Making More Money from Sponsorships at Your Events
The sponsorship industry continues to grow and is presently a $2.5 billion industry in Canada. Are you and your events getting your fair share of this multi-billion-dollar pie? If not, let’s figure out how we can help you get your fair share—or even your unfair share!
Sponsorship around events is not only critical to the event organizers and operators, it’s also a much sought-after marketing channel. In fact, according to the Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study (CSLS), almost 1 in 4 marketing dollars spent in Canada are allocated to event experiential marketing and sponsorship. Again, that is an awful lot of money—almost 25% of all the marketing budgets in Canada. What can you do to yield more of that money to your event, be that a meeting, a conference/ convention, special event, gala dinner, festival, concert, etc.?
Too often, sponsorship is about getting a supplier to give you extra cash beyond their booth or allowing a business to hang a banner or to be included on your website, or get their logo associated with a dinner banquet, conference, or festival. Most often, events have pre-designed “stock packages” at three-tier levels: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Sound familiar? If so, you are failing to maximize revenue AND failing to provide maximum value for your partners.
The following Nine Concepts to Event Sponsorship Success outline what you need to change/adjust and adapt to, based on my 30 years of personal experience in the sponsorship industry, as well as from our team at the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists® and their decades of experience with buyers and sellers of sponsorship, as well as from our clients and other industry leaders.
1. Accept that there needs to be a paradigm shift in your thinking.
Nothing like starting out with a tip that will shatter your current way of thinking. You need to move away from thinking about what you need to make your event successful (products/services or cash) and to start thinking about the sponsor and what they need to be successful. This will be a big change. You are used to being inundated with your own thoughts (or those of your superior) about needing to account for a title sponsor, a luncheon sponsor, a presenting sponsor, a wine sponsor, bottled water, audiovisual services, airplane flights, etc. Budget for these, but then forget about them. This is thinking
about your needs. Instead, think about what the sponsor needs (or determine this through a discovery session, as per below). It could be that they need to drive traffic to their website. It might be that they want to run a program to engage their employees. Perhaps their need is to drive traffic to their showroom, or increase sales, or build brand awareness, or increase their government relations presence or PR strategy. Until you know what they need, you cannot help them. But once you do know and can help them achieve business goals… they will give you money. To do that, you need to stop
thinking about what you and your event need and instead determine what your sponsor needs so that they can make more money. It’s big shift in thinking, but one that will get you way more money and reoccurring revenue!
2. Shift your approach from selling product to providing solutions.
Based on the concept above, you need to move away from a menu of products and stock packages (see below) and towards building a relationship, determining their needs, and providing solutions to
those needs. You would not go to the doctor and say, “I am not well, give me a prescription.” The doctor would need to determine what is wrong with you; they would need then to determine alternate
treatment and then provide the best treatment to rid you of your ailment, based on the ailment. They would look at things such as your lifestyle and your specific needs. You are the doctor in this scenario with your event, and they need results, so you need to prescribe a solution to their ailments! Pretty scary if we just went to the doctor’s office only to discover they had already set up standard general prescriptions, and the receptionist said to you, “Oh, here are three options, take whichever one you
want… we are not sure of your ailment and, thus, not sure which prescription will work for you, but grab one, and test it out.” So how are you different? You need to provide solutions based on research and relationship development, not just pitch packages!
3. Understand the Trinity of Sponsorship.
Sponsorship is not just about your event getting money. It is a three-way partnership: your event, your
sponsor, and your audience. The sponsor has to have “problems solved” for the money they pay you. You need the money to operate your event at a profit. And your audience—those attending your event, whether that be a member association function, a ticketed public event or free event—need to go away satisfied. If they hate the sponsor and/or content, or there is no real value added, they are not happy. That means that only 2/3 of your partnership is successful, and it needs to be all three cohorts that get a win! A truly successful program ensures that all three partners seek rewards/ROI or benefits.
4. Know what you have available to sell!
You own a great deal more than banners and logos to sell. Understand your event from an asset inventory perspective. Assets include speaking rights, sampling rights, opportunities to meet speakers/
celebrities, activations on-site or online, digital assets, and more. Stop allowing companies to provide you with product for delegate bags. They should be paying for that right! What assets do you own that will help sponsors grow their business? Can you introduce them to prospects or showcase their products? Figure out what you have to sell, then build an inventory of sponsorship marketing assets and determine their real market value. Just like a car dealer, they know what vehicles they have to sell, as well as what additional services (like warranty, financing, service, etc.) and what each asset is worth in the marketplace. That way they can tell you the price based on real market valuations versus “I think I can get $X for this.”
5. Do discovery sessions. This is where you get to know the prospect.
Who is their target audience and secondary audience? What is their acquisition cost or budget per lead? How much is their overall budget, and how much is allocated for this event? What do they spend at similar events? How do they measure success? What works (or doesn’t work) for them at other events? Are they B2B or B2C? Once you know all of this (and more), you can custom-build a proposal—but not before then.
6. Custom-build proposals.
The number one concern from sponsors is that events are still pitching those pre-designed, stock packages. Get rid of those NOW! You must design your proposals based on your prospects’ goals, objectives, and budget, not based on what you want to sell them.
This is critical. Activation is what sponsors do after they have acquired the rights to be associated with an event. Activation allows them to engage and interact with the audience. Events should work with the sponsors to build activation programs that will enhance the experience of the audience at the event, provide value for the event overall, and help the sponsor gain an even greater ROI on their rights and activation investment. Typically, sponsors who fail to activate well see poor event ROI and do not renew. When you sell a sponsor the right to sample or the right to host a booth at the event or the right to sell product, work with them to not only make it happen… but happen effectively for you, for them and for the audience.
8. Create fulfilment reports.
Like proposals, these must also be customized to identify all the assets the sponsor bought and if they were delivered. Focus on the specific goals and outcomes the sponsor had identified, and then determine if they were met or not. Showcase pictures/video of signage and experiential activities that occurred for that specific sponsor. Be accountable and remember—it’s about THEM!
9. Budget correctly and use value-in-kind/contra only for budgeted line items.
If you need bottled water, budget for it. If it is a “nice to have”, but not required then don’t budget for it… Don’t go out wasting your time trying to get someone to “donate” water for your event and call that their sponsorship. You just wasted valuable time that could have brought in cash so you could get a product that you don’t really need. So, plan your budgets correctly. Include everything that is essential to your event. Then, only take product (in lieu of cash) for items that are on your operational budget list. If you did not budget for a free wine bottle at every table and someone offers to provide that, don’t take it. Let them pay you cash to be a sponsor, and their activation can be they supply a bottle of wine at every table and use the marketing asset they bought to promote that they are the wine sponsor. But if you did plan to provide every table with wine, and someone wants to provide it, then you can take it in kind. It offsets a budget line item. But if that line item is worth $2000, then you just give them sponsorship marketing assets worth $2000. It is like a cash deal because it offsets a budgeted line item. No budgeted line item, no sponsorship—unless they pay cash and then provide the product they want to showcase!
If you can deliver on these nine concepts, you will truly reach the next level in event sponsorship success and put thousands more dollars on your bottom-line profits!
Brent Barootes is President and CEO of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists a sponsorship consulting firm. In the past 30 years Brent has worked with meetings, conferences, conventions and events as well as sport organizations, municipalities, Canadian brands, charities and non-profits helping them to generate more bottom-line revenue for their events, conferences and programs through sponsorship.
Brent is also the author of Amazon.ca’s #1 Best Seller in the Nonprofit Marketing and Communications category: Reality Check– Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing. Brent is a regular speaker at conferences and conventions.
Brent lives with his wife and 14-year-old daughter in Nanaimo BC.