More and more, organizers of corporate meetings and events, particularly franchise enterprises with a plethora of Vendor Partners, are turning to Event Sponsors to help defray the cost of staging such gatherings.
Let’s face it … the driving force behind soliciting event sponsorships is to raise money, first and foremost. But it’s time to look more deeply at sponsorships and ensure you’re honoring your half of what amounts to a partnership – the Sponsor gives you money and you deliver something of value to them.
The second half of the last sentence – “and you deliver something of value to them” – is what I’d like to focus on.
Gone are the days of passivity and mere logo presence at a conference. Write-a-check-and-we’ll-hang-your-banner is no longer acceptable.
Shift your mindset and look at event sponsorships as a form of modern-day advertising with all the hyper-targeted, engaging and memorable bells and whistles that technology, innovation and old-fashioned creative brainstorming deliver.
Just as an ad agency prepares a Creative Brief — including Situation, Objectives, Creative Concepts, Rationale and Costs — you should be looking to offer up the same well-thought-out plan that serves the needs of the person writing that hefty check.
Let’s take a closer look …
In as concise terms as possible (bulleted form is fine), paint a comprehensive picture of your event for your Sponsor (or Sponsor target). Describe the event, audience makeup, number of attendees, your business goals for the conference, creative theme, agenda components, etc. Making sure they’ve got a grasp and appreciation of the opportunity before them is the foundation of a successful sponsorship deal.
This is where partnership comes in. Draw a line down a sheet of paper (literally or figuratively) and list your objectives on one side and your Event Sponsor’s objectives down the other. Actively seek to understand what your Sponsor hopes to gain from entering into a sponsorship agreement. Then work together to find the most appropriate linkage.
Is it having the opportunity to address your group from the main stage for, say, a $10,000 contribution? Or is it paying for a motivational speaker that addresses a topic of interest to both your company and the sponsoring company? (You might just stumble upon a budget-easing $25,000-$50,000 score, depending on the speaker booked.) It might be the Sponsor is rolling out a new device or equipment and a demo station would be ideal for them.
In all cases, tailor the sponsorship offering to best suit the Sponsor’s needs (while keeping your needs in mind, too).
This includes how and where you insert your Sponsor into your meeting or event (i.e., interactive kiosk in the pre-function area; five minutes at the General Session podium to tout their product or service; branding within an event app; strategic placement of branded, oversized Post-It notes with key messaging placed on restroom mirrors, sleeping rooms and common areas; branded smart device recharging stations with lockable compartments, etc.). You’re limited only by your collaborative imagination and creativity. Don’t be shy about asking the Sponsor, “In a blue-sky world, what would you like to do at our event to engage our attendees?”
Also, keep timing and placement in mind. If you offer a specific time-slot for the Sponsor activity, be sure all attendees are in-house at that time for maximum exposure and engagement. If you offer a slot on arrival day, the effect will be diluted because your guests are trickling in and are likely more concerned with getting settled into their rooms and environment. Your Event Sponsor will be disgruntled (and unlikely to re-up for next year’s conference).
While you’re busy finding that delicate balance between serving your needs and the needs of the Sponsor, you also need to remember those kind souls seated in your audience. What do they need? What stimulates their interests? What would they like to know and learn so they can perform better as people and as business professionals? How will the Event Sponsor’s presence benefit them?
Your stated rationale behind whatever creative concept you settle on should be a win-win-win for you, the Sponsor, and the attendee.
Show me the money!
You’ve primed the pump and gotten the Event Sponsor enthused about the opportunity before him (or her). By laying out a Creative Brief-style plan, you’ve demonstrated you’re actively interested in making sure their sponsorship dollars are seen as a true investment, not a shakedown.
Now, it’s time to sign on the dotted line. Remember, the more you demonstrate value to the Sponsor, the greater the odds of closing the deal.
And give some careful thought to how you assign pricing for the various levels of event sponsorship. You don’t want to leave money on the table but you also don’t want to price gouge. Only you can make that call. Once you do, run it by key members of your team to gauge their level of comfort before you go out and start peddling things.
And speaking of event sponsorship levels, ditch the hackneyed Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze in favor of package names that sizzle. Be sure the weighting of the names for each tier clearly indicates a pecking order. Bottom line: Have fun with it. Be creative. Tie it to your theme, if possible, and deliver the message that this ain’t any ol’ event sponsorship opportunity, it’s something special!
Finally, work with your team to develop a template for the above categories. List them and explain what info you’re looking for then sit down with your Event Sponsor (or Sponsor target) and have a discussion. Chances are they’ll write that check. And come post-event, budget reconciliation time, you’ll be a hero to your boss!
Treating Event Sponsors like Event Partners will help maximize their contributions. Make it a win-win-win for all – your company, your attendees, and your Event Partner!