How to Effectively Acquire Sponsors in 5 Steps

The amount of work involved in properly and effectively approaching sponsors can be daunting and overwhelming. Many event and festival promoters struggle to acquire sponsors as they look at sponsorship as a way to obtain free product also known as in-kind sponsorship or cut down on costs. Oftentimes promoters solely view sponsorship as a financial transaction where they can utilize the equity of their brand as well as their reach in order to entice sponsors to provide funding for their event in exchange for plastering their logo everywhere.

Sponsorship is much more convoluted than this and although many sponsors may want to use your event or festival to showcase their brand, simply adding a logo to a flier or sign post or even on a stage doesn’t necessarily benefit your event or festival, your attendees, or help the sponsor sell more products or services. Festival and event organizers need to come up with ways that brands not only benefit the festival financially but also how they benefit the festival aesthetically, offer products or services that could prove beneficial to attendees at the festival or event, and are not only relative to the event or festival brand but also to the brand the potential sponsor is trying to promoter or market.

This becomes a win-win-win for all parties involved. When done correctly, the company representing the brand that is looking to partner with or sponsor the festival or event not only may provide both free product and money but they may also help with constructing tents, lounges, entire areas, and/or stages. Instead of thinking of sponsors as major corporations with tons of money, it’s best to think of sponsorship as enhancing the festival or event. Dr. Bronners, the soap company once did an activation where they setup an entire spa at a festival in California with showers, a sauna, a lounge area, and they even had a foam party. Burt’s Bees has done activations where they promote their chapstick which could be something that many people forget at a festival.

The predominant category for sponsorship has always been food and beverage but it’s always best to think outside of the box and target brands that might not necessarily be approached very often. This can include camping gear, bug spray, sunscreen, lighters, toys, games, etc. which numerous people either lose or forget at festivals and events. These are all categories of sponsorship that can not only enhance a festival or event experience but allow for brands to target your audience who are in need of their products during their time at the festival. These brands can then further incentivize those who attended your event or festival to make a purchase with coupons and discounts and also because attendees used their products at your event or festival they may remember them the next time they go to the store and are in need of these products.

It’s absolutely necessary to take the appropriate steps to set yourself up to actively be approaching potential sponsors. Here are 5 steps to take prior to reaching out:

1.  Create a sponsorship policy

Identifying the goals and objectives of your event or festival is certainly a key step in being able to match the goals and objectives of a potential sponsor. Questions such as why one is looking to engage in sponsorship, whether or not one sees sponsorship as solely for monetary gain or a way to cut costs, whether you are looking to engage in a long-term relationship with a brand or aren’t worried about working with them again, and what are the principles for approaching sponsors.

You also want to assess how your team defines sponsorship and how it differs from cause-related marketing and government support. You’ll also want to designate someone to handle sponsorship whether it is an outside marketing or sponsorship agency, someone internally, the marketing department staff, or your entire team.

Everyone on your team may look at sponsorship in a different way and some might look at it with a negative connotation thinking that it is all evil and greedy corporations which couldn’t be further from reality. There are plenty of purpose-driven, eco-friendly, and healthy brands that many of those attending your event may already be customers for and would happy to see their presence at your event or festival.

Identifying who handles tasks such as developing targets and leads and approaching brands a swell as in-person and virtual meetings is essential to successfully acquiring the right brands to sponsor your event or festival and in return not only getting free product, cutting down costs, and funding but also enhancing the overall experience of your event or festival.

2. Determine the functional and emotional aspects of the event/festival brand

This might be referred to as creating the brand bullseye. You’ll want your whole team involved for this and this might include those outside of the marketing and sponsorship department. Hospitality, ticketing, production, investors, etc. all will probably have to work with and deal with those sponsoring your event. Even volunteers might prove to be useful in helping sponsors hand out samples and set up activations so even the volunteer coordinator could be involved in this activity.

You’ll want to create a bullseye with 2 circles to create an outer ring and middle ring and have everyone come up with reasons why they attended the last event or festival they went to. Come up with functional aspects in relation to why they attended the event or festival such as because it was affordable, had quality music and entertainment, was artistic, creative, family oriented, community oriented, local, international, safe and secure, spiritual, bohemian, etc.

Then come up with some emotional aspects such as the festival or event being friendly, humble, eccentric, inspiring, aspirational, educational, etc.

Have everyone jot down as much as they can in a minute and then vote on the one or two most important aspects of the event or festival. This will help determine what kind of sponsors to approach and allow you to correlate the branding of your event or festival with the branding of any potential sponsors.

3. Acquire psychographic and behavioral analytical data

There is nothing more important when approaching sponsors than knowing and defining your audience or community. Contrary to popular belief, sponsors don’t really care much if you have 100,000 or a million followers across social media. They don’t even care much if you have a high level of engagement or that your event or festival attracts Generation X, Y, or Z. 

They may want to know whether your audience consists of more local or international attendees but that is pretty much the extent of it. They really couldn’t care less how many countries or cities or villages festivalgoers come from…

None of this is really important to a potential sponsor because it is now easier than ever to market to any demographic they wish in any part of the world. Aside from that, their social media marketing budget alone might be larger than the entire budget of your event or festival. If you think they have money to sponsor your event or festival, then they definitely have much more money and resources to reach your audience. 

When creating a proposal or deck, you want to focus on what is referred to as psychographic data rather than demographics. Demographics is age, gender, race, location while psychographics is more granular and consists of psychological information such as one’s hobbies, interests, and lifestyle. Brands care more about what your audience’s motivations are for making a purchase rather than how old they are or where they are from. 

Let’s say you are organizing a camping festival and you offer campers the option to rent a tent or bring their own. You still charge a nominal fee for campers to bring their own tent but then also offer other options to “glamp” up their campsite. You can now possibly determine how many people own their own tent vs the need to rent a tent and what other potential products those that own a tent might not already own. This opens up the possibility for numerous brands to be involved that specialize in the outdoor market. 

Once the festival is over, you can then survey attendees on whether they are in the market for a new tent or any of the camping equipment that was provided. Now you have real-time data to approach outdoor brands and prove to them that the attendees of your festival are potential customers of their products. 

This can be the same scenario for brands that specialize in food and beverages with data from F&B sales or sales from vendors, etc. 

Instead of saying that the average attendee of your event or festival is a single white male, 25 to 35 years old, and makes $65k a year. It’s better to say the average attendee loves live music, loves the outdoors and is adventurous, reads, travels, is healthy, spiritual, does yoga, and works out 3 to 4 times per week. 

This data can be collected prior to the event or festival across social media, through blogs and various media outlets, through e-mail and newsletters, through ticket providers and through thorough market research and advertising agencies as well. It’s best to also have a system in place to collect and organize all this data before, during, and after the event or festival.

4. Segment your markets

It’s a fair assumption to make that a music festival’s target market is anyone who likes a certain genre of music. You book a stellar line-up of the most iconic DJs in electronic music and then market to people who like electronic music. Your brand is built on this and you’ve been organizing events for 20 years so you have built relationships with all the biggest agencies and have no problem getting first dibs on headliners for your music festival. 

Then your event sells out, you got Heineken or Coca-Cola to sponsor your event and everything is great right? 

But how much cash did they provide vs other events or festivals and how many other categories of sponsors did your festival procure? 

Let’s say, for example, Heineken is interested in pushing their latest product, Heineken Zero but also interested in pushing Heineken Dark. Coca-Cola is interested in presenting themselves as friendlier to the environment and wants to promote their plant-based bottles but they are also interested in promoting Vitamin Water. 

Many sponsors have multiple brands that represent multiple products and relate to a different market and audience. This is why it is essential to gain as much data as possible on your audience and then segment your audience into multiple categories.

For Heineken, you would want to determine what percentage of your audience are either sober or recovering alcoholics for their Heineken Zero brand. Then you’ll want to determine what percentage of the festival’s audience prefers dark beer for their Heineken Dark brand. The same would go for Coca-Cola, what segment of your audience cares about protecting and saving the environment and what segment is health-conscious and tends to avoid sugar. 

Coca-Cola and Heineken already assume that people drink beer and soda at your festival. They assume that a good majority of people in the world drink beer and soda. They are going to want to have a presence at your event or festival regardless but in order to convince them to invest more time and money in your festival, you’ll need to show them that there is a market for the products they are currently wanting to push. Then it is a win-win-win for your festival, these brands, and various segments of your audience. 

Creating multiple segments of your audience can also help with your own marketing efforts. It’s best to avoid creating a “one-size-fits-all” approach. You might offer yoga and a variety of activities at your event or festival but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will react favorably. Some of those who might be looking to or have attended your event or festival in the past might just come there for the music while others might be more for the spiritual vibe and some might be more into the production value and aesthetics. Not only will the content you create be varied based on these audience segments but the sponsors you approach can also wish to market to these various segments as well. 

5. Researching potential sponsors 

Once you have accomplished the steps above, you should be able to start researching potential sponsors. This can be handled by an outside agency but it’s best if it is also done internally as well. Don’t think that just because someone is not a “marketing person” that they can’t be involved in the sponsorship process. Your staff and team are your most valuable asset and sponsors want to market to them too.

When researching potential sponsors, the first point of contact should be your staff and team. There is always some new product or services out there to make someone’s life easier and your staff and team might be familiar with products or services that you aren’t familiar with. From bar equipment to sound equipment, there are 1000s of products and brands that you wouldn’t normally think of reaching out to sponsor an event. 

You’ll first want to make a list of possible categories of brands. Then break down each of these categories even further. So for F&B, you’ll want to segment it into Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic beverages and then further break it down into Coffee & Tea and Beer, Wine, Liquor, etc. then you can have categories of Sports & Outdoors, Travel, Event-Related, Music Related, etc. and then break each of those categories even further. 

Then along with your staff and team, have them come up with as many brands they can think of that fall into those categories. Then you’ll want to research each company and brand and figure out the following: 

  • What new products they are looking to promote?
  • What are their current marketing efforts? 
  • Who are their competitors? 
  • Are they currently sponsoring any events or festivals? What kind of events and festivals?
  • Where are they located? Do they have multiple locations?

You’ll want to focus on local brands and companies first as they are much more likely to respond and will have smaller teams. They will also be much easier to get on board as they will be more inclined to support their local community. Of course, the chances of getting much cash out of them or anything more than in-kind sponsorship is much less.

Once you’ve determined the following, then you’ll want to either look at their website to find the appropriate contact or simply do a Google search or search on Linkedin Sales Navigator for the name of the company along with brand, sponsorship, or marketing manager or director. 

You actually want to avoid anyone with sponsorship in their title as much as possible due to the fact that those with these positions get overwhelmed with requests and proposals. They normally aren’t the best first point of contact and rarely accept inbound requests. It’s best to initially reach out to either the brand or marketing manager for larger organizations. 

Sponsorship is certainly a complex and tedious process and oftentimes promoters either don’t want to try to understand how it works or want to take the time to learn. The truth of the matter is that everyone has products and services they use. There are plenty of brands out there that want to use your event or festival as a catalyst to promote their products or services to your audience. Take the above steps into account and then start approaching potential sponsors now with help from Enroot PR.

Originally appeared in the PromoTix Blog

How to Effectively Acquire Sponsors in 5 Steps

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