How to Get Sponsors for An Event

Maggie Korte

Hosting events, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, is big business for brands. And what makes events even more profitable and scalable is sponsorships.

For in-person and hybrid events, sponsorships make up a solid chunk of total revenue and for almost a quarter of virtual events, sponsorships are the primary source of revenue.

It’s not just a revenue play, though. When you get sponsors for an event, you also open the door to that sponsor’s network and audience. That’s huge.

So, when factoring in the impact of sponsorships on revenue, you should be calculating the overall impact of making the event bigger and more successful than it otherwise would have been. That’s aside from the direct revenue you get from selling sponsorship packages.

The bottom line is that your ability to attract and contract sponsors for your event is significant to the event’s overall success. Knowing this, let’s discuss exactly how to get sponsors for an event so you can capitalize on this opportunity.

How Does Event Sponsorship Work?

What is an event sponsor anyway?

Why would a company sponsor someone else’s event?

The answer is simple. When you’re hosting an event with a highly engaged audience, other brands will pay to gain access to that audience so they can offer their products and services.

Typically, it’s not just a random company sponsoring a random event. Sponsorships work best when the brand is tangentially related to the event topic. For example, you can see how it would make perfect sense for a pet store to sponsor a dog show.

The key is creating a great environment and incentives so that sponsors jump at the opportunity to sign a contract and come on board.

Here are some important tips for getting sponsors for an event...

Tip #1: Create Multiple Sponsorship Levels

The first step in getting sponsors for your event should be to decide on your specific sponsorship levels & incentives.

These levels are there to indicate to your sponsors the cost of sponsorship and what they are going to receive in return.

Getting these levels set up in advance has a number of benefits.

Firstly, it allows you to assess your current and prospective sponsors and the levels at which you expect them to sponsor you.

This kind of assessment lets you roughly predict how much money you’ll be potentially getting from sponsorship, how many sponsors of each level you should aim for, and what, if any, shortfall there is.

Secondly, it gives your sponsors a concrete idea of what they are getting in return for their money. Having a defined set of levels of sponsorship and their associated rewards makes marketing your event easier and more transparent.

Thirdly, this an opportunity for you to work on the branding for your event. Rather than going for the simple, gold, silver, and bronze leveling, try naming the levels after donor roles, your programs, or even pioneers in your particular field.

Tip #2: Consider Offering A La Carte Sponsorship Options

According to Exhibitor Online, 52% of exhibitors prefer a la carte sponsorship options over bundled packages.

While it’s a little bit more complicated to offer a la carte sponsorship options, you’ll likely land more sensors than you otherwise would.

A la carte just means offering specific one-off incentives with a price-per-incentive instead of locking people into full packages.

A word of caution here, though: if you promote the a la carte options up front or too quickly, brands that would have chosen a package may opt for some a la carte options instead, reducing your potential revenue.

Our suggestion is to pitch the packages first. If a brand just won’t pull the trigger on one of your packages, you can bring the a la carte option in as an alternative.

Tip #3: Be Willing to Offer a Custom Sponsorship Package

Another tactic you can use when a sponsor doesn’t seem interested in your sponsorship packages is offering to create something specifically for them.

This is also a great option for very large brands who may want more than what your packages offer and have far more to invest than most of your other sponsors.

Again, we don’t recommend including this in your initial pitch because it massively increases your workload and the complexity of landing sponsorships. It’s a tactic for specific use cases only.

And if you do end up creating a custom sponsorship package, always make sure you record everything in wiring and make that document mutually accessible.

Total transparency is the best way to avoid misunderstandings.

Tip #4: Sharpen up Your Branding

Prospective sponsors are absolutely going to research your event and your organization.

When they do that, you’ll want them to feel confident in your brand. Your website or event page is a primary tool for selling sponsorship levels and you should treat it as a make or break marketing tool.

Some of the basics you’ll need include:

  • A consistent brand image that sets you apart from other events and organizations and helps you stick in your potential sponsor’s mind. Sponsors want to be part of something special, not an everyday run-of-the-mill looking event.
  • A clean and professional design that event sponsors can tell you invested in and didn’t just throw together.
  • A simple navigation that is intuitive and directs potential sponsors towards contact information and the specifics of the different sponsorship levels.
  • Obvious and easy to access contact information, both online and physical, and multiple methods of communication, including web forms, email, telephone and post.
  • A section that sets out exactly what you are offering potential sponsors and the benefits of sponsoring your organization or event.
  • Legal information related to sponsorships and contracts so potential sponsors can get a feel for contract terms ahead of time.

If you’re using EventSprout to set up your event and create your event landing page, a lot of this is already taken care of for you. If you’re hosting a larger event and you’re creating a full custom event website to market your event, then hiring a professional web design agency is well worth the investment.

Tip #5: Create a Compelling Pitch

Once you’ve got your sponsorship levels sorted out, it’s time to put together a killer pitch.

The best pitches create a unique value proposition (UVP) that you present to your potential sponsor. An effective UVP is short, perhaps just a couple of sentences, and covers certain vital points, such as:

  • What is the specific cause or underlying mission of your event?
  • What value does sponsoring your event provide for your sponsor?
  • What makes your event stand out from other similar events?
  • Who is your event’s target audience?
  • How will the money provided by your sponsor help your cause?
  • How will having a relationship with you and your organization be mutually beneficial for both you and your sponsor?

The UVP is the bare bones of how you will sell your event to potential sponsors. You’ll then need to do your research and tailor your pitch to the specific sponsor.

Some are going to sponsor your event because they believe in your cause. Some will do it because it benefits them or their business. Understanding why your sponsor might sponsor you is a vital part of a successful pitch and is far more effective than casting a wide net with a bland, generic approach.

Tip #6: Show How You Measure Sponsorship ROI (And Market ROI of Past Sponsors)

According to EventMB, nearly 25% of event hosts don’t offer any sort of analytics for proving sponsor ROI.

Now put yourself in a prospective sponsor’s shoes. What’s the first thing you’re going to wonder?

Will sponsoring this event generate an ROI for us? How will we know? How risky is this investment?

You don’t want potential sponsors worrying about such things, so when you make your pitch, be sure to tell them:

  1. Here’s exactly how we track ROI accurately.
  2. Here’s some examples of tracked ROI from past event sponsors.

By providing a clear outline for how you track sponsorship ROI and real world examples of ROI from past events, it gives potential sponsors tremendous confidence. In fact, it typically goes beyond just confidence, directly motivating them to sign a contract.

Tip #7: Create a Specific Event Host Committee

All successful events have an event committee dedicated to the logistics of running your event. Rather than watering down the effectiveness of your logistics team by expecting them to also approach sponsors, it’s a good idea to create another event host committee whose job is exactly that.

Having a team focused on fundraising opens up a lot of opportunities to increase the effectiveness of how you sell sponsorship packages.

Your event host committee can do potential sponsor research, point your directors at promising targets, sharpen your branding and generally put as much effort into fundraising as goes into running the event itself.

This is also a selling point to potential sponsors because a sponsor wants to know that they’ll be taken care of during the course of the event. If you have a dedicated team or person that’s assigned to sponsors, they can sign on with the confidence that you won’t cash their check and then leave them to fend for themselves.

Tip #8: Approach New Sponsors Online First

Many new sponsors are going to want to do their research before committing to a sponsorship. Reaching out to them online and with a letter gives them the opportunity to do that in advance.

When you then follow up with a phone call, you’ll be much less likely to get a knee-jerk reactionary “no” because you’re not putting them on the spot.

It is important, however, to follow up any online contact with a personal phone call. We’re all bombarded with online messaging every day and it can be very easy for your pitch to get lost in the churn.

However you want to do it, just know that building relationships with prospects prior to hitting them with your “ask” is much more effective than cold selling. It also makes you look better as a brand.

Tip #9: Reach Out to Past Sponsors

This might seem obvious, but it would be foolish to not include it. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you have a goldmine of opportunity within your previous sponsor pool.

In fact, the best event planners maintain communication and cultivate relationships with sponsors at all times, not just during the event planning phase. This ensures that when an event gets scheduled, sponsors are clamoring to sign up.

Another reason we included this tip is because it’s great motivation for event planners who will be offering sponsorships for the first time.

Offering sponsorships requires a lot of setup work and logistics. Knowing that you’ll be able to leverage that legwork over and over again in the future can really help motivate you to actually follow through with it the first time.

Truly, getting repeat sponsors for future events is the easiest path to additional revenue, but that’s only possible when you’ve already done it once. So do it!

Final Thoughts: Always Follow Through

The best way to ensure you don’t get sponsors for your events is getting a reputation for letting past sponsors down or for hosting disorganized or poorly run events.

Providing your sponsors with what you promised them, and a healthy ROI, should always be your #1 priority. That also means you’re providing your attendees with an amazing experience as well.

If you’re new to the event planning game in general, make sure you read our robust article, How to Plan an Event. And event planners at any stage of the game will find a ton of value in our free Event Planning Checklist.

When it comes to helping you run successful events (and yes, that includes signing on a ton of sponsors!), EventSprout is here to help.