Sponsorship spending is big business.
With 2017 global sponsorship spending projected to rise to $62.8 billion, a 4.5% increase from 2016, understanding sponsors’ mindsets is crucial to delivering the value they’re looking for. After all, they’re not in it to do you favors.
In an industry that is not only completely dependent on sponsors but is also now inundated with competition for sponsors, how can events like yours stay in the race?
What Sponsors Want
In a nutshell: Brands are at your event to sell their products. But let’s dive deeper.
Brands make sponsorship decision based on many goals, including:
- Launching or testing new products related to the endurance industry
- Expanding their customer base from an unrelated market into the endurance industry
- Building relationships and brand recognition
- Blocking a competitor
- Associating with a cause that resonates with their corporate social responsibility goals
What You Have That Sponsors Need
The fact is, in order to meet these goals, they need events like yours. Here’s why: People connect emotionally to the events they’re passionate about. That’s why they’ll spend the big bucks for tickets or wait in line for hours. Science shows that the happiness they experience at the event is transferred to the ancillary brands in attendance.
Sponsors benefit from this powerful “spillover effect,” which is not found in a typical advertising relationship. Association with your event makes the message more subtle and possibly even more credible, especially if sponsors are expanding to a new market.
However, sponsors can’t afford to guess about this effect.
When you’re asking a company to invest big money in your event, the more you can share about your attendees, the more value you add. In short – they need data! They need to know your typical/expected attendance, the past behavior of attendees as relates to the event timeline, sponsor interaction, and other factors.
Now that you know that…
Try Some New Sponsorship Tactics
1. Discover lifestyle habits of your participants
Occasionally add an unexpected, non-endurance related field to your survey or registration form to learn something new about your participants, such as hobbies, dining preferences, or vacation destinations.
As you build out their profiles, consider potential travel- or food-related sponsors who might be intrigued by the wealth of information they can draw from the genders, ages and lifestyle preferences of your customer base.
2. Research your sponsors to learn as many of their goals from the list above as you can, and reference them in your proposal as applicable.
You’ll also want to target brands that are already doing sponsorships. You don’t want to have to sell them on the idea of sponsorships first. Learn the types of events they typically sponsor but don’t disqualify yourself just because they haven’t branched out to endurance events yet.
3. Offer customized sponsorships
Avoid making cold calls (with little chance of getting into a meaningful conversation) or sending emails with a generic sponsorship package or menu of offers.
Instead, it’s much better to send a simple email introduction and ask prospective sponsors what their needs are and then create an offer based on their responses.
4. Send a follow-up brief and report after the event
One of the most common complaints sponsors share is their disappointment with the lack of post-event information that could help them determine the event’s ROI, which they need for next year.
As a basic courtesy, don’t forget to thank your sponsors; after all, they just spent thousands of dollars to support your event. Provide a brief, written report summarizing how things went.
Perhaps just as important, this follow-up interaction represents a great opportunity for you to learn how things went for them, so you can improve or repeat what is working well. Ask: “What didn’t go as well as you had hoped?” or “How could we do better next time?” This opens the door for conversations about how you’ll address those concerns next year.
5. Stay in touch
Find reasons to stay in contact with your sponsors, even when your event is months away. The best way to do this is by sharing information rather than asking for something. Send useful information with a note that reads “thought you would find this interesting…”. Useful information could be sales data from your event, announcing new partners or other news about your next event, or even interesting articles from another source. Stay in front of the prospect every other month.
6. Score a double win with technology that wows attendees and sponsors
Endurance event attendees are quite savvy about technology and gamification. Some technology used at events actually delivers data to sponsors and allows them to push brand notifications out to participants and their friends and family on site.
One or more of the following value-adds could definitely spiff up your sponsorship proposal.
- RFID bracelets for cashless payments and quick lead retrieval (sponsors scan participants’ badges to enter them into their drawings and activities).
RFID is huge because research shows that fans spend up to 20% more with this payment method.1 The technology also drastically reduces lines, which is always a big plus for everyone at a large event, sponsors included.
- Interactive game components, such as trivia, scavenger hunts, quizzes and leaderboards that encourage specific behavior, with rewards offered to encourage participation and competition.
- Location-based activities such as beacon-based scavenger hunts and gamification to get attendees exploring the event, the wider environment or city around it.
- Virtual Goodie Bags that give sponsors direct contact with attendees before, during and after the event, as well as the ability to measure the impact of their partnership with your event.
- Event Apps that allow attendees to track athletes, access results, make donations, receive sponsor’s branded offers, see local attractions, and more.
At its core, sponsorship activation is a delicate balance of building relationships and providing value. Which of these tactics will you try this year?