How do I land a sponsor for my event?

I have been asked this more times than I can count and with no surprise. It is the biggest worry and cause of stress for event hosts as failing to land the right sponsor could mean no event at all. 

Landing sponsors is an art. Talk to different hosts and they will each have their own unique way of obtaining sponsors. Each with varying degrees of success. 

In this post, I’m going to highlight some tips that you can put into action before searching to give yourself an advantage. Being ill-prepared when looking for sponsors is a sure-fire way to miss out on some big opportunities.  

1. Understand what event sponsorship is

Writing a proposal is a big part of landing a sponsor. Yet, writing an effective proposal is impossible if you don’t have a firm grasp of what event sponsorship is and how it works. An expert understanding of event sponsorship is usually the difference between an award-winning event and total failure. 

So, what is a sponsor?

An event sponsor is usually a company or brand that is looking to support an event in exchange for something beneficial for them. This is seen as a win-win situation. Support can be given in a number of ways but the most common is through direct funding. 

The key to sponsorships is understanding the benefits for the company looking to support you. This benefit could be brand awareness, discounts on services, access to certain data or opportunities to be active participants at the event. 

Understanding your potential sponsors will help identify what they find valuable. 

2. Define the measurable data

Finding the right sponsor can be a nightmare, especially when you aren’t clear on what your event is trying to achieve. 

When you market to everyone, you market to no-one. 

Throwing your proposals to the wind and hoping someone finds it is an ineffective way to find the right sponsor. Instead, get brutally honest with yourself about your event. 

Ask yourself:

  • What is this event trying to achieve?

  • Who is it targeted at? 

  • How can people benefit from what we’re doing?

  • How is this attractive to potential sponsors?

The first step to landing a sponsor is to understand the internal data. If you don’t understand your event inside and out then you aren’t going to be able to effectively communicate that to someone that shows interest. 

You need to be able to sell the outcome. What is going to change as a result of your event? Perhaps you are looking to build awareness on a certain topic, if so, how are you going to measure that and deliver the data to your sponsors? 

Setting SMART goals is a great way to get this information out of your head and onto paper. 

Finally, sponsors will want to know that their products and services will be placed in front of their target audience. If not, there is nothing to gain from lending their support. Consider the audience you are going to be targeting with your event and then look at ways they could be leveraged for potential sponsors. 

When you lay the pieces out for them clearly and concisely, it’s harder to say no.

3. Extend your reach to those that will benefit

Get clear on who is going to benefit from your event. 

Understanding your audience is one piece of the puzzle. Luckily, once that is settled, it is unlikely to change unless you have a big overhaul of your event. From there, your focus should shift to potential sponsors. 

No doubt that you have a few in mind. We gravitate to companies we know and/or that have a following already. After all, having a big named sponsor will put us on the map. 

Yet, some of the best opportunities can come from working with companies you may not expect. 

Here’s a quick activity you can do to broaden your sponsor list:

  1. Focus on the target audience for your event and search for sponsors that also target the same audience

  2. Make a list of the sponsors you think would be interested in the event you’re hosting

  3. Once you have that list, revisit each sponsor and look at their main competitors – do they also target the same audience?

You can extend your reach further by considering each company’s competition. If they aren’t going to support your event, what’s to say their competitors won’t? 

This method usually boosts an outreach list by numerous entries. Sometimes we like to tunnel vision on the sponsors we really want and forget about the ones that might be more eager. 

4. Have your proposal ready

I have worked with many event hosts that always have a proposal on hand. 

But it still surprises me when I chat with an event host and ask them to show me their proposal and they say they don’t have one ready. 

Your proposal should always be on hand. 

In this industry, an extra day could be the difference between your proposal reaching the right person and being accepted. Thus, having a proposal at the ready can make all the difference. 

Having your proposal created or learning how to do it professionally can give you the edge in the presentation. Also, have access to the creation file itself. 

With a little know-how, you can edit your proposal to fit any sponsor. Extra personalization will always work in your favor.

For all they know, you had spent the time and already created a detailed, customized proposal just for them. 

If you are using a singular proposal because your event is streamlined for one thing only, then ensure you have the file ready to go in a number of different forms. 

Have it uploaded to your google drive and store the share link. Save the file to an easy to access location and always be ready to hit send! 

An extra tip – If you need to send a link for your proposal, use websites like bit.ly to shorten and track when it has been opened. That way, you can check when a sponsor has actually viewed the proposal.

5. Follow up

Finally, follow up. 

Following up after you have sent a proposal is one of the most important things you can do when looking for a sponsor and it’s equally the biggest mistake I see people make.

Most of us default to rejection when we haven’t heard back from someone in a few days. 

It’s only natural. 

If you consider your own life for a second, how many times have you replied late to a message or email because you got sidetracked? I imagine a lot of times. Event sponsors experience the same thing. It could also be a lack of internal communication if the company is fairly large. 

So, how do we combat this? 

By following up! If you haven’t heard back from your proposal within a few days, send a polite follow-up email/message to see what’s up. There are multiple things you can include in a follow-up but it’s beneficial for you if you can get some concrete information on a decision. 

Asking whether they have come to a decision is the most direct way. You can also ask whether they need more time or not. This is effective because it will usually lead to a “yes please” or a “no, we’ve made a decision”. If a company was looking for a way to let you down softly, they would jump at this opportunity. 

Again, if you do not receive a response from your follow up then you can do so again in another couple of days. Just be aware that some companies may take repeat follow-ups as a sign of desperation and that could work against you.  

I would consider how large their company is and if they haven’t responded after the initial follow up then perhaps leaving the ball in their court is the best approach. 

Where to go from here?

Finding success with a sponsor relies heavily on your ability to create a strong foundation. 

From there, you can work on the consistency needed to find the right companies, send off proposals and follow up until you’ve landed the ideal sponsor. A final tip I can give is to get comfortable with rejection. 

It’s uncommon for your first proposal to be accepted. As you continue to hone in on your target audience, the value your event offers and the benefits from a sponsor point of view, you’ll begin to see more success with your future events. 

If you’re finding it difficult to build a solid foundation, maybe it’s time to look for help. Understanding the deliverables and internal metrics to your event are only one side of the equation. Crafting a concise proposal can still be challenging if you have not extensive experience in doing so.

My book on how to secure sponsors successfully has just been released and currently has a special offer! This can be an inexpensive way to land that big paying sponsor. You can find that book here.

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