Event Marketing

How to Make it Rain in the Marketing Department: Selling Event Sponsorship for Beginners

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If you’re like most marketers, events are part of your marketing mix. And why not? Events are a great way to drive opportunities and engage every aspect of your marketing funnel.

But to host your event in a beautiful space, offer your attendees lunch (or a cocktail), and thrill them with amazing speakers, you need something that’s green and rhymes with honey. You guessed it!—you need money.

So, how do you throw a successful event without blowing your marketing budget for the year? For many marketers, the answer is sponsorship. Sponsors help you offset event costs, usually in exchange for access to your fabulous event attendees.

Sound like a good deal? That’s because it is – for both you and your sponsor. Here are the 5 steps you should take to get sponsors for your next event:

1. Identify a target list of sponsors

Get organized before you dive in by creating a target list of sponsors for your event. This list should be comprised all of companies that you partner with, including agencies and consultants.

Here’s where you should look when compiling your list:

  • Your partner ecosystem directory on your company website (like Marketo’s LaunchPoint directory)
  • Sponsors your company has partnered with in the past
  • Your competitors’ events – who is sponsoring those?

2. Get the numbers

Before agreeing to invest in your event, your sponsors are going to want to see some numbers. Be prepared to give them the following information:

  • How many attendees will be at your event?
  • What is the primary job function of attendees? (e.g. marketing practitioners, sales managers)
  • What industries are they from? (e.g. Tech, Healthcare, Retail)

These questions will help your sponsors assess whether the attendees matches their target buyer profiles. Ideally you can answer these questions based on historical data, but if not a projection is fine.

3. Create different levels of sponsorship

Not all sponsors will be able to invest at the same level, so it’s important to create sponsorship packages that include at least three levels – for example, you might offer a silver, gold, and platinum level. This gives your partners the flexibility they need.

  • The smallest investment option might be offered to new partners, or partners who have never sponsored events in the past. You can position this package as a way of dipping their toe in the water. This way, they can get a sense for the sponsorship experience and decide if future sponsorships are right for them.
  • The medium-level investment might be right for partners who have sponsored in the past, and are ready to take it up a notch in terms of their presence and exposure. Emphasize that they’ll see even more return than in prior years.
  • Lastly, you can position the highest package as the premier package for partners who want to stand out the most. Consider adding bells and whistles to this package such as a speaking opportunity or access to a VIP event.

4. Give yourself lead time

You might be surprised by how long it takes to sell your event sponsorship.  Set yourself up for success by giving yourself a long lead time. The amount of time you’ll need will vary, depending on how many people are helping to sell sponsorship, and how aggressive your sponsorship goals are.

Regardless, you’ll need time to do outreach to a broad set of partners, schedule phone calls with partners who are interested in learning more, make a few blunders (it’s inevitable!) and perfect your pitch. As a general rule of thumb, give yourself at least two months to sell the sponsorships.

Typically, you’ll want your sponsorships squared away a month before the event. Use this time to iron out details, such as booth placement, instructions, and billing. This will also give your events team time to know exactly how much budget will be offset by sponsorship.

5. Put it all together

Before you begin reaching out to potential sponsors, you’ll need an event prospectus. The prospectus should include:

  • The location, dates, and times of the event
  • Audience statistics
  • Information on the various levels of sponsorship

A really strong prospectus will be beautifully designed, organized in a way that’s easy to consume, and should incorporate elements of the event’s look and feel. We recommend using a professional designer, whether you’re leveraging an internal team or using an outsourced agency. Don’t underestimate the amount of time required to produce a strong prospectus – plan for at least a couple of weeks.

Now you have everything you need to start making it rain (money, that is) for your next event. Happy selling!