You're at a planning meeting for an upcoming event and the conversation arises about “getting sponsors” to support the event financially with hard dollar (cash) and soft dollar (services) sponsors. For more than 20 years, I’ve been collaborating with sponsors for events and conferences. The most successful sponsor programs always begin by asking, “Why should a company support the event?” Once the answer to that question is crystal clear, strategically developing the target list to contact makes sense and has purpose.
Procuring sponsors is only half the equation, though. Delivering sponsorship benefits is the challenge! When done properly, you’ll develop loyal, returning sponsors each year.
How do you help sponsors ensure their participation yields the ROI they want?
Traditionally, sponsors are given marketing perks (website, email, attendee list, social media, comp tickets) for the event. It is a winwin, and simple enough to deliver.
What if you could do more for them, though? Consider these three suggestions that, while requiring forethought, time and resourcefulness, won’t cost a penny to deliver.
1. Ask each sponsor who they’d like to personally be introduced to for potential business development. While working with Roger Staubach’s company for a Dallas conference, I learned about a corporate contact they’d been trying to connect with who was attending the conference. Resourcefully, I arranged for the executive director hosting the conference to make the introduction during the conference. The result? The sponsor closed a new account and returned as a sponsor for future conferences.
2. Drive engagement by incorporating sponsors INTO the event! (When it makes sense.) I planned a national conference for law firms that attracted big-name sponsors such as Mercedes Benz. I saw the opportunity to engage them by using their products. Here’s what we did: They brought a Maybach to the hotel for the conference and let attendees take quick trips to experience the car. We had three new models brought into the prefunction area and staged throughout the conference. The big finish? They donated a car to be auctioned off at the awards gala on the final evening of the conference. I made arrangements for the sponsor contact, along with the current and incoming association presidents, to drive into the ballroom and up to the stage! The crowd went wild. At the end of the evening, the Mercedes contact said, “I don’t know how we will ever top tonight.” That made all the time and effort to coordinate this worthwhile. And my client? Well, he looked like a rock star!
3. Tap into the sponsor’s competitive spirit! When you’re working with corporate sponsors, remember that they participate in numerous events all year long to represent their company and provide giveaways! Be resourceful by reaching out to your corporate sponsors and ask them to donate products to include in each attendee bag. This is a perfect way for them to clean out their “secret closet” of promotional items and get extra marketing exposure. For one conference, I took it a step further and went back to tap into their competitive spirit: We had companies who paid to sponsor each meal. I suggested they include an amenity at each place setting for the meal they sponsored. Well, it turned into a game of “one-upmanship” amongst the sponsors to have the best gift at the tables. This turned out to be a total win-win that elevated the value of the conference and gave the events a more elegant overall look. Success is in the nuances of asking the right questions, making suggestions, listening to what sponsors want and then following through.