would start by looking for backing from publishers or book sellers, like Amazon or Waterstones.
- Right position? Be sure to speak with people that have the authority to approve a sponsorship package. PR managers are a good place to start, but events also fall into the remit of heads of marketing and sales. Focus on the decision makers and divert only when you’re informed of a more relevant person to contact.
- Right goals? If you know about the type of companies to target, why not visit their social accounts to see if they’re exhibiting at other events? This insight can even help you tailor your pitch when you eventually come to talk with them.
Competitor analysis is arguably one of the most important tasks to perform when looking for sponsors. Put simply – if someone is backing your competitor’s event, why wouldn’t they do the same for yours?
Some companies take things a step further by looking for sponsors on their competitors’ exhibiting floor. We’d advise against using any tactics that might be construed as ‘underhand’, but attending similar events is a perfectly valid form of research. Plus, if your subject is highly specific, your sponsor list will probably cut a similar shape to your competitors’ due to the lack of available options.
If you’ve organised a similar event (in the best-case scenario, this will be last year’s edition of the same one you’re managing) you will have a goldmine of data to use in your sponsorship recruitment efforts.
Different attendees will require different approaches. Sponsors of competing events should be the first in line for a personalised email or a phonecall, inviting them to attend and potentially sponsor. Aside from this, you should be including reminders about sponsorship packages in your regular email marketing communications.
Looking for sponsors in your first-party data is more natural than contacting people you don’t know, mainly because they should already recognise your event and what it can offer.
Use intelligent advertising
Events like to play their cards close to their chest and prefer not to inform potential attendees, en masse, that they’re in need of financial backing.
When you’re looking for sponsors through advertising, you have to be more tactical and really analyse the contents of your messages. Let’s say I’m promoting my aforementioned literature festival through a display ad. I might include the following information:
- A celebration of UK writers
- Tickets selling fast
- At London’s Great Hall
This centres very much around encouraging sales of tickets; urging a purchase on the basis of them going fast. Let’s apply a sponsorship twist on the same event:
- 10,000 attendees
- The world’s biggest literature event
- Showcasing the UK’s best writing talent
- The UK Literature Festival.
The numerical figure provides an indication of the data and audience that sponsors tend to expect. The references to its stature (“world’s biggest”) and calibre (“the best writing talent”) also bring a reputable edge – one that sponsors could get on board with.
Better still, if you already have sponsors signed up and would like a few more, why ask to use their logos in your campaigns? Every company has its competitors. If one of yours is exhibiting at your industry’s biggest event, wouldn’t you consider doing the same to preserve your reputation?
Looking for sponsors isn’t easy. Some events have it down to a fine art, but regardless of who you are and what you’re producing, there will always be companies that are actively searching for the kind of opportunities you can provide. You just have to look in the right places.