How to Land a Strategic Event Partner
Corporate event partnerships are everywhere – major sporting events, local events, regional award dinners. Wherever there’s an event, there’s likely to be an event partner or sponsor attached. But when you’re approaching businesses for support, it can feel like no one’s interested in sponsoring your event.
Knowing who to approach, what to say (and not to say), and how to turn rejection around will turn your event from an unknown quantity into a must-attend occasion.
Event partners want value. Offer it!
Effective event partnership is win-win. The sponsor gets promoted to their target market, and your event gets an essential cash injection.
When you approach a potential partner, it’s essential to be very clear about who your audience is (and let’s be honest – you need to know your demographic too, for obvious reasons) and how being involved in the event will help them reach these individuals.
When you’re clear about the audience, you’ll have a much clearer idea of businesses that would benefit from having access to this group. You should put together a list of small local businesses, medium sized companies and large companies. The latter usually put together their budgets once a year, so approach these as soon as possible. If you’re working for a non-profit, it’s worth being aware that some large businesses will only focus on particular groups over the year, so try to find out what these are before you put time into a pitch.
Talk to other members of your team to share ideas and connections. Research similar events to see who they have secured as sponsors. Also, talk to local PR agencies, as they will have valuable insight into any of their clients who might be interested (and be able to set up meetings for you).
Approaching event partners — how it’s done.
No one likes asking for money, but if you want to hold a successful event, you’ll have to develop a thick skin. Practise a short pitch like this:
“Hello, this is Heidi from the Wexford Gallery. If you have a few seconds I’d like to tell you about an event we’re holding that’s perfect for marketing your company to art enthusiasts.”
Once you have given your short pitch (and are talking to the right person), it’s important to connect with the speaker. Although sponsorship is really about the bottom line, you need someone in the company to connect with you and champion you to accounts. Tell them your story, or the story of someone whose life changed thanks to your company. Make them want to be involved.
Remember to make them aware of the essential event details: when, where, and who will be attending. You need to communicate to them that sponsoring this event will give them great exposure to the audience they want to build a relationship with. Conclude the conversation by telling them that you’d like to send out a letter so they can learn more.
The next stage is to send out letters. You need to include the following information:
- Date, time, location of event
- Demographic and estimated number of attendees
- Aim of event (especially if it’s a charitable event)
- The types of sponsorship they could benefit (banner, text and image in the local press, or space in the monthly newsletter)
- Anticipated impressions (this is the number of times a sponsor’s name will be seen or heard e.g. if there are 250 attendees, the sponsor’s name will be heard 500 times if is announced twice)
- Relevant figures for previous events
- Office address and bank account details for donations
- When you will call them to follow up
A great way to get the reader’s attention is to attach a hand-written note to the front of the letter thanking them for their time during your chat, and that you hope they find the information useful. Tailor each letter to the company you are contacting so they can clearly see how they will receive exposure for their sponsorship. Setting out the benefits in bullet points is a good way to highlight them.
Keeping the letter short is best, but it’s important that the sponsor knows about your business. Include some relevant leaflets (including an event flyer) and point them towards these in the letter. Sign each letter personally.
Following up (and what to do if you don’t get the answer you want)
Call the potential event partner to follow-up when you told them you would. If they won’t take your call, ask if there would be a better time to call back. It’s likely that if they’re not interested, this is when they’ll tell you. Accepting their decision gracefully is obvious, but all is not lost – you can still derive something positive from the experience.
You could use this as an opportunity to re-tailor the package to something that would be more suitable (be prepared with some ideas). Ask them what their goals are and then create something that helps them meet these. If it becomes obvious that they have no intention of participating, then accept this. Ask them if they have any thoughts on who would be a good sponsorship match (this is especially helpful when speaking with small to medium businesses). Make sure to end the conversation on a positive note. They may be in a position to contribute to an event you run in the future, so express your sincere appreciation for their time.
That’s worst case scenario. If the potential partner is keen to proceed, congratulations! This is when the real work starts. Assign someone in the team to take care of their account, and ensure that you fulfill everything you committed to do. Don’t be afraid to over-deliver! After the event, remember to follow-up to share the highlights and your thanks.