How to find sponsors for your event

By the time you’ve dealt with catering, venue hire, speakers and equipment, events can come with a hefty price tag. One of the most effective ways to alleviate the strain on a stretched budget is to obtain sponsorship from other businesses, who are sometimes prepared to offer financial backing in exchange for publicity or some other form of benefit. But it can be difficult to explain to a sponsor just why they should part with their cash for your event or how you can add value for them. Although it can work wonders if obtained successfully, finding sponsorship is often far from easy.

Plan your event first

You may feel as though you can’t start planning until you know exactly how much sponsorship money you have to play around with, but to win over potential sponsors you will need to present them with a package detailing what you need and what you can offer them in return. This won’t be possible until you have the event planned out, so do that first making the most of the budget you have. Then, when the basics of the event are in place you’ll be in a position to pitch for sponsorship.

What type of sponsorship are you asking for?

There are lots of different types of sponsorship, depending on what you require to make your event a success. Think carefully about your options to avoid pitching to the wrong organisations late on.

Cost reductions: sponsorships from suppliers that work by cutting your overheads. Barter partnerships, such as when a caterer offers half-price meals for an advert in an event programme, can make a real difference to the overall cost of an event.

Cash: this type of sponsorship takes longer to find because organisations have budget restrictions of their own, so be sure to plan well in advance. But if you do manage to land a cash sponsor, it is a great way to directly cover many of your costs so you can invest more in the event. However, this can also be a dangerous path - cash sponsors will expect more in return than barter partners, for example, so be prepared to offer tailor-made and negotiable deals.

Relationship sponsorships: think of more long-term partnerships that offer mutual benefits. For example, think about media partnerships that can offer coverage and publicity in return for a mention in promotional materials, or big brands that can lend your event credibility.

Work out your value

You’re going to sell sponsorship on the value it can offer the sponsors, not its benefits for you. So think carefully about what the opportunities you can offer will be worth to those organisations and put together sponsorship packages based on the differing amounts of money they may contribute. This means you have options for smaller and bigger businesses alike and increases your chances of attracting funding. Include options such as advertising space in programmes and around the building itself, announcing the company’s name at the event or displaying their banner, even giving them a space to promote their product. It’s all part of putting together a comprehensive sponsorship package that will get the right people’s attention.

Target your efforts

To save everyone time and money that might be wasted in contacting the wrong sponsors, event planners need to focus on organisations that have the most to gain from being associated with your event. That means looking at the target market of your event - who do you expect your attendees to be? Then look to organisations that are seeking to appeal to the same people and approach them with your sponsorship proposition. Make clear to them how they will be able to connect with their target audience through your event and its usefulness as a marketing activity - data captured through your event booking software could be useful to back up your pitch with facts and figures.

Then, be persistent with prospective sponsors - make phone calls, sum up your pitch in less than 30 seconds and make sure they’re interested before following up with some more detailed information. If you don’t get a response within a week or two, call them again. And most importantly, remember to keep track of the calls you make and the outcome, so you can judge whether to call again or cross an organisation off your list in the future.

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