As the event industry has entered into uncharted territory during these uncertain times it has become apparent that many events especially those being run by volunteers and small staff needed some guidance as to what to expect and how to handle issues that are arising from cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19. After being asked to appear on several event association webinars Ryan Kintz from ,Afton Tickets, Michael Bleau from ,Event Hub, and Teresa Stas from ,Green Cactus Event Sponsorships are working together to help other live events by sharing our first hand knowledge of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and the feedback we are getting from our clients and other events across the country.
Signup Your Live Events Organization or Association
Our fully hosted and customized free 45-60 minute webinar for your group or association will offer information and advice for your event organizers and event vendors to help make it through the corona virus crisis.
Topics will include:
How to handle Sponsorships during this uncertain time.
How brands are dealing with their event sponsorships and what it means for you.
Correct messaging for ticket holders, vendors, sponsors, etc. to prevent a negative social media backlash.
How to handle canceling or postponing events.
Incentivizing customers to keep their tickets for next year’s event vs. demanding a refund.
Strategies to financially survive a decrease in revenues due to COVID-19.
How to SIGN UP for our Webinar: For Festival Organizations & Associations with a membership following, Contact Green Cactus at [email protected] to schedule a special expert webinar panel specifically for your association members.
Please include the following in your email:
Include Two or Three dates and times that would work for your organization (we are finding that Tues-Thursday at around 10am or 11am seem to work best)
We encourage you to include one or two of your own experts on the panel. Such as an event who has had to cancel or postpone, a legal or insurance expert to round out your webinar. If you have suggestions of people to include please also include them in the email as well.
As soon as we get your email someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
We are doing our best to accommodate every organization’s schedule. But available slots are filling up quickly. Please contact us to learn more.
A few weeks ago before everything came to a screeching halt, I hosted a panel of Sponsorship Decision Makers for the Oregon Festival and Events Association Conference. This panel consisted of representatives from Safeway/Albertsons, Columbia Distributing, Spirit Mountain Casino and Hood to Coast all who are all involved in the sponsorship decision making process for their brand. This was a chance to hear it from the “horse’s mouth” so to speak on what they are looking for in a proposal and also what they want out of a sponsorship. From important reminders to keep in mind to insights on the decision making process to some keys to make a successful activation here are some lessons learned from the sponsorship panel.
Do Your Research
What you think is going to work for one brand is not going to work for another brand. Find the correct person to discuss opportunities with. You will have more success if you take the time to discover the right contact. This is why networking is so important. Also, this is why investing in a company or agency that already has a book of sponsorship contacts is helpful.
Remember it’s a Process, Be Patient
Once a submission is received, the brands on the panel typically go through the following process:
Determine if they have the budget.
Due diligence: review sponsorship proposal, check out the event in person, an overview of logistics/execution, etc.
Clearance from the marketing director that it fits with the marketing plan.
VP or higher-level approval to ensure sponsorship aligns with the overall goals of the company.
Customization is Key to Relationship Building
Avoid pre-created packages and mass, impersonal messages. Proposals with pre-determined packages do not take into consideration what the potential sponsor’s goals or needs are. Greetings that are too generalized are not good either, as it does not incorporate the brand into the proposal at all. The sponsors want to be listened to and heard before receiving a proposal.
Not including data (attendance, past sales, etc.) is another common mistake. Documentation and concrete numbers are key factors that brands take into consideration when determining to work with an event. Based on a survey conducted by Green Cactus, the demographics of attendees were the number one thing that sponsors wanted to see presented from an event.
When creating the proposal, the more you can tailor the proposal to the individual company, the better. This will allow you to build a closer relationship with the brand. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. Take the time to create a connection with the key decision-makers. This is done by truly listening to their needs and crafting a proposal that addresses them.
All About Activations
When running an on-site activation be sure to deliver on what is promised. Do not sell items in your sponsorship package that you can’t execute. However, mistakes happen that cannot be avoided sometimes. This is when follow up is key. When things go wrong, be sure to take ownership immediately. Address the situation with the sponsor and present solutions as soon as possible. nnWhen creating an activation, keep in mind the goals of the sponsor. Creative and unique activations are important but aligning with the brand’s objectives is essential. This is especially true if you are trying to sell them on a multi-year deal. The more you can deliver on their targets, the better chance you have of them returning. Also, creating a turn-key activation (one where the event does all of the work) is something that can be very alluring for a potential sponsor. Some brands may have their own set-up but for those that don’t, you having this as an option can be one way to secure the deal.
What to do When They Ask for More
Most of the times a sponsor is asking for more because they want to feel like the event is paying attention to them. However, at the end of an event, it’s important to assess the relationship to see if the extra work is worth the effort. This is also a good time to evaluate the sponsorship agreement. Oftentimes confusion results in not having a well-written, clear-cut agreement. Re-caps are also critical to create. Some brands will not even look at proposals without a recap from the last year.
How to Shift Demographics
Keeping with technology. A/B testing different promotions to new audiences. Geo-targeting and other avenues can help test on new sectors. Do not be afraid to try new things. The great thing about online marketing is that you can test without incurring a large cost. During the event, adding new programming can also help to attract a new audience that aligns with more potential sponsors.
Overall, the main takeaway from this panel is to focus on fostering a relationship with a brand. Whether they are a potential sponsor or a current one, giving them personalized attention and ensuring that an activation meets their needs is critical. nnIf you would like to see the video of this panel click here, or view it below.
The sponsorship panel referred to in this article took place on February 27 – 29, 2020 in Bend Oregon during the OFEA Conference. The panel consisted of Jocelyn Huffman, Sponsorship Administrator for Spirit Mountain Casino; Jaime Clary, Marketing and Promotions Manager for Safeway/ Albertsons; Christopher Stiles, Draft Manager for Columbia Distributing; and Dan Floyd, Chief Operating Officer for Hood to Coast and Hood.
As we continue to abide by the CDC’s recommendations and more local governments put regulations in place, it can be a confusing time for both event organizers and sponsors. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that this situation is rapidly changing as more news and information is available to the public and local governments adjust restrictions.
As a sponsorship agency we were seeing the following three responses from our brands:
1. Holding on Signing All Pending Sponsorships: The first and most common response we have seen is a hold on all pending sponsorships as brands try to find their footing and anticipate the economic impact they will face. This can be hard when you are trying to meet sales goals but try to think of this as a positive. This is not a “No”. Staying in contact with these prospective sponsors is key.
2. Canceling their Sponsorship Agreements: I can’t sugar coat it; brands are canceling their sponsorship agreements. There are several reasons this might happen prematurely from the cancelation of an event. It could be because they target an age group that is considered vulnerable, so they don’t want to be portrayed as irresponsible by partnering with a live event at this time. It might be that they have taken a huge financial hit and are trying to cut expenses everywhere. Although sponsorship cancelations are our fear, there is some solace to remember. If they cancel and the event hasn’t, there is a good chance you might still get to keep the sponsorship money. Make sure to double-check your agreement as most events have a no refund policy if the brand cancels. Now, whether your event keeps the money or refund’s it is up to you. Keep in mind it may affect future relationships with that sponsor. So be sure to assess the situation from all angles.
3. Willing to Move Forward but with a COVID-19 Clause: Currently, there is increased importance around contracts. The good news is that not all hope is lost, although it is at a much slower pace, we are still seeing brands move forward with sponsorships. Now they are taking a much closer look at clauses that deal with event cancellations. It’s highly recommended that every contract includes a plan of action regarding if an event is canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. This will allow sponsors to feel more comfortable with signing.
We decided to reach out to five of the brands we work with to gain insight into how COVID-19 is affecting their business, how they are dealing with it, and how it will affect the events that they work with. In order for these brands to provide candid feedback they asked that we share their answers anonymously but what we can tell you is our interviews were conducted with sponsorship decision makers in the beer, liquor, grocery, power and hospitality industries. After our frank conversations with the brands it became clear that there were three key themes, that emerged from their responses how they are handling new partnerships, current relationships, and the importance of communication from the event during this time.
Not Committing to New Events
The consensus from every company we spoke to was that they were not committing to any new events until more clarity on the future is given. It is hard to give a timeline on when they may be looking to sign new contracts since we do not know exactly when events will be able to resume again but the overall understanding was that once the mass gathering bands were lifted they would be able to resume commitments to events.
“We are still reviewing but not committing to anything until the global and local situation returns to normal or the “new normal” is established.”
Some are still reviewing proposals while others are not. Unfortunately, due to the ambiguity around the future, it is hard for them to commit but it still may be worth reaching out and at least starting the conversation. While not all are looking at new proposals, many of them expressed a continued commitment to their current partners.
“I imagine this will impact future sponsorship spends but I would only anticipate it affecting new relationships. We are committed to keeping the long-term partnerships intact”
Now with all that said, our agency has had luck working with new sponsors during this time who have verbally told us that once the ban’s are limited they are committed to signing or are willing to at least sign a letter of intent.
Continuing to Work with Current Partners
A lot of the feedback we received was regarding how brands are handling their current partnerships. Many expressed a strong commitment to working with them as much as possible.
“We are supporting events best we can in rescheduling and working with them to have the best experience for their patrons when things do return to normal.”
They are keeping track of the changing situation as best they can while also focusing on their own business. As events begin to reschedule or cancel, it is important that they communicate and provide updates as soon as possible.
“If events are looking to reschedule, they need to keep in mind the timing. There is going to be a large demand for already limited event resources. I suggest communicating with all sponsors and suppliers to ensure everything that the event needs to be successful will be available to them.”
The biggest fear was that events do not have a plan for the future. Because there is so much uncertainty, having multiple contingency plans and options is important. At this point, everyone should prepare for the worst, especially if their event is scheduled for the summer. There is no confirmed date on when mass gathering bans will end so it is a good idea to create multiple plans and establishing a timeline of when hard decisions have to be made.
“The other thing is that we’ve heard from some of the events we sponsor that they are moving ahead as if the event is going to happen, and when we press them on “what if” scenarios they come off like they don’t need them because their event is going to take place. This is off-putting because most of us in the business world are constantly dealing with situations that come up that impact our business and require us to make alternate arrangements or adjust our plans. What those kinds of responses tell me is that these folks don’t have a plan. That may not always be the case, but if someone can’t articulate their plans, whether that’s monitor and adjust or, we’ll cancel if it isn’t cleared up by X date, or whatever it is then that’s where you have the opportunity to create issues between properties and their sponsors. Another reason why communication is so important.”
Communication is key
Probably the most important theme we found from their responses was the emphasis on open and active communication. Even if an event does not have all the answers they need to reach out to their partners and have a conversation about the situation.
“Events should do their best to stay in contact with companies. Updates, even if they are negative will only help both parties move forward the best way possible. Lack of communication can be extremely frustrating and can impact future sponsorship opportunities.”
As mentioned before, having multiple plans of actions and communicating that with brands is very important for maintaining the relationship. It not only shows that the event is prepared but also that they care about their partners and are looking out for their best interests.
Overall, many brands are very conscious about the volatility of the current situation. They understand that it’s a rapidly changing environment and are committed to working with their current partners. Unfortunately, they are not looking to commit to new relationships, but some are still open to proposals. The most important thing is for events to have a plan (or multiple) in place and communicate that with current and future partners.
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association’s “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine May 2020.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.
Teresa Stas is a national speaker, columnist, and consultant on the topic of live event sponsorships. She is an accomplished marketing leader and CEO of Green Cactus, a live event sponsorship agency based in Portland, OR and Fresno, CA. She has been named one of the 20 on the Rise Event Professionals by Honeybook and RisingTide.com. You can check out Teresa’s online sponsorship course at sellsponsorship.com. If you would like to get sponsorship tips to your inbox, you can sign up for the GC monthly newsletter at GreenCactusCa.com.
It’s the start of a brand-new year. Heck! A brand-new decade and as we head back to work how you will reach your fiscal event goals for 2020 is probably on the top of your mind. I know it is for our clients, in fact I had a pretty extensive conversation with an event right before the new year because a Sponsor was asking for a recap of their sponsorship and the event didn’t know what to do because they have never done one. The conversation started because the event was frustrated that they weren’t getting the money that they felt the sponsorship warranted. They didn’t understand why they wouldn’t increase their sponsorship. I asked them if they had done a recap with them and showed them why the sponsorship fee should increase, and they let me know that they had never done recaps.
They felt like they had never really needed to. I seem to run into this attitude all the time with smaller events and I can’t stress enough…if you aren’t doing a sponsorship recaps you are leaving money behind and making your job harder. I know it may feel like you have a good relationship and a recap isn’t needed. Or it feels like extra work that isn’t needed but that is in fact not the case at all.
In last Fall’s column I went over how to increase your renewals and one of the steps was ALWAYS do a sponsorship recap. I constantly preach to my clients that it’s essential for you to not only show proof of your performance, but also debrief with your sponsor so that you know what did and did not work. The events we work with that conduct sponsor recaps re-sign at a 75% higher rate than those events who do not.
In my experience, I’ve found that most small events do not debrief with sponsors, which is a major misstep. A company’s sponsorship of your event is looked at as an investment and it’s up to you to show them that they made a smart decision. Many companies must prove to their higher ups why certain marketing initiatives worked or didn’t work. If they have nothing to show for their investments or if you leave it up to them to do the research on their own, it’s easier for them to just say “no“to next year.
If you don’t follow up with your sponsors after the event to find out what they think worked or didn’t work, how will you know what you need to adjust for next year or if you are in a position to ask for more? You can’t just disappear and resurface when it’s time for renewals because then it’s too late to fix any issues that might have arisen.
For those of you who may not know how to put together a proper recap or what information to provide let me break it down what information you should include.
Post Event Info: Include attendance numbers along with demographics and other information collected through research. Overall media reach and general event success info.
What did their sponsorship agreement include versus what did they receive? Highlight any additional assets that were bonused to the sponsor.
Provide photos of activations and assets, especially those the event was responsible for providing. Such as banners, posters, billboards, display booths, t-shirts, etc.
Include media value that the sponsor was included in and affidavits of radio and/or tv. Include air-checks when possible.
Provide copies of print ads and articles that include the sponsor and circulation numbers if available.
Provide originals of programs, posters, flyers, rack card, etc.
If the event was managing any sampling or distributing of literature, include numbers of how many were distributed.
If the sponsor was included in any off-site exposure or retail promotions include photos and/or documentation.
Most recaps will be less than five pages with a lot of photos showing proof. Your title sponsorships or bigger sponsorships may include more than five pages it just depends on the amount of promotion and/or marketing the sponsor was involved in. Think of your recap as their receipt for the product they paid for. You are showing them that they got what they paid for. When you take the time to do this you are proving that their sponsorship is important to you and that you are valuing the partnership. On the flip side of this many times when an event does recaps for the first time they start to realize that they haven’t been holding up their end of the bargain and that is usually why they aren’t getting an increase or renewal. It’s not enough to tell a sponsor that you did what you said you would, you have to prove it. The process of a recap holds the event accountable for it’s promised assets.
This idea of doing recaps might feel daunting if you haven’t done them before but starting now will make things much easier for you in the future. Our suggested process is simple, create a digital folder for each sponsor and anytime there is a promotion, social media post, advertising spot, photo or anything else the event does that relates to the sponsor, drop a copy or screen shot in the folder. If you do this through the year then it won’t make the recap so daunting after the event. Usually what happens is the event doesn’t think about it until after the event is over and trying to find and collect everything is what makes the process seem harder and more time consuming than it is.
I promise you that if you recap your event with your sponsors then not only will you see a growth in sponsorships but also in your relationships.
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association’s “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine February 2020.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to: www.ifea.com.”
1. Start with a prospect that is a good fit for your event. As I’ve explained in a previous column, prospecting can be one of the hardest parts of gaining sponsorships, but it is the first step in a successful pitch.
A lot of events make the mistake of mass calling or emailing any and all businesses looking for sponsorships, regardless of whether they are a good fit for the event’s patrons.
Now you may be asking, “How do I know what’s a good fit?” You know by looking at your audience data! Who is your audience? Where are they coming from? What are their interests? What are they looking to purchase in the next year?
Letting your audience data lead you to your prospects will ensure that you find sponsorships that are a good match for your audience. When you match potential sponsors with your audience, you will not only experience greater success in signing sponsors, but your sponsorships will be more successful. Trying to squeeze a sponsorship into an event for the sake of the money almost never leads to successful results for the sponsor.
2. Set up a time to talk to the prospect BEFORE you send a proposal. I tell events this over and over, yet it feels like 90% of events still send out stock “level” proposals to cold prospects. Do not do this It does not work.
Warm up your prospects by setting up a meeting in person or by phone to discuss how their brand and your event can partner. Ask questions. Find out what they look for in a sponsorship and what a successful sponsorship looks like to them. Ask what they are trying to get out of sponsoring an event.
I also suggest asking the prospect how they will measure the sponsorship’s success. This allows you to put a strategy together that will provide the best opportunity for success by their standards. Knowing what the prospect’s sponsorship or marketing goals are will help you create a proposal that not only maximizes your dollars, but also ensures you are creating a sponsorship that reaches their goals.
3. Create a high quality, customized proposal that answers their questions and meets their expectations. When it comes time to actually putting the proposal together, I have some tips to share:
Include your audience demographic data and any additional relevant data that shows how your event and the prospect share the same audience. Being able to highlight this information goes a VERY long way to helping you close a deal.
Make your proposal informative, easy to read, and attractive. Your proposal is where you not only showcase your event, but also show that you are professional and that you take this prospective partnership seriously. Tip: don’t include pages and pages about your event; a paragraph or less is usually sufficient.
Craft the proposal to meet the prospect’s sponsorship initiatives. For example, if the prospect says they want to build a leads’ list from your event patrons, make sure you build in something that will help generate those leads, like an enter-to-win contest. Avoid a bunch of generic stuff like placing logos on flyers because that won’t push them to their goals. Be deliberate in how you craft the proposal so that it’s clear to them that you listened to and valued what they had to say, then show how your event can help them reach their goals.
4. Follow up with the prospect. After you present your proposal – whether it’s in person or by phone or email – make sure to follow up. Sometimes I’ll have to follow up several times in order to get a response. Ninety percent of the time, if I have taken the time to do the first three steps, I’ll get an answer back instead of a prospect just ignoring me. The most common answers are “yes,” “yes, but…”, “we don’t have it in the budget, but we want to do it next year,” and “no.”
When you get a “no”, follow it up with a gentle request for feedback. See if they will tell you why they passed. This might lead to further discussion, or it will at least allow you to change approaches for next year. In most cases, if you get a “no” and you have done the first three steps, it comes down to budget. If it’s a budget issue, there might be a way to negotiate.
If you feel like you are falling short on hearing “yes” from prospects, you may want to reevaluate how you are approaching your pitch. When I find that I’m not hitting my sponsorship goals, it’s usually because I skipped one of the steps.
Sponsorship sales is a time-consuming process, but when you take the time to do your pitches properly you will most certainly see success.
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine November 2019.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to: www.ifea.com.
According to an eventbrite survey, “Forty percent who have purchased VIP in the past are willing to pay at least double the price of GA for access to VIP restrooms and faster, private entry.” Some will not even attend an event if there is not an option to buy a VIP package. These added experiences can be as simple as expedited entrance to backstage meet and greets to glamping that puts hotels to shame. It’s important to not only offer VIP add ons but to price them at the right point. By leveraging technology and valuable data points, event organizers can greatly improve their VIP amenities. Since about 25% of revenue can be generated from these sales, they can also increase their overall bottom line.
Utilizing Data to Drive Upgrades
This year, the team a AEG presents, who puts on over 30 festivals and approximately 10,000 shows, created an initiative around Stagecoach festival (the country music three day event that takes place the weekend after Coachella on the same grounds) to differentiate their offerings for the 2019 rendition. “One of the biggest challenges for us every year is, ‘How do you outdo yourself? How do we create an experience for consumers that makes them feel like we know what they want and are trying to cater to those wants?'” Brooke Michael Kain, AEG Presents’ chief digital officer told Rolling Stone.
They began by rounding up all the data they had access to, which was a lot. Given AEG’s size they were able to draw from a huge network of event-related purchases, from tickets to merchandise. Once they aggregated all the data, which took months, they gathered ticketing directors and consumer behavior product managers to create algorithms that sent push notifications that were personalized based on the consumers past purchases. For example, if someone had bought a Stagecoach ticket two years in a row then they were offered $100 off a Saloon Pass (the festivals name for VIP) or if they bought t-shirts in the past they were sent a buy one get one offer for this event.
“We thought, ‘How can we take a fan’s history and offer them something we know they are going to want?’ The strategy unique to us is that we are rewarding our fans and trying to be loyal to our fans, and not expecting them to be loyal to us.” Kain also told Rolling Stone. While she didn’t reveal exactly how well the campaign went, she did indicate that it was not a failure. The best part is that this technology is scalable and can be used for other events in the future. By leveraging data, live event organizers can tailor their VIP add ons to the individual consumer therefore making them more likely to break out their wallets.
Creating More Offerings
Creating tiers gives an event more opportunities to capture a guest at a higher price point then just general admission. This can range from General Admission Plus to “Super Duper VIP”, which is offered at Firefly Festival at over $7,000 plus applicable fees. Ultra VIP experiences at festivals, like golden toilets and luxurious camping set-ups are nothing new to the festival scene but over the past year organizers have begun to create more offerings in the other direction. Many Live Nation festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas and Music Midtown in Atlanta rolled out a GA+ option for festival goers. This package elevates the attendees experience with expedited entrance, air conditioned restrooms, and some time even a special viewing area. This allows those who do not want to spring for a full package but still have a little extra spending money to be able to splurge a little bit on themselves.
VIP can be tiered both ways and the upper tiers these days seem to know no limits. While these outlandish offerings are nothing new, major events like Coachella are upping their experiences to new heights this year. The sky seems to be the limit when it comes to crafting one of a kind, ultra luxury experiences for high paying patrons.
Coachella Ups the Ante
Not only do live events have to ensure that year over year they are offering the right kind of VIP options to their fan base but they also have to compete with other events in the space. As the market becomes more saturated, especially in the music festival industry where it seems like almost every lineup looks they same, organizers have to craft unique, out of the box experiences for their big spenders to take advantage of. It used to be that backstage access, front row viewing, and limited edition swag were enough. Now, event organizers are looking towards more exclusive and glamorous options like helicopters and over the top lounges.
To house their extravagant elevated experience, Goldenvoice created the Zenyara Estate, a 37-acre lot that is complete with a Helicopter pad, limo service by Rolls Royce, six-acre golf course, 40,000 square-foot residence, and many more luxurious amenities. Corso Agency was hired to help create this Bali-inspired ultra VIP offering.
“For the next two weekends, Zenyara Estate will bring together some of the most exciting performers, athletes and celebrities in a venue like no other,” David Corso, CEO of Corso Agency, told The Hollywood Reporter. “We have partnered with Goldenvoice to deliver an unmatched experience, hosting brand events from the world’s best, including the debut of the Adidas Sports Club, and an incredible late-night program from our nightlife partners Framework and Wynn Nightlife.”
There is no denying that offering VIP packages is essential to any successful live event. Aggregating consumer data and creating personalized experiences looks to be the next advancement when it comes to defining the right offering. Ultra luxurious and over the top experiences are also ways that live events are elevating their attendees willingness to splurge a the event.
Small Event, Big Sponsorships, with a quick story about a meeting I had a few weeks ago with one of my longtime sponsorship clients who represents a very large utility company. This client and I have been working together for almost 10 years, so we have developed a really honest working relationship. He was sharing with me some of his frustrations with some events he was sponsoring, and I started to see a pattern emerge with those events. He was feeling as though these events were creating tedious and unnecessary extra work for him which was creating frustration and a sense that the sponsorships were becoming way more trouble than they were worth.
Now before I get into this I want to make clear that I strongly believe that when a brand or company decides to sponsor an event it is imperative that they actively participate in the sponsorship activation in order to protect and get the most out of their investment. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make it as easy as possible on them! Helping your sponsors get the most out of their sponsorship is one of the best ways to make sure you get them to resign next year! You want them to know that you consider them a partner and are working for their success as much as your own. Here are my top three ways that small events (and large ones) can help ensure that their sponsors renew.
1. Make sure to onboard your sponsor as soon as they sign with your event. You may of heard of “on-boarding” in regards to employees but it applies to your sponsors as well. Have a set system in place for when your sponsor signs up with your event even if you have had them before. At our agency we make sure that we e-introduce the sponsor to their contact and send them document that includes all the asset due dates, file types and sizes needed as well as any other pertinent info that they may need. You want to make sure that you give them plenty of time to collect and get you everything you may need. Nothing is more frustrating to a sponsor than getting an email a week away from a deadline that says we need your ad ASAP when they weren’t aware of a deadline. Remember the phrase “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. Making sure the sponsor has all the info upfront will make it easier on you AND them, it most likely will also ensure that you get all the assets you need at the appropriate deadlines.
2. Maintain Contact throughout the year. I don’t know about you but being in the world of event’s I always have those social media “friends” who only contact me when they want tickets to something. Don’t be that friend! Don’t just reach out to a sponsor when you want their money…they can see through that, I promise. Not only do you want to onboard them when they do signup but you want to maintain contact through the year and make sure to remind them of upcoming deadlines so that they don’t miss them and also check-in with them to find out if you can assist them in helping make their sponsorship more successful. This ensures that they use all of sponsorship tools at their disposal and that they know you are there to help.
3. Always do a sponsorship recap. This is something that I constantly preach to my clients. It is essential that you not only show proof of your performance but also debrief with your sponsor so that you know what did and did not work. I will tell you that the events we work with that do sponsor recaps resign at 75% higher rate then those events who do not. This is something that I have found most small events do not do and it’s a major misstep because you need to look at a company’s sponsorship of your event as an investment and it is up to you to show them that they made a good investment. Many companies have to prove to their higher ups why certain marketing initiatives worked or didn’t work and if they have nothing to show for their investments or if you leave it up to them to do the research then it’s easier for them to just say no to next year. I go back to being the “friend” who just shows up when they want something…if you don’t follow up with your sponsors after the event and find out what they think worked or did not work, then how will you know what you need to adjust for next year or if you are in a position to ask for more? You must connect BEFORE you ask for money, you can’t just disappear and resurface when it’s time for renewals because then it’s too late to fix any issues that might have arose.
Circling back to my meeting with the utility company, if these three elements were followed it would have made his job much easier and made for a much happier sponsor. Making it as easy as possible for a company to be a part of your event is a competitive edge that smaller events can capitalize on. I am very aware that it takes more time and effort but all three of these steps can be systemized and if done properly they will increase your renewal rates which in turn will cut down your overall work because you won’t have to prospect for a brand new roster of sponsors every year.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to: www.ifea.com.
I don’t know about you, but when the month of July hits, we know we are about to head into the thick of our event season! This is the time that I begin to see the folks behind the scenes start to scramble to pull together all the things that they missed, or are catching up on, and oftentimes this includes sponsorship fulfillment. The trick to successful sponsorship fulfillment while not losing your mind is organization! I don’t say this easily because those that work with me know that I seem to have my own personal organization system that doesn’t always make sense to others, which admittedly in the past would cause me to scramble or cause unwanted extra work. After I realized this about myself, I took some very necessary steps to systemize our sponsorship fulfillment process behind the scenes, and I am going to share with you some of the tools that we have used to make our lives easier! The best part? Most of them have free versions!
Asana describes itself as “the work management platform teams use to stay focused on the goals, projects, and daily tasks that grow business.” I describe it has a great way to keep track of where sponsors are in the pipeline. It has great features like being able to tag team members, track notes, monitor deadlines for tasks and projects, as well as creating templates so you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time. You can get the basic version for free! https://asana.com
Think of Airtable like the way better looking and comprehensive version of Excel. This tool boasts that its “fields can handle any content you throw at them. Add attachments, long text notes, checkboxes, links to records in other tables—even barcodes. Whatever you need to stay organized.” We use it to manage the social media side of our sponsorships. It allows you to create easily understood databases that can list the event, sponsors, the approved copy and links, and even allow you to attach the files. Like Asana you can tag and categorize so that searching is easy. There is even a calendar feature so you can get a snapshot of what needs to happen on what day. They also offer a free version — https://airtable.com/invite/r/DwJgfD0L
I don’t know about you, but we spend a lot of time tracking down agreements and getting them signed. So when we broke down and actually decided to use SignNow it made our life a lot easier, and saved us so much more time! There are many tools out there like SignNow, which allow you to upload your agreements so that you can get them electronically signed and filed. However, when doing the research it ended up being the most cost effective product for our needs at only $8 a month. It’s very simple to use, just upload your agreement and place the different sign or info boxes where you want them, and type the email address to where it’s going. You can even list in what order people will receive the file. This tool also will allow you to track where the agreement is at, and lets you send reminders if it’s been sitting with someone too long. Like we mentioned before, this isn’t a free tool but you can check it out with a free trial! https://snseats.signnow.com/purchase/business_plans/pricing?referral_code=dGVyZXNhQGdyZWVuY2FjdHVzY2EuY29t
There are so many awesome tools out there so if you have any to share please let us know about them at [email protected]. The three we have listed above are actual tools that we use. We are not paid to endorse the products, but if you use the link provided we will get credit, and appreciate your support! Hopefully these tools can help you the same way they have helped us!
In this edition of Small Event, Big Sponsorships, I want to cover the three main types of sponsors that you will deal with: Super Fans, Community Contributors, and Business Decision Makers. Understanding the different sponsor types will not only allow you to adjust your prospecting approach, but also help you find your sweet spot when it comes to successfully producing your small event.
First, let’s look at these sponsor types, then I’ll explain how you can apply this understanding to successful prospecting.
1) The “Super Fan.” This is someone who has sponsorship decision-making power and loves your event or what you stand for. Here’s an example of a Super Fan. A commercial contractor sponsors a 10K race, not because it’s a good fit for his company, but because he has a passion for running and wants to be a part of the race. He isn’t making a sponsorship decision based on generating a strong return on his investment; he is basing his decision on his personal emotions about the event.
You’ll see this a lot with events that have board members or committee members whose companies help sponsor the event. These board or committee members have a personal commitment to the event and are willing to help sponsor because they want it to succeed.
2) The “Community Contributor.” This is one of the most common types of sponsors for smaller events. These are the sponsors who like to support their community and believe it’s good business to back community events through in-kind or cash sponsorships. Most Community Contributors have budgets set aside to sponsor events that they believe align with their values and the communities where they work.
Community Contributors are your local banks, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, grocery stores, or others who have a successful local business and are connected to the community. These sponsorships may not always seem like the most logical supporters for the specific type of event, but they still want to be a positive part of their community. They recognize that this supportive community image can produce a strong ROI (return on investment) over time.
3) The “Business Decision Maker.” These businesses choose to sponsor an event because they expect a measurable ROI. They look at their sponsorships as an investment. They have measurable goals that they expect the event sponsorship to help them reach. They usually have a marketing team behind them and are very clear on the target audience and patron that they want. This type of sponsorship is typically tied to bigger dollars and generally targets larger events. Examples of this sponsor type would be national brands such as credit cards, vehicle brands, and beverage companies.
Understanding the Why’s of Sponsors
Understanding your prospective sponsor is key in knowing how to approach them. You need to recognize the “why” behind their sponsorship decisions so that you can better determine where your event fits in. If you are a small event, you probably rely heavily on Super Fans and the relationships that are built with you and your team while producing the event. Community Contributors are another big supporter of small events, and if you aren’t reaching out to them, you should.
Community Contributors are great sponsors for smaller events because this is where they thrive. Find those business within your area that sponsor other community events, or those who do local radio and television advertising. When you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, or pass a billboard, write down every local advertiser you run across. Also, check out local events and see who sponsors them. This is where you will start to find those Community Contributors.
Community Case Study
Last year we worked with a first-time event — a free community block party expecting 1,000 attendees or less. This event had quite a few expenses that had to be covered, like the stage, talent, and security. Our team was tasked with producing $15,000 in sponsorships. While this wouldn’t be that much to secure for a larger event, it was a lot for a small, first-time event that had no history of success.
To effectively pull this off, we focused on the Community Contributors. We researched and approached those businesses who were serving the area where our event was going to take place. When we approached these community businesses about sponsoring, we pitched the block party as the beginning of a free community event. We also stressed that we couldn’t do it without the help of local business leaders like them, and that their sponsorship would positively resonate with all those attending.
Now I don’t want to tell you it was easy or a slam dunk, because it wasn’t. We had to do a lot of reaching out and received many referrals from our Super Fans. But it worked. Not only did we hit our goal, we actually raised closer to $35,000! It was all done with local community businesses in a town that only had a population of 8,000 people. Now, in full disclosure, we did secure $7,000 in sponsorships from two national brands tied to the beverages that were being served at the block party. (This is something I always recommend.) Still, most of the money was local.
As a small event, you may feel a bit lost when trying to figure out who to approach for sponsorship. My advice is to first understand the type of sponsor you are reaching out to and plan accordingly. You can’t approach them all in the same way, but you can most definitely approach them all!
Please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] if you have questions or suggestions for future topics!
This article was written by Teresa Stas and was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association “i.e.: the business of international events” quarterly magazine May 2019.
The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to: www.ifea.com.
It’s a new year filled with new goals, and I’m sure that one of those goals is landing new sponsors for your event! I thought this month’s blog should be about a topic that I don’t see or hear much about, and that’s onboarding your new sponsors and returning sponsors.
Most events spend all their time and effort on trying to secure sponsors. Then when they actually do book them, the details of onboarding and maintenance fall by the wasteside. Now what do I mean by “onboarding” a sponsor? I’m referring to how you introduce them to working with your event, and what they can expect. It’s the beginning of the hand holding process so that they don’t feel like you took their money and ran– or even worse they don’t hear from you until 2 days before their artwork or banners are due. Nothing ignites frustration more than when a sponsor feels like they missed an opportunity because they weren’t well informed. Here are my suggested steps to onboarding your new or returning sponsors:
1) After signing on your sponsor, send them a Due Date List that has all the dates that their assets are due, and any file types or instructions.
2) Set up a call or meeting to go over any activations that might need more attention. This way the sponsor knows exactly what their responsibility is to the event, and the event understands what is expected of them from the sponsor.
3) Check in with the sponsor periodically, make sure they know what due dates are coming up, and if they will need any help getting their assets in on time.
4) Make sure they get their invoice and a copy of their contract in plenty of time, so that they are able to pay you in a timely manner. It’s usually not a simple process to get checks cut especially with large companies or corporations. So be sure to give your sponsor as much time as possible.
5) If your sponsor is doing an activation during the event, make sure to send them all of the details on how to access the event on site. You will also want to let them know when and how they will receive their tickets and other sponsorship perks.
By making sure your sponsor is getting all their information up front, you will help eliminate unnecessary frustration from your sponsor. You want them to feel like they are a part of your event, and that they are important–which they are! By giving them the details upfront, and by checking in with them, you are making sure they have all the tools to succeed at your event.