Sponsorship opportunities are essential to the financial success of any association event. Sponsors not only help to fund events, but they can also help with the promotion and credibility, leading to higher attendance rates.
Many sponsorships are based on long-term relationships, which means that once you find the perfect sponsor, your events can be funded for a long time. But how can you find sponsors to start those long-term relationships with?
1. Define your unique sponsorship opportunities
A brand will only invest in your event if they can see the benefit of sponsoring it over another event. The first step in finding and securing sponsorship for your association events is defining the specific benefits a sponsor will get from you.
While any event will attract an audience with a specific shared interest, association events have the unique benefit of gathering like-minded individuals and business representatives in the same place – making them the perfect place for sponsors to reach their ideal audience.
Sponsors of an association event can also
- Maximise their reach by appearing on any promotional materials before and after the event
- Improve their credibility by partnering with the association
- Reposition their brand and change perceptions in the eyes of their target market
- Generate more substantial influence with the audience by demonstrating an active interest in the same causes
Read more: How event sponsorship benefits business
2. Understand what sponsorship opportunities are suitable for your audience
Remember, you are ideally looking to build long-term relationships with your sponsors to streamline the process for future association events and open doors for more sponsorship opportunities. But this will only happen if your initial event generates results for your sponsor.
Therefore, you must understand precisely what your unique association audience is looking for and what brands will resonate with them. You can conduct surveys and interviews with members of your association to develop an idea of what challenges they are facing, what brands they are likely to engage with for solutions, and any values or principles that sponsors should align with to get results.
Once you have this information, you can find sponsors that will actively serve your audience, meaning
- your event attendees will have a great experience with them,
- your sponsors will likely get the results they want, and
- you will find it much easier to secure those sponsors in the future.
(If you have got a clear message from your members about what solutions they are looking for, you can also add “our audience is actively looking for a brand like yours” to your list of sponsorship benefits)
3. Research the best sponsorship prospects
Unfortunately, it is usually not a case of “build it, and they will come”. You will often have to conduct a lot of research to identify the best sponsorship opportunities for your association event. However, you may find this task much easier with the proper preparation (as detailed above).
It is often at this point that many associations recruit a professional sponsorship management team since this can be a time-consuming and complex process for those without much experience or many sponsorship contacts. However, here are some top tips from our expert team to guide you if you choose to carry on alone:
- Research sponsors for similar events to yours
- Review companies using online marketplaces to find sponsorship opportunities for themselves
- Research companies who have been in the news lately about developments they want to share with the rest of the community OR who have had bad press and want to put it right
- Reach out to companies who are already a part of your association and appreciate the value you bring to the industry
4. Provide sponsorship opportunities for all price ranges
Not every brand has the same budget to spend on sponsorship opportunities or will get the same level of benefit from sponsoring your association event. The best way to ensure the right brands have suitable opportunities to sponsor your event is to create multiple tiers for your sponsorship packages.
The most expensive tier should provide the most significant benefit to the brand. In contrast, the most affordable brand should give significantly more minor (but still enough to be worth it for the sponsor).
Top-Tier Sponsorship Package
- Logo on promotional materials
- Placement in premium event locations
- Speaker slot
- Branded swag-bags
- Five free annual association memberships
Bottom-Tier Sponsorship Package
- Logo on promotional materials
- Branded swag-bags
- One free annual association membership
Once you have researched your sponsorship prospects, you can determine which tier you will recommend in your sponsorship proposal for the best chance of success. The price of a top-tier package may put off smaller companies, while a bottom-tier package for a larger company may imply that your event is not valuable enough to them.
5. Build and utilise relationships for sponsorship opportunities
Getting your foot in the door, i.e., getting in touch with the right people within the organisation, is one of the most challenging parts for many to find sponsorship opportunities. Rather than always starting from scratch, think about utilising your existing relationships.
Who do you already know that could put you in touch with someone with the potential for a sponsorship opportunity? Reach out to your existing community and contacts to see what conversations you can get started – a sponsor will be more willing to speak to you if a friend recommends you than if you are simply cold calling them.
You might also find it challenging to contact the main decision-maker within the business to start with – but do not be put off! Try to reach out to junior employees – aka influencers – within the company who can act as your advocate later and eventually make that crucial recommendation to the decision-maker.
It is improbable that a sponsor will come on board after their first time meeting you. Instead, you will need to build a relationship with them to increase the chances of securing them for your event. Arrange informal meetings with them to get to know them personally and show goodwill from the association by inviting them to member meetings or engaging with them on social media. It will take time to build relationships with your potential sponsors, so make sure you start this process with plenty of time to spare.
6. Use all available communication channels to secure sponsorship opportunities
Whether it is your first time contacting a sponsor or you already have a relationship with the sponsorship prospect, you should use all the communication channels you have available. Do not limit yourself to just emails or just calls. Mix them up and try different ones if you struggle to get responses. Remember that your sponsorship prospects are likely just as busy as you are and may get easily distracted depending on their workload. Also, follow up any conversations promptly – but make sure not to spam or harass them.
We all know the importance of sponsorship for business events. By taking the time to research, identify, and build relationships with those genuinely aligned to your association’s members and purpose, you can host excellent events for your audience, generate results for your sponsors, and secure future funding for your events.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations, and corporations.