Getting Sponsorships Without Begging

I have been responsible for event sponsorship on many occasions. My first real experience started when I got to work on a my first festival as an event planner. I don’t know why I took on sponsorship because I had never done it, but for some reason I felt drawn to it.

To say the sponsorship program was unsuccessful would be an understatement. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t the event. It was the lack of understanding about what sponsorship of an event truly meant – to both the event and myself.
Back then, and especially in a small town, sponsorship was going from store to store asking – begging – for money. If you visited 10 stores or businesses and came back with $500 it was celebrated.
As I moved through the ranks of the event committee I quickly started to feel that something was off when it came to sponsorship. I felt like that there was more to it that we weren’t getting.
Years passed and I continued to learn about sponsorship through watching what other events were doing. Finally I decided to bite the bullet and take a course.

Sponsorship is actually marketing. Sponsorship is companies paying to get visibility at your event

I couldn’t have been more than about 20 minutes into the first part of the course when the lightbulb went off. This was it! This was the piece I was missing in sponsorship.

Since that moment I have tried to help clients change their view on sponsorship. Unfortunately so many are stuck in the old way of thinking and can’t get past offering their sponsors pre-packaged offerings.

This past year I partnered with Bodhi Tree Yoga Studio to create a yoga festival. Because I was in total control of the event I was able to implement what I had learned about sponsorship.

And what was the result?

The result was us securing 7 sponsorships without us asking one company. Every sponsor we got approached us. You read that right, we didn’t ask, they approached us. Boom!! Dream come true, right?

How did we do it?

  1. We got clear on who would be in attendance at our event. This was a first time event and although we couldn’t guarantee attendance (and let’s not forget a festival in the middle of a global pandemic) we could be very confident on who was going to be there, specifically what type of people would be Interested in buying tickets to our event.
  2. As part of our event, because of an agreement we had with our municipality, we were providing free advertising on our event app to all local businesses. In reaching out about the free advertising we were very clear on who our target market was on this event and asked straight up “if this is also your target market and you’d like to get in front of our attendees in a big way, reach out…” Sponsorship is often misunderstood as “charity” or “just helping out” an event. Sponsorship is actually marketing. Sponsorship is companies paying to get visibility at your event so that your mutual target market can see them. Once the companies realized that our target markets were a match, the phone started to ring.
  3. When the potential sponsors reached out the next step was to have a phone call with each one. Making time for a one on one call with each sponsor is key to this strategy being a success. On the call I asked questions like
  • What makes this event a good place for you to be seen?
  • What are you trying to accomplish by advertising at our event?
  • Is there a particular message you are trying to get across?
  • Do you have a particular budget in mind?
I then talked a bit about the different types of advertising opportunities we had available. Together we talked about what we felt would be the best fit for what they were trying to accomplish.
For example, my discussions with a local physio company told me that she wanted an opportunity to speak with the attendees. So, I created a package that included time on stage where she could introduce herself and her services. Another sponsor was a therapist and I know that their care often involves meditation and other holistic treatments. For them I recommended making them the meditation sponsor for the event. Every meditation session was “present by…” and their company name.

Once we came up with an idea on the call I created a personalized sponsorship offering for each company based on what was most important to them. The sales part was easy, or even non-existant, because the sponsor sold themselves on the opportunity.

Julia O’Grady has big vision, fresh ideas and a proven track record in the events industry. She and her team work hard to exceed client expectations and push ITM Events to achieve greater heights. A driven entrepreneur, Julia also manages the business side of ITM Events including human resources, finances, marketing and writing grant and sales proposals. In taking a high level approach to event management, Julia is able to visualize a project from inception to successful execution. She attracts valuable sponsors by offering meaningful opportunities to engage with participants. Julia uses her keen analytical mind to create incredible events that maximize the available budget. When Julia isn’t planning unforgettable events, she loves travelling the world with her family, staying active, and enjoying fine food and martinis.

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