You have your event budget, marketing plan and strategic plan. Then you realize you don’t have enough to incorporate that cool app into your conference, or ensure that beer and wine will be served at the opening and closing receptions. Whether you need to save money or earn money for your event, create value, or add event attribute, you can have it all by investing a little time and creativity into securing event sponsors.
Where to start? After you’ve outlined your marketing plan, think of potential sponsors that complement the marketing elements. Would a local brewery or winery gain exposure to your 500-plus attendees by sponsoring a happy hour welcome reception, for example?
But wait, you say, I am an event planner, not a salesperson. OK, so sales may not be directly stated in the Meeting and Business Event Competency Standards (read more about PYM’s breakdown of the MBECS on Page 16 of the PYM digital edition), but these skills include promoting the event, contributing to public relations activities, managing sales activities, developing financial resources, managing budget and monetary transactions. To me that means sell. Whether you’re selling in-kind sponsorships or paid sponsorships, leveraging financial support for your event will always help you prove your worth, support your event financially, and (gasp!) maybe even allow you to make a profit.
As outlined in the eight ways companies can save money on meetings and events, begin with your list of preferred suppliers and vendors, and leverage those relationships to drive synergies while reducing costs.
Want to deliver a sponsorship opportunity that speaks to the buyer? Ask, “What can I do to serve your needs while securing your sponsorship dollars?” It’s amazing how asking one little question can drive so many results. I was once told, “I need more than just my logo on a sign if you’re going to get my sponsorship dollars.” I like the straightforward approach, and the lesson I learned early on is that in order to sell sponsorships, I needed to make them valuable. Here are some tips to get you there:
Don’t be afraid to ask. Have a plan. Who are you going to approach? Why have you chosen them? Be prepared to explain the return they’ll get on their investment. Then learn to accept no and move on. People will say no for various reasons, but if you create a compelling case, they will at least consider it. Even if it’s not in their budget, they may ask you to consider them for next year’s event. Start tracking your responses and level of interest so that by the time the event rolls around again next year, you have a nice database of people to call on.
Start early. If your sponsors know they’re going to get exposure two to three months before the event, through inclusions in email blasts, social media, et cetera, they are more likely to participate.
Create value-add opportunities. The sky is the limit with opportunities you can create for your sponsors. Can you publish an ad for them in your event program? Can you add their advertisement banner to your event app? Can someone from their organization speak or exhibit at your event? Remember, sponsors want exposure, and the more you can give them, the better your chances in getting them to commit money to your event.
Find sponsors that make sense. My guess is that Apple probably won’t sponsor an event at which everyone is using PCs. But, maybe Coca-Cola would sponsor a luncheon if only Coke products were being served. Remember that event sponsors are your event partners, so be sure to form partnerships in which others are committed to the success of your event.
Get the local CVB involved. Will your event be held in a destination you know nothing about? Will you need help leveraging the best prices on airport shuttles, taxicabs, event décor, local sightseeing attractions and more? By partnering with the CVB, you get their expertise in planning an event your attendees will never forget, and the CVB will help connect you with hotels, transportation companies, restaurants, florists and tourist attractions, all of whom may be very interested in being a sponsor for your event.
Create useful and memorable event giveaways. A logo on a giveaway item is impactful, but that item is even more valuable when it is something the recipient will use again and again.Think beyond your typical T-shirt and coffee mug (although those can be great, too), and get creative with products you can add your sponsors’ logos to. Check out Promote Your Message for ideas.
Use social media to your advantage. Are you promoting your event on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook? If not, then you’re missing a fabulous marketing opportunity. Create a Twitter hashtag for your event, set up a Hootsuite account (for $5 a month you can integrate all of your social media channels into one dashboard), and start tracking clicks and impressions. Many event sponsors will want to see this type of data. It’s easy to generate, and you may even surprise yourself with the amount of data you uncover. Want to see how PYM promotes its products, services, events, partners and sponsors? Follow our hashtag, #yaypym to generate some ideas.
Mind your manners. Remember to thank sponsors emphatically and enthusiastically whenever you’re in front of a captive audience. Ask your speakers to give shoutouts to the sponsors. Incorporate sponsors’ logos, messaging, website and branding on signage, table tents, place cards, and any printed or digital event collateral. Ask for a round of applause for the sponsors at the start and close of general sessions. Encourage attendees to give their business to event sponsors. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Please support these people who donated their time, services and resources to make this event possible.”
Everything can be sponsored. Think about all that goes into the event, from pre-event marketing, to on-site, to post-event follow up. If it is in front of an audience, it probably can have a sponsor attached to it. Think about sponsors for event websites, email blasts, surveys, speakers, general sessions, coffee breaks, luncheons, dinners, receptions, spouse/family activities, team-building activities, giveaways, event apps, transportation, event décor and thank you gifts.
Have questions or want to share other ideas on creative and innovative approaches for event sponsors? Please post your comments below.