Sponsorships are a vital part of event revenue. They can offset your event costs, boost your ROI, and bring you some additional event exposure. They can also add credibility if the brands are aligned and you target similar audiences. 

But what does it take to find and secure the right sponsors for your event—the ones who will bring you the revenue and exposure you need? 

Partnering with the right sponsors who are a brand fit can be difficult due to changing industry trends and brand expectations. It’s also challenging to consistently up the ante and develop creative and unique sponsorship ideas.  

In addition, securing sponsorships during this modern post-pandemic era is different from what you might be used to. Writing a flawless pitch and creating cut-and-paste sponsorship packages is no longer enough to secure lucrative sponsors.  

Your sponsor relationships start long before anyone signs a contract. If you don’t have certain key elements in place and really understand the brands you’re scouting, you’ll miss opportunities to work with brands that are an ideal fit, and you might need to settle for sponsors that don’t add much value. In this article, we’ll discuss the key elements you need to attract and land your ideal sponsors in this current event climate. 

This guide will focus on: 

  • What event sponsorship is and why you should work with sponsors 
  • Why brands want to sponsor your events 
  • 4 types of event sponsorships 
  • How to find and attract the right sponsors 
  • Creative and innovative sponsorship ideas 
  • How to pitch potential sponsors and create a winning proposal 
  • How to compel sponsors to work with you 
  • Data-driven solutions for attracting and securing event sponsorships 

Let’s go! 

What is event sponsorship? Why work with sponsors? 

Event sponsors are organizations that contribute funds to your event and, in return, expect brand exposure, access to attendees, media coverage, promotional and speaking opportunities, and other benefits.  

Why work with sponsors? With 65% of event organizers accepting sponsorships for their events, the practice has become commonplace. The great thing is that event sponsorships benefit both parties. While sponsors enjoy increased exposure and ROI, you will enjoy the following benefits.  

Event revenue and increased attendee participation 

Ticket sales might not be enough to generate an event ROI, especially if you’re hosting a large-scale event. Post-pandemic events are also different as many attendees will connect to the event virtually, which means they don’t expect to pay in-person event rates. Partnering with sponsors allows you to keep ticket prices competitive and lower the barrier to entry for registrants.  

Increased exposure and attendance  

High-profile sponsors can expose your event to a larger audience (their community). If your sponsor is well-known and respected in your industry, the partnership can elevate your event in your audience’s mind and boost your credibility. The result? Casting a wider net will bring more registrants your way. 

Long-term opportunities 

Long-term relationships with sponsors can be the gift that keeps on giving. Valued sponsors will continue to be a revenue generator for future events.  

Brands that receive value from events will want to continue their partnerships for future events as long as their brand aligns with your event audience. Keep your relationships with valued sponsors strong throughout the year to solidify future partnerships.     

Why brands sponsor events

It’s easy for event organizers to get hyper-focused on dollars and cents. It’s understandable, especially since you’re responsible for smashing company goals and proving event ROI. But hyper-focus on the funding without balancing the value you’re providing to the sponsors can work against you.  

The most successful event planners focus on what it will take to enrich sponsors and truly understand what they want. When you focus more on sponsors’ goals, you will have a greater chance of achieving your event goals. Brands will gravitate toward you more if they feel you’re not just collecting dollars but partnering with them to help them achieve their own goals.   

Understanding this give-and-take is key to attracting and securing the right sponsors. It should be top-of-mind and the catalyst for every sponsor relationship you start, every proposal you create, and every conversation you have with a potential sponsor.  

You’re not engaging with wallets 

Becoming a brand’s partner is so much more than gathering dollars and attaching sponsor logos to signage.  

Brands (and the people who represent them) are not simply wallets that provide event dollars; they have a mission and specific business goals (just like yourself). Focusing on their needs allows the relationship to flow better, which leads to higher-performing sponsor campaigns.  

More is not better 

Quality over quantity — always.  

Identify the brands that would be a good sponsor fit. Avoid hyper-focusing on the number of sponsors, and instead, focus on the brand’s qualities and characteristics. Look at their brand messaging, goals, and audience, and think through the benefits your organization will enjoy by being associated with the potential sponsor. Will these brands help you build trust? Will they align with your messaging?  

4 Main Types of Event Sponsorships 

1. Financial sponsorship 

Financial sponsorship is the most common sponsorship type. A company pays you to become a sponsor, and you help them promote their brand at your event.  

2. Media sponsorship 

Media sponsorship occurs when a media company pays for your event promotions (your media placements) in return for you promoting them in your event activities. You can also generate revenue when a company pays you for mentioning their brand in your media and collateral.  

3. Product/service barters 

Instead of revenue, a company might offer you products or services in exchange for promoting their brand during your event. These sponsors might be a venue, catering company, decor planners, etc. Bartering with these companies can reward you with inexpensive products or services which will save you money and reduce your event budget.  

4. Influential partners 

Influencers or celebrities (keynote speakers, event speakers, or popular entertainers) will promote your event in exchange for some personal brand exposure.  

How to find and attract the right sponsors for your event

EventMB asked nearly 3,500 event professionals about their biggest challenges. Next to budgets, 50% of respondents agreed that “finding sponsors” was the most challenging.  
 
Finding new sponsors is challenging, but not as difficult as you might think. If you’ve done your prep work, the right organizations will want to partner with you. 

Note that you want your sponsors to be a good brand fit and align with your mission and goals. Before a prospect reaches out to you, outline your desired criteria so that you know the exact types of sponsors you want for your event. Think about: 

  • Company mission 
  • Company values 
  • Target market values, desires, and interests 
  • Alignment of goals  

To find sponsors, look no further than your industry. Who are the brands in your industry that sponsor events? Do you have connections that can introduce you to interested brands? What companies have sponsored similar events to yours? If a company has sponsored a similar event and is aligned with your industry, there’s a good chance they will sponsor yours—provided you follow some of the pointers in this article.  

Next, think about your audience’s needs. Which companies would be welcomed by your event attendees? Would they provide solutions to your attendees’ problems? Your sponsors will want your attendees to fit their customer profile so their promotions gain traction. Plus, your attendees will be put off seeing promotions from sponsors that are misaligned with their wants and needs.   

Attracting sponsors 

You can find plenty of companies, but you need to be attractive to them to start the conversations on the right foot. They need to buy into what you’re doing.  

We will talk about how to engage and send proposals in the next section but first, make sure you’re presenting yourself properly.  

Here’s how: 

  • Define your event characteristics 
  • Define your event’s vision 
  • Define why you’re hosting this event 
  • Define how your event is different than similar events 
  • Communicate these values to potential sponsors and on all media that attracts prospects 

Once you know what type of sponsors you want to attract and define your values, prepare for your pitches and conversations. 

Understand the brand 

Before you open up a conversation with brands about sponsoring your event, research to understand the brand so you can build a rapport. This is key to securing the best sponsors and directly aligns with our earlier discussion on focusing first on sponsors’ goals.  

To get better acquainted with the brand, research 

  • The brand’s recent events 
  • Company changes or updates (new products, new promotions, leadership changes) 
  • What they’re looking for when they sponsor events (research the event they sponsored and what type of promotions they engaged in) 

Be prepared to talk (and show) ROI 

Nothing closes the deal more with prospects than showing them current facts and historical event ROI.  

Offer sponsors data that includes past revenue, registrant and attendee numbers, networking opportunities and leads, your current community and audience reach, and social engagement. We will discuss data in more detail later in the article. 

Want to really impress potential sponsors? Provide them with fun and creative ways to connect with attendees and achieve a positive ROI. In the next section, we provide some sponsorship ideas to help seal the deal with brands.  

Learn how to maximize sponsorship ROI, engage and wow attendees in our on-demand webinar: Event Revenue and Sponsorship ROI. Get insider information from our team and Webex Events customers about event data points to track, sponsorship tier best practices, ticketing and pricing strategies, and more.  

Creative and innovative event sponsorship ideas

How can you wow sponsors and entice them to work with you? Get creative! Sure, you’ve got exhibits and logo placements, but what sets you apart from every other event? 

In this section, we’ll discuss some creative and innovative sponsorship ideas to help you think outside of the box when engaging with potential sponsors. 

Swag boxes and gifts 

Send sponsored swag to attendees (virtual or hybrid events) or hand them out to in-person attendees.  

Level up your swag boxes by including items that correspond to attendees’ activity preferences. For example, if an attendee signed up for a yoga class, send them a branded yoga mat.  

Hosting a cocktail party? Send out cocktail boxes to virtual and hybrid attendees. For in-person events, hand out branded glasses with the sponsor’s name etched into the glass and allow attendees to take them home with them.  

Social media callouts 

Before and during the event, call out your sponsors on social media and thank them for their support.  

Get creative with your social graphics. For example, show images of attendees with their branded swag or create snippet videos of event speakers (if they’re sponsors) or special sponsor quotes in graphic form. Let sponsors know you constantly share on social media and expose them to your large community.  

Sponsored entertainment and activities 

Whether you’re hosting a coffee-lovers meetup, a virtual pet showcase, or a yoga-themed meditation class, involve your sponsors. Brands can sponsor individual activities, which means you’ll mention their company name throughout the event as it relates to that session (flyers, emails, agendas). Plus, they’ll get logo placement on related swag (coffee mugs, pet blankets, yoga mats).  

Sponsor-moderated discussions 

In addition to sponsoring activities, some brands might want to lead discussions and meetups. Coordinate pre-event signups for these sponsored sessions so brands can send registrants unique gifts to their house (virtual or hybrid attendees) to get them primed for the discussions.  

Want more sponsorship ideas? Discover more in our virtual event sponsorship guidebook.  

How to pitch potential sponsors and craft a winning event proposal 

Once you’ve identified the type of sponsor you’re looking for, clearly defined your values and goals, and compiled some potential sponsorship opportunities, it’s time to reach out and create proposals. 

Event managers are always scouting potential sponsors and constantly establishing new relationships with brands. Hopefully, the brands you’re reaching out to already know who you are. But if not, we’ll walk you through how to start the conversation and pitch effectively.  

Crafting a compelling pitch (the conversation) 

Think of the pitch as less like a sales message and more like a conversation starter.  

Your pitch is the beginning of your conversation with prospects and an attempt to get to know them better. If you’ve done your homework and you know the prospect’s brand, values, and some background information on them, the pitch should be easier to craft.  
 
What are the attributes of an effective and compelling pitch? 

The pitch is NOT the proposal. You don’t need to include any event specifics. The purpose of the pitch is to open the door to start a conversation to find out more about the sponsor’s goals. 

Subject line 

If you already know the potential sponsor, mention that in the subject line to spark interest. 

Subject: Nice to talk again… 
 
If you don’t know them, keep the subject focused on the sponsor and don’t mention an opportunity or come off salesy. Instead, invite them into the conversation with a welcoming greeting. 
 
Subject: Would love your feedback 

Introduction, body, and closing 

Avoid cliche statements in the introduction such as “Hope you’re doing well” or “Hope you’re having a great week.” Your pitch should stand out and be more personal, so prospects don’t lump you into every other boring pitch they receive.  

Make an impact without going over the top. Keep the body concise and follow the four attributes we discussed. 

In the closing, avoid being pushy but be forward enough to make it easy for prospects to take the next step. If you leave it open-ended, that’s exactly where the conversation will end.  

Give them some meeting times or a link to your calendar to book a meeting. Or something like, “Do any of these times below work for a phone call?” 

Below is a sample email pitch for someone you have never met or talked to before. Aside from email, pitching can also occur via LinkedIn or other digital messages. Use this email as inspiration to guide your communications.   
 

Follow up two to three times to ensure they received the message and to gauge their interest.  

The follow-up conversation 

Once you get a prospect’s attention, use the conversation (whether verbal or via email) to better understand the brand’s goals and how they would define a successful working relationship. Below are some questions to ask during your conversation: 

  • What does a successful event look like to you? 
  • What do you hope to get out of the event? 
  • What are your core business goals as it relates to event sponsorship? 
  • Have you sponsored an event before? If so, what were the highlights for you? What were the challenges? 
  • What are your core brand values? 
  • What ROI metrics would you like to see achieved for the event? 
  • What questions do you have for me? 

During the conversation, mention some of your innovative sponsor ideas (see Creative and innovative event sponsorship opportunities) and how your sponsors were successful at past events.  

Note that this isn’t a formulaic conversation. Tailor your responses to the prospect’s needs and their role in the organization. For example, salespeople might be more concerned with generating leads than a director of Human Resources. Your conversation with a Human Resources director might include discussions on engagement and appealing to attendees’ experiences. 

Also, if they’re not the decision-maker, enable them with materials and answers to questions that will help them serve as an influencer w/ the decision-maker (if you can’t get in front of them yourself). 

Crafting a winning event sponsorship proposal 

The prospect liked your conversation, and you discussed partnering together. It’s time to create and submit the proposal. 

Below are the attributes of a winning proposal:

Value proposition  

Why should brands partner with you? We discussed mapping out your values before you even approach sponsors for conversation. Reiterate those same values in the proposal. 

Testimonies or case studies 

Showcase your best testimonials of past sponsors who enjoyed an ROI and valued your partnership. 

Packages and benefits 

Clearly define your packages and benefits and tailor the package to the sponsor’s needs. Your conversation should tell you how to proceed with packages, whether a-la-carte, fixed levels, or another scenario. We will talk about packages in the next section. 

Data on past events 

Show charts and data on past events that prove sponsor ROI. Show sponsor data on leads, sales, clicks, session hits, meetings, attendee interaction, etc. Also, display metrics that show the size of your community and your target audience (that should align with your sponsor).  

Event software or platforms you use 

List the event software you use to track attendee activity and measure event performance. Sponsors want to see that they can get real-time and robust metrics data on how attendees are perceiving and interacting with their brand.

How to win over sponsors  

In this section, we will discuss additional tips to leverage as you work to secure event sponsors.

Sponsorship packages 

In addition to the sponsorship opportunities we discussed earlier, event sponsorship packages or tiers make it easy for brands to fully understand your offerings and the value they will receive for their contributions.  

Sponsorship levels are typically listed as levels (e.g., gold, silver, and bronze) and ideally consist of three or more tiers. Provide enough options so brands can choose one that fits, but not so many that it confuses the process. 

Below is an example of sponsorship packages: 

Pro tip: Offering potential sponsors fixed sponsorship tiers is not always effective. Some brands might want features that aren’t listed in your packages, or they might want some from one package and some from another. 

The key is to focus on the brand’s goals instead of copying and pasting blanket features you think brands might want. What potential sponsors want should be evident after engaging them, as we have already discussed in this article—and this should always involve showing brands how they can achieve a healthy ROI. 

For some brands, offering benefits a-la-carte might be beneficial. For others, a combination of packages and a-la-carte features will be valuable. Think outside of the box as well. Planning on having coffee, lunch, or happy hour at the event? Meetup, networking, or breakout session? Why not say it’s hosted by a sponsor? Look for new and creative ways to bring brands some exposure. 

Negotiation 

Negotiation is often necessary, especially when securing larger brands as partners. The negotiation process can sometimes last weeks or months, depending on the budget size (the more money, the longer it takes to close) and the number of people involved in the decision-making process.  

The negotiation process simply involves reiterating to potential sponsors what you communicated to them in earlier conversations and answering their questions along the way.  

Negotiation is more straightforward if you focus your pitch and conversations on empathy and sponsor ROI. When you can justify potential ROI to sponsors and convince them that your attendee demographics match their target audience and they can expect increased exposure, negotiations are less complex.  

Be OK with making tweaks to your packages and options to suit the sponsors’ needs. For example, if your sponsor has a customer lifetime value of $1,000 and their conversion rate is 5%, and their brand will be exposed to 1,000 of your attendees, they can calculate event earnings of $50,000 [(5% x 1000 attendees) x $1,000 LTV]. If your package costs them $10,000, that’s a 500% ROI.  

Potential sponsors want to know that they will make a return back in their pockets. Don’t be afraid to ask about their expected returns during the engagement and discuss dollars and cents. Also, enter the engagement with an idea of how much flexibility you have with each sponsorship level, so you know your negotiating limits and can communicate with confidence.  

Show Event Data  

Providing sponsors with event data is key to securing the best sponsors for your event and showing them they will enjoy an ROI by contributing to your event. 

Showing event data is key to securing the best sponsors and showing them they can enjoy an ROI by contributing to your event.

What event data should you provide prospective sponsors?  

  • Attendee numbers 
  • Attendee testimonies 
  • Sponsor leads 
  • Sponsor meetings  
  • Sponsored session numbers and participation 
  • Ticket sales 
  • Past sponsor revenue / ROI 
  • Sponsor profile impressions, Sponsor profile clicks/downloads 
  • Banner impressions / clicks 
  • Push notification impressions / clicks 

Also important is attendee demographic information. Potential sponsors will want to know that their target audience will be attending the event. 

Gather data from: 

  • Google Analytics 
  • Past attendee surveys and feedback 
  • Event software tracking 

Introducing the modern data-driven solution for attracting and securing event sponsorships 

How can you provide data that sponsors are looking for before they partner with you? Use an event management platform to aggregate the data that proves to prospective sponsors that they can achieve an ROI by investing in your event.  

With a robust event management platform, you can track everything from ticket sales and sponsor meeting requests to attendee preferences, interests, and activity. Ask registrants custom questions when they sign up about which brands they prefer to interact with and demographic information. Use this data to improve attendee experiences and allow sponsors to easily interact with the people who are interested in their services, thereby producing an ROI.  

Webex Events is an end-to-end event management platform that provides ample opportunities for event managers to reward sponsors with creative opportunities, robust data, and long-term success.  

The Webex Events modern software platform offers different sponsor-focused solutions, including event sponsorship management for virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. 

Webex Events features include: 

  • Sponsor & exhibitor profiles 
  • Sponsored push notifications 
  • Event app visibility 
  • Next-generation lead retrieval 
  • Sponsor interactive maps 
  • Live Display: Showcase your sponsors 
  • Sponsor ROI metrics 

With the Webex Events data dashboard, your sponsors can track activity and results immediately and in real-time as the event proceeds.

Webex Events is also fully customizable and includes expert training and additional services (project planning, technical support, production event support, custom solutions, and training) should you need them.  

Ready to see how Webex Events can simplify and power your sponsorship process? Get a free personalized demo of Webex Events from our event experts and learn how this modern tool can help you attract and manage the best event sponsors. 

 

Lisa Vogel
Lisa Vogel

Lisa has been in the event marketing field for over 16 years and is the Sr. Field Marketing Manager at Webex Events (formerly Socio),. She is passionate about producing events that create engaging, unique and inclusive experiences.