Corporate sponsors play a big role when organizing a successful event. Not only can they offset costs and boost ROI, but they also supply some much-needed exposure for your brand. If you’re an event planner, this must sound like music to your ears.

Unfortunately, getting sponsors isn’t easy. And finding the right sponsor? That’s a challenge all to itself. In fact, the majority of event planners agree that acquiring sponsors is a struggle. The good news is that we’re here to help.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to get sponsors for an event. From identifying an ideal sponsor to securing their support, you’ll learn all there is to know about putting together a creative sponsorship proposal for your upcoming event.

Event sponsorship 101

People walk past sponsorship booths at in-person event

Before jumping into the details of researching and securing sponsorships, let’s take a step back and review the basics. 

An event sponsor is any organization that agrees to support another company’s event, either by contributing funds or something else of value to the event organizer. In return, corporate sponsors expect brand exposure, access to attendees, media coverage, promotional opportunities, and other benefits.

According to Markeltic, about two-thirds of event organizers accept sponsorships at their events. Why? Because sponsors offer several significant advantages:

  • Higher revenue: Partnering with an event sponsor allows you to keep ticket prices competitive and lower the barrier to entry for attendees.
  • Increased exposure: High-profile sponsorships generate more brand awareness for your event and drive more people to register. With a larger attendance, you can generate more leads during the event.
  • More credibility: Associating with recognizable brand names lends authority to your event, especially if you’re new to the industry.
  • Bigger budget: With a corporate sponsor footing some of the bill, you can provide a better experience for your attendees.

For more information, check out our Ultimate Guide to Event Sponsorship in 2022.

4 types of event sponsorship

It’s best to know your options before searching for a prospective sponsor. Generally, a potential event sponsor will fall under the following four categories:

  1. Financial sponsor: A financial corporate sponsor offers money to the event planner in exchange for perks, such as their logo on event materials or a sponsored booth in your virtual event platform
  2. Media sponsor: Instead of contributing funds, a media sponsor offers exposure in the form of advertising campaigns.
  3. In-kind sponsor: An in-kind sponsor provides goods and services and other important resources to the event, including catering, venue space, prizes, and event technology.
  4. Promotional partner: Promotional sponsors are big-name influencers who attach their name to your event. By leveraging their fanbase and social media influence they generate publicity and interest for your target audience.

Finding the right sponsor for your event

Searching for a potential event sponsor can be a difficult process, but not for a lack of choices. The truth is that there are plenty of organizations that would be willing to partner with you on your upcoming event. In fact, the sponsorship segment of the B2B event industry is growing at an annual rate of 12.1% through 2028. According to Allied Market Research, that’s the highest rate of any segment in the market.

The real challenge is finding the right sponsor—one that makes the most sense for your specific event. Here are a few qualities to look for when selecting your ideal sponsor:

Sponsors that align with your values, goals, and audience

A great way to refine your search criteria is to look for corporate sponsors who are a good fit and align with your mission. You don’t need to find a perfect match—just make sure the partnership lines up with a few basic considerations. Prioritize the quality of sponsorship over the quantity of sponsors.

First, think about the characteristics of your event. What is its purpose? What are you trying to achieve by partnering with a prospective sponsor? Are you planning an in-person, hybrid, or virtual event? 

Then, look no further than your industry. Which companies tend to sponsor events? Have they sponsored similar events to yours? If so, chances are your target audiences will closely align and they’ll be willing to offer their sponsorship.

Check to see that their brand messaging aligns with your own and that your company values are cut from the same cloth.

Next, consider your audience. Which companies will be welcomed by your attendees? Which brands provide solutions to their problems? If a potential sponsor is a good fit for your customers, their promotions have a better chance of gaining traction.

Sponsors who know the value of event marketing

Another great way of cutting down your overwhelming list of potential sponsors is by looking for those already well-versed in event marketing. In other words, look for brands that understand and appreciate the appeal of sponsoring an event.

Why does this help? Because you won’t have to worry about convincing the prospective sponsor that event marketing is worth their time and money—they already know it is. Organizations that have previously sponsored events have experience in the process and may even have valuable insight that others don’t.

Sponsors who are driven by ROI

There are some corporate sponsors that are merely interested in slapping their name and logo on your event, kicking up their feet, and leaving it at that. This may be a less complicated and involved approach to sponsorship, but it’s not one that will maximize the benefits of the relationship.

Look for organizations that put the “partner” in “partnership.” In other words, reach out to brands that are willing to roll up their sleeves and work with you to ensure you’re both achieving a positive outcome. If a potential event sponsor is driven by ROI, they’re more likely to do what they can to make sure their return becomes a reality.

How to secure an event sponsorship

People walking by event sponsorship booths in conference center

Once you’ve identified the type of event sponsor you’re looking for, it’s time to reach out and get the ball rolling. To help you get started, let’s walk through the basics of pitching to sponsors.

Crafting a compelling pitch

Think of the pitch less like a sales message and more like a conversation starter. You’re not trying to win them over immediately, you just want to get a feel for their brand. That means you don’t need to include any specifics about your event. This process is meant to help you learn about a prospective sponsor and open the door for a potential partnership. 

Before pitching, make sure you’ve done your homework. Research the prospect’s brand, their values, and some background information about the company—this will make the conversation easier to initiate. 

When crafting the message, consider the qualities of an effective and compelling pitch:

  • Transparency: Be genuine, honest, and upfront about your brand and your intentions. You’re not selling; you’re searching for a professional relationship.
  • Value: Communicate what you have to offer a corporate sponsor. Think about what they might want, not about what your company stands to gain.
  • Personalization: Establish a point of connection by making the pitch more personal to the recipient. This is where your background research pays off.
  • Empathy: Understand your prospect’s needs and speak directly to them. 

Avoid cliche statements in the introduction or conclusion of your pitch. You want your message to stand out and make an impact without going over the top. Keep the body of the pitch short and sweet, keeping in mind the four qualities outlined above.

Don’t be too pushy or forward, but make it easy for prospects to take the next step if they’re interested. Give them some potential meeting times or a link to your calendar to book a follow-up conversation. 

Follow-up conversations

Once you’ve established a rapport and engaged an interested prospective sponsor, you need to nurture the budding relationship. Keep their attention by continuing the conversation (either verbally or via email) to understand the brand’s goals and how they would define a successful partnership.

This is about gathering more insight into their company so that you can later communicate how a sponsorship would benefit their objectives. Here are some questions you can ask during follow-up conversations:

  • What does a successful event look like to you?
  • Have you sponsored an event before? If so, what were the highlights and challenges?
  • What are your core brand values?
  • What are some ROI metrics you’d like to see achieved?
  • What do you hope to get out of a sponsored event?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Pro tip: If the person you’re speaking with isn’t a decision-maker, provide event materials and resources they can pass along to an influencer (i.e. someone with the authority to sign off on the event).

How to create a winning sponsorship proposal for your next event

Congratulations: The prospect enjoyed your pitch, they’re interested in partnering together, and they await your sponsorship proposal. But where do you begin?

Luckily, there’s a simple place to start. An event sponsorship proposal should always include the following elements:

Value proposition

Why should a corporate sponsor partner with you? In a nutshell, that’s what your value proposition is all about.

You’ve already mapped out why your event stands out from the competition. Now it’s time to reiterate that reason to your prospect. Communicate your event’s unique selling points and help them understand exactly what your event has to offer.

Testimonies or case studies

Some brands may be reluctant to partner with an inexperienced event planner. A great way to set prospects at ease and instill confidence is by showcasing your best testimonials from past sponsors. Include any that experienced a great ROI and valued your relationship.

Event sponsorship package

A sponsorship package is an outline of every sponsorship opportunity you can provide. Tailor this section to your prospect’s needs. Think back to your conversations and decide which type of sponsorship package would best suit their objectives:

  • À la carte opportunity menus: This approach offers the sponsor flexibility to choose each sponsorship opportunity at their own discretion.
  • Sponsorship tiers: This approach bundles opportunities based on price. The prospect unlocks different benefits at each sponsorship tier rather than customizing them on their own.

Historical data

Data is king when it comes to your sponsorship proposal. Show charts and data on past events that prove sponsor ROI. Include metrics like leads, sales, clicks, session hits, meetings, etc. This can help you back up your proposal with concrete evidence of success.

Event technology

List the contents of your event technology stack, including your event management software. This is where you’ll track attendee activity and measure performance. Sponsors want to see that they can obtain real-time data on attendee satisfaction and engagement with their brand during the event.

Creative sponsorship opportunities that will wow potential partners

Sponsorship opportunities can make or break your proposal. That’s why you need to get creative with your packages. To help you think outside the box, here are some effective sponsorship opportunities that are sure to entice prospective sponsors:

Swag boxes and gifts

Send sponsored swag bags and other goodies to attendees or hand them out in person. Either way, gifts are a great way to attach positive brand recognition to your sponsors. 

Pro tip: Correspond items to your event activities. For instance, if an attendee signs up for a yoga class, send them a branded yoga mat. Hosting a virtual cocktail party? Send sponsored cocktail sets to remote attendees before the big day. 

Social media callouts

Social media is a powerful tool. Before and during the event, call out your partners and thank them for their support—but don’t stop there. 

Share images of attendees wearing sponsored swag, or post videos of sponsored speakers hitting the stage. Help drive traffic to your partners by constantly showcasing them to your community.

Sponsored entertainment

Involve your sponsors in the entertainment you book to keep your audience engaged. Brands can sponsor individual activities, which means their name will be mentioned throughout the event as it relates to that session (i.e. flyers, emails, agendas, and other promotional materials). Whenever someone thinks back to the excitement of that experience, they’ll associate it with your sponsor.

Sponsored gamification

Leverage your event management software and offer brands a chance to sponsor interactive games and festivities. For instance, a scavenger hunt is a great way to bring attendees together and compete for prizes, which can also be branded by your sponsor.

Sponsored profiles

Does your event technology include a branded mobile event app? If so, you can offer sponsors their own profiles within the app where they can engage attendees and make long-lasting impressions on their target audience. Better yet, drive traffic their way using push notifications, banner ads, and more.

Seal the deal with Webex Events

Securing sponsorships is hard work. Retaining them can be even harder. Fortunately, an event management platform like Webex Events allows you to:

  • Prove sponsor ROI using real-time attendee data.
  • Drive traffic to your partners with sponsored profiles, push notifications, and Live Display: a showcase of your corporate sponsors.
  • Offer unique and engaging sponsorship opportunities.

With Webex Events, you won’t just win over sponsors—you’ll keep them coming back for more. Request a demo to learn more about how we can simplify your event sponsorship today.