Part Two of a Two-Part Series
(Click here to read Part One)
By: Melissa Lagowski
CEO, Founder and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
Now that you have learned the value of a sponsorship program and outlined the assets that your organization can offer to a sponsor, let’s look at the next phase of program development.
To Package or Not to Package
There are different schools of thought when it comes to sponsorships and sponsorship packages. One involves creating a menu of levels of deliverables and pricing, while the other requires a bit more effort in customizing a sponsorship based on the goals and requirements of the sponsor. Both are important topics of discussion, and both might be utilized depending on your specific objectives.
If this is for an event sponsorship (perhaps a fundraising gala or neighborhood festival) and you intend to distribute the info to local businesses and members, you’ll probably want to start with the “gold/silver/bronze” type of menu concept to let the prospect choose which level works best for their goals and budgets. Follow up with a call or email to the prospect to ensure the “sponsor deck” was received and to answer any questions in an effort to secure a sponsorship – or a “no-thank-you” before moving on to the next prospect.
If, instead, you are seeking a large corporate sponsorship (for a major event or an annual partnership with your organization), then it’s best to avoid the tiered menu and focus on direct outreach with the prospect in an effort to ascertain their future marketing goals and determine how your cause and/or audience is a good fit. You would then propose how this alignment and your deliverables will benefit to accomplish their goals. You’ll offer only the assets THEY need (and are willing to pay for) as opposed to proposing a bunch of deliverables they don’t care about, potentially garnering a “no-thank-you” from an otherwise perfectly compatible partner.
On the Menu
A menu of tiered packages allows sponsors to have choices when trying to build support for your organization/association. Most programs have four or five available options that provide exposure and recognition that is in alignment with the sponsorship fee.
Sponsors generally want:
- A visible connection with an organization/event/brand
- Direct connection with the members of an organization/event/brand for potential sales
- Opportunities to position themselves as a thought-leader and/or key resource for a particular type of audience (i.e. your members)
Creating these packages provides entry-level deliverables all the way up to premier-level benefits that best suit the needs and budget of the sponsor. The higher the level, the more rights and benefits will be delivered for a larger investment.
With the menu of packaged assets in hand, it’s also possible (and sometimes preferable) to customize a sponsorship package – where the sponsor creates a package by choosing the deliverables that are best suited for their marketing requirements. For example, the sponsor may opt for more of one type of deliverable and less of another (i.e., an onsite presence and more social media posts rather than logo placements on signage, website, etc.). Customizing an ideal package of deliverables creates a win-win for both parties.
Prospecting for Sponsors
First, don’t overlook the obvious. Organizations should look to their most avid supporters for sponsorship and/or sponsor leads. People who already support the cause are more likely to introduce you to their contacts and help open new doors, but you have to ask. Oftentimes, people within your organization are well-connected, and if they feel passionate about your mission, they are a fabulous source for making introductions for you.
Also ask existing donors who they know that might benefit from supporting your organization. They often have peer groups and may be able to make connections for you, too. The warm introduction is preferred over a cold pitch any day.
After you tackle outreach to your organization’s direct network, it’s time to research, research, research. Try to identify what companies support your cause or event by researching companies that sponsor similar events and/or organizations in other cities. Then work to find a local contact. In researching, you might find articles where companies (or individuals within a company) have publicly supported a cause. These people are often ideal targets when you know that your cause resonates with them.
It is imperative that organizations spend some time to identify what type of companies would make the ideal fit. Don’t waste time and resources on companies that are not the right fit for your organization. And if a prospect declines, don’t be afraid to ask them why! You can gain so much knowledge by asking follow-up questions. Was it budget limitations? Timing issues? Should you submit your request at a different time of year? Or was this opportunity just not a good fit for this company? These answers help you know plan for future pitching more successfully.
Organizations must appropriately provide the contracted deliverables. This is a crucial step in building long-term partnerships. Deliver what was promised, take photos, provide the print pieces that included the sponsor logo, etc., as evidence that you delivered your end of the contract. If possible, draw up a summary report of the event and describe the impact it had for the cause as well as the impact on the sponsor. How many webpage views and click-throughs did you see? How much traffic drove past the billboard ad? How many guests from a specific demographic attended the event who were exposed to sponsor logos and booth spaces? This report will demonstrate to the sponsor that their efforts and investments paid off and that it might be worth renewing the sponsorship in the future.
Organizations need to properly acknowledge and show appreciation for their supporters. Beyond the sponsorship benefits and contracted deliverables, thanking a sponsor is often the most valuable tool in strengthening relationships and renewing a contribution for another year. It is much easier to enhance and expand a relationship with an existing supporter than it is to recruit a new supporter.
And while the process of pitching sponsors can be frustrating, don’t give up! You may have to court a prospect for months or years before they’ll commit, so make contact and stay in touch regularly through holiday cards, invitations to events, article sharing, etc. You never know when the organization’s focus will change and an opportunity will open up to secure dollars that you were previously denied.
Put the right effort into developing your sponsor relationships and it will pay off. Research and solicit your ideal partners with a package of assets that they value, then deliver those assets to execute the contract. If the sponsor determines that they align well with your organization or cause, and that you provided a deal that satisfied their marketing goals at a fair price while providing exposure to their target audience, it is nearly certain that you’ll have established a valuable partnership for the long-term.