7 smart ways to win event sponsors

Today’s sponsors are looking for opportunities that are experiential, memorable and tailored to them


NEW YORK - Getting sponsors for your event can be a daunting task. However, by going beyond the traditional banners and logos on badges, and creating sponsored experiences for your event, you will provide true value to the potential sponsor and bring in more dollars to your event.

These days companies are looking for ways to get involved rather than just being seen. Here are my top tips for creating these engaging experiences while still raising funds for your organisation.

Go beyond the transactional sponsorship
Look at your event and think creatively about which elements can be sponsored without simply creating a transactional relationship (i.e. tickets or branding in exchange for money). What do you need to implement, from an experiential perspective, that could be underwritten by a sponsor?

Tie the activation to a cause or value of the brand you are pitching
Find ways to tie a core value of a sponsor's brand to on-site activations. For instance, if your target sponsor wants to align with health and wellness, have them sponsor a mediation lounge or morning fitness program.

Is giving back to community important to them? Create an on-site community service project that will engage guests, choosing a local non-profit to benefit. Adding such activities are a win for you as the planner, since you are providing more value for your attendees, sponsor and overall event.

Pitch an idea you can realistically deliver
There is nothing worse than creating a grand image in a sponsor's mind, only to have them disappointed when the execution fails to live up to the pitch. Clearly outline in your sponsor packages what exactly will be included and how you will both implement the plan AND how you will foster engagement with participants.

Be sure the cost won't outweigh the dollars raised
Creativity is great, but you still want to be sure the sponsorship is making money for the organisation, so keep in mind how much it will cost to implement the plan, including staffing, design, production and any additional fees that might creep into the execution. The dollar value on the sponsorships should always exceed what it takes to make it come to life. The goal is fundraising, after all.

Offer out-of-the-box branding opportunities
Some sponsors still are happy with more traditional options, such as putting their names on apps, nametags and directional signs. These are all event branding and are must-haves. We all know that each of these can be sponsored by companies that are only interested in brand awareness.

But that doesn't mean these must-haves need to be basic or boring. What about turning the process of picking up that name tag into an experience with print-your-own stations? Attendees could have their pictures taken at a kiosk, print the badge there and attach to a lanyard or magnet holder with only one or two staffers needed to assist. This also saves time on staffing for your end and the seemingly endless hours of creating name badges.

Are your attendees staying at a hotel? Brand the keycards with a sponsor's logo so their name is literally carried with participants all day.

You need signage, right? Instead of printed placards, add stickers to the elevator doors, floor and bathroom mirrors. The more unexpected the placement, the more it will stick in attendees' minds. This is an easy way for a branding opportunity to become more engaging.

Don't forget to add your event and/or sponsor's hashtag on all of these, too. It's a great social media opportunity to spread your organisation's message beyond the attendees.

Don't shy away from going after competitors
Rather than limit your pool of potential sponsors by offering exclusivity, instead find ways for competitors in the pool to participate in your event in different aspects. For example, while one might have a sponsored activation in your reception space (like the name badges) the other could support an education session that conveys their message as well as that of the goals of your organisation.

Create a scholarship sponsor opportunity that goes beyond just footing the bill
Every association and nonprofit know that longevity and growth rely on consistently attracting new donors and members. Offering a scholarship opportunity allows a company that may not be a good fit for other activations to be involved in your event. It will also benefit those who need a little positive PR for their brand.

But you must go beyond just getting the sponsor to foot the bill for a selection of up-and-comers in the industry to attend your conference. Get the sponsor further involved through hosting their own workshop sessions tailored to the younger attendees and connected to the scholarship that's consistent with the overall message of your event.

Just like event attendees, today's sponsors are looking for something experiential, memorable and tailored to them. It's time to think more creatively and start developing some win-win-win ideas.

Amaia Stecker has more than a decade of experience planning a wide variety of events for corporate, nonprofit and social organisations and was just named one of Northstar's Top 25 Influencers of the Meetings Industry. With more than nine years in event production and 13 years working on Capitol Hill, Stecker says she approaches each event holistically with an eye for detail and a passion for making the experience purposeful.

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