Here’s the thing: it can take some time to line up sponsors.
If this is your first event, you’ll have to find leads, and do cold outreach. But if you’re thinking ‘yikes, this sounds like too much work’, consider this:
For some of our HeySummiteers, their entire event revenue comes from sponsors. All of it!
The benefits of sponsorship can be huge. Sponsors = money (most of the time) but it’s not just that: they can also help you do MORE for your attendees, and add value to your event.
Here’s an example: Maybe you want to make your event free for attendees, but you also need to be paid for your time. What’s the solution? Line up some sponsors to replace ticketing revenue.
This is a pretty common approach, and sponsors love it! (To them, a free event = a bigger
audience = more leads)
Ready for a big boost to your event revenue? Stick around - we’re here to break event sponsorship down into quick and easy steps.
Step # 1: When?
When Do I Contact Sponsors?
The answer here is ‘as soon as possible, BUT’. The ‘but’ is that you want to have some important details in place before you go ahead.
The most successful event organizers reach out to sponsors once they know:
- the event dates
- who a few of the speakers will be
- who their event is for (This one’s a BIGGIE - it's really important to have a clear attendee persona)
It’s much easier to pitch to sponsors if you’ve laid these foundations for your event, but you don’t have to know everything -- you just need enough to paint a clear picture.
Step #2: Who?
The best sponsors for your event will align with your audience and the nature of your event.
The very best events bring together compatible sponsors, speakers, target audience and event topic
Wondering what this looks like in practice? Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re running a productivity event.
For sponsors, you might consider:
- productivity apps
- consultancy firms that help work-teams become more productive, or
- brands selling productivity tools
Remember: the most successful sponsorship deals bring people together. You’re bringing attendees closer to products they’re likely to use and love, and companies closer to the customers they’re trying to attract.
Step #3: Where?
You’ve got an idea of who you’re looking for - but where to find them? These exercises will help you narrow your search.
Exercise 1: Use Your Community.
Ask yourself these questions:
- what audience is my event engaging with?
- are there brands who already engage with that audience who I can reach out to?
- which companies have already sponsored initiatives similar to my event? If they have a history of sponsorship, you’ll know they have a budget for sponsorship deals, and the internal structure in place to make all the arrangements.
Exercise 2: Picture the Products your Attendees Need
Write out a list of 5-10 products and services your target attendee would buy, or be looking to buy.
Do some research to find good-quality options that meet these needs. If you get these brands as sponsors, you’re also solving more problems for your attendees. It’s a great way of adding value to your event, in addition to monetizing the event for yourself!
Step #4: Check the Fit
Once you’ve found some potential sponsors, ask yourself a few questions before reaching out to them. Asking these questions in advance will help you pick the best sponsors to reach out to -- and identify the ones most likely to respond positively. (We’re all about things that save you time and effort, and help streamline success!)
- What does this sponsor want or need? Brand exposure? The social capital of saying they supported your event? Brand association (either with your brand, or other speakers/sponsors at your event)? Are you able to help them access a new - but highly relevant - group of potential customers?
- Is this sponsor suitable? What will your attendees think about this sponsor? Will they appreciate seeing your sponsor prominently during your event, and on your promo materials?
- How much convincing will be required? If you feel like you’ll have to work particularly hard to convince a potential sponsor that your event is relevant, you’ll have less chance of engaging them - it might be better to invest your time somewhere else.
- How big is this sponsor? (Size matters!) You probably want to stay away from large companies (unless you have a previous relationship with them). Some of the most successful sponsorship deals we’ve seen match their sponsors with the size of their event.
Top Tip: A smaller sponsor is often better (and more enthusiastic!). A company that’s too new may not have much money to help you with, but it’s still worth having a conversation about other forms of support (more on that below!).
Step #5: The Ask
Here’s the most important thing about sponsor outreach: be clear about why you’re getting in touch, and what you’re asking for.
Simply asking a brand if a sponsorship would be of interest to them without being specific won’t be helpful for either you or your potential sponsor.
A potential sponsor should understand right away why you’re getting in touch with them and why a partnership makes sense.
- If you’re asking for money - tell them, and tell them how much. It can be tempting to avoid numbers until someone has said ‘yes’ - but many sponsors won’t even begin a conversation without knowing what you want.
- If you’re asking for something in-kind - like an email marketing campaign - be specific about what you want and why you want it.
Remember: often the decision to provide sponsorship is made quickly. Giving your sponsors as much information as possible upfront is the best way you can help them make up their mind.
One final thought: be flexible!
It’s great to go in with a very clear ask, but you can also let potential sponsors know that you’re open to ideas. Flexibility will really endear you to potential sponsors, and together you might come up with something even better than you initially imagined!