Attracting and monetizing event sponsors doesn't need to be a black box of mystery. Learn from our co-founder John Russell how he led a small team of 6 in landing over $4M in annual sponsorship sales for an event series. In this post, John shares 6 secrets will help you grow your sponsorship revenue and attract bigger sponsors.

Sponsorship revenue is the single fastest way to improve your event's bottom line. When done right it’s a huge win for both the event promoter and the brand.

Your event is going to happen anyway, so any sponsorship dollars you receive will potentially be 100% pure profit. Additionally, true experiential marketing is hard for brands (especially large ones) to attain. Therefore, event sponsorship provides brands the opportunity to interact with customers in a non-threatening atmosphere, while also attaching their brand to a great experience.

If profit alone doesn't have you ready to hop on the sponsorship train, know that sponsors help increase the overall event experience for your attendees. The perks, giveaways, and merchandise your sponsors provide will have your attendees feeling valued.

Prior to co-founding Webconnex, I was a part of small team that was responsible for an incredible $4 million per year in sponsorship sales! From that experience here are 6 secrets to attracting great sponsors.

1. Make a decision and mean it

Consider if you are really serious about developing a sponsorship program. It will take commitment, and it will take work, and you’ll probably hear a lot of no’s along the way. Take some time to look around and see what’s happening in your market. Check out other big events. How are they integrating sponsors? Which companies are actively sponsoring similar events? How are some of the larger events in your industry attracting sponsors? A little reconnaissance will go a long way.

Once you have done your research, make sure that you and your team are ready to make a run at it. Sponsorship can be a long sales cycle, so you’ll want to get started early. Once you have committed to this decision then it is time to jump in with both feet.

2. Know your audience, and develop your market

Marketers are generally looking for very specific markets to promote their products. They spend millions of dollars to know who their best potential customers are. It’s important to understand who your market is. Consider your demographics; are your customers made up of young moms, guys in their 20’s or middle-aged men and women? Dig deep into your demographics and even the psychographics (values, opinions, interests, attitudes, lifestyles) of your customers as much as possible.

Helpful Hint: Our software makes it easy to add a few quick survey questions to your registration & ticketing pages. For example, a few years back a customer needed demographic info to grow their sponsorship sales. We were able to help them by allowing them to customize their page with additional optional questions. Since the questions were optional, folks felt comfortable to share information such as; marital status, income ranges, education level, and number of children. Almost 80% of their ticket buyers chose to provide the information! Don’t be afraid to get more info from your customers.

3. Look at your assets

In order to create compelling sponsorships, it’s important to know what you have to sell. Make a list of everything (and anything) that is sellable within your event. Ideally, I’d suggest you develop two lists.

First, create a list of your general assets sponsors can be included in/on. These assets are things Like: Website, Print and web advertising, public relations, newsletter, social media, start/finish area (for races), t-shirts, event signage, banner locations, logo on registration site, tickets or confirmation screen, trophies/prizes, race packets, sampling opportunities, data capture, market research, etc.

Second, create a list of specific segments, sections, marketing opportunities that can be sold to a sponsor. Personally I’m involved in a mountain bike race series in Southern California; here are a few examples of opportunities we’ve sold to sponsors: Mazda VIP Parking Area, HDX Hydration Station, Monster Milk Pro Cash Dash, Rokform Leaders Jersey, the Oakley Jupiter Award, etc. Some other ideas might be The Nike products expo, Pepsi Stage, Audi VIP Lounge, The Bank of America Start/ Finish. There are tons of opportunities in every event that sponsors will pay for.

4. Get out of the box

The paradigm has shifted. It used to be you could put up a few banners and call it a day. If you want to get ahead, you have to think outside the box. Be creative with what you have to offer. Your event is unique, make your sponsorship packages unique too. It’s important to make sure sponsorships add value to not only sponsors but participants as well.

Consider a special offer for your sponsors with the registration confirmation. Maybe include a sales promotion by selling your sponsor’s product during the registration process or a discount magazine subscription when registering. There are endless opportunities to partner up with sponsors to not only increase revenue but the quality of the experience for your customers. This will add value to your event, and to the sponsor. There’s nothing better than a participant thanking a sponsor for enhancing their event experience.

5. Create a great sponsorship deck

Have you heard the expression, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,”? As cheesy as it is, it’s often true. A compelling sponsorship deck will get you in the door. When a potential sponsor sees that you’ve taken the time to put together a thoughtful, visually appealing deck it says a lot about your event and your commitment to excellence. Here are 7 things to keep in mind when creating a great sponsorship deck.

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it visually appealing
  • Sum up your value proposition quickly
  • Add photos
  • Give a breakdown of your audience
  • Create sponsorship levels with pricing (Use this as a benchmark, and then customize from there)
  • Make sure you have your contact info on the last page

6. Don’t sell… Listen

The key to awesome, long-term partnerships is understanding your sponsor’s objectives. Put yourself in their shoes! When you truly understand their needs, your sponsorship programs will rock. Go into this partnership with a written list of their marketing objectives. This will ensure it is a positive experience for both parties involved.

Finally,  keep in mind bigger sponsorship deals take time to cultivate. You may be talking with them about this year’s event, but it might not materialize until the following year. So get to work and be patient with the process. Remember to always take a look at the newcomers to the market. Everyone is after the “biggest fish.” Typically, the established companies aren’t as hungry. Don’t underestimate looking for the new, upcoming company who is trying to grow their market share. Go get em!

P.S. As co-founder here at Webconnex, I love working with our event customers, and I am more than happy to review your sponsorship plan or assist in any way I can. Don’t hesitate to reach out!