Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 9: Five Things to Expect When Approaching Sponsors During the Pandemic

A year ago, I was at my computer writing this column as a sort of “state of the sponsorship industry.” As a sponsorship agency, we were fielding an abundance of questions about what to do when it came to sponsors, events, and COVID-19 shutdowns. Now here we are a year later. As venues begin reopening across the country and events start reworking their structures to accommodate mass gathering mandates, the questions about sponsorships and what to expect are surfacing yet again. I thought this would be a good time to give an overview of what our agency, Green Cactus, is seeing in the sponsorship world and how to approach sponsors in this complicated landscape. Here are five key things to know and expect when reapproaching past sponsors or reaching out to new prospects during the pandemic: 1. Many brands and companies are still hesitant to get involved with events, even as many states are reopening. Your event may be housed in an “open” state, but their company may not be. Plus, their priority will most likely be their own employees. We are seeing lots of brands willing to talk sponsorship and look at proposals, but when it comes to onsite activations, they aren’t willing to send their teams out yet. Our suggestion is to try and create a sponsorship proposal that meets their needs. This may require your team helping with any onsite activations, or you may have to get creative and come up with ways to involve brands without the requirement of onsite activations. 2. Budgets have been severely altered this year. With the uncertainty of the pandemic’s impact on 2021 and the economic hit that many brands saw last year, sponsorship and marketing budgets have been cut this year. We have talked to brands who had to let go of their entire field marketing teams and have cut events completely out of their 2021 budgets. Although this can be discouraging, don’t let it define your sponsorship program. These budgets will come back and so will the field teams; it is just going to take some time. Use this year to keep in contact with those brands you want to sponsor your event. This could also be a way to incorporate a brand in a smaller way that could grow into something bigger later. For example, maybe the brand sponsors a live stream for your hybrid event for this year, but you can cultivate them into a full blown onsite activation for next year. Finally, you do not want to wait when it comes to prospecting. Because these budgets are smaller, there will be a lot more competition vying for those sponsorships. 3. The beverage category is actively seeking event sponsorships. I regularly get asked who wants to sponsor events, and right now the beverage category has been our number one sponsorship buyer for 2021 events. I believe that it’s because although they were financially impacted on the event and restaurant/bar side of things during the pandemic, what they lost on that side they made up for in retail. Beer, hard seltzer, spirits, and energy drinks have all been looking for events to sponsor that also give them pouring rights. Make sure you are developing this category because they are currently spending in 2021 and are ready to get back to events.

4. You need to know what your event is going to look like before you reach out to new sponsors. This is another topic that comes up a lot with my clients. Right now, some of the events we work with don’t know from week to week if their event is going to happen or not in 2021. Some of our events know they are going to have an event, but they will have to structure it differently or they are required to reduce their capacity. So if you fall into one of these situations, you may be wondering how to approach sponsors. First, if you are in the category of not knowing whether you will be able to have an event yet, I suggest you continue to approach sponsors as if you were. The sponsorship process takes time. If you have the event, you will be in a much better position than if you are trying to approach them last minute. If you must cancel the event, then you address that situation with each sponsor at the time it happens. Now, if you are one of the lucky events that knows it is happening but must make adjustments, be clear with your sponsors on how the event will look, then and adjust the price accordingly. Sponsors are very aware that reduced capacity means reduced engagement and sales. It is not responsible to ask for the same sponsorship fee that you normally would when this is a non-normal year. 5. Some of your faithful sponsors may not come back this year. I know this is not good news, but it’s the nature of the economic hardships that many businesses faced over the past year. Don’t just assume your recurring sponsors will be back this year. Several of our clients saw sponsors who have been with them for years have to step away due to budget cuts. Knowing this now will give you more time to find other sponsors. Because we are a capitalist society, when one business steps away there is usually a competitor ready to step in. This can be great for open sponsorship vacancies but remember to respect those long- standing partnerships and have an open dialog with them. The sponsorship landscape is a little rocky right now, but it isn’t a drought. Sponsorships are out there, and they are ready to jump in as events begin to happen again! My biggest piece of advice is to start early. Decisions are taking a lot longer than usual, so last-minute or quick answers are harder to come by. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, use this time to open conversations with brands now. Even if they don’t come to fruition this year, they may be ready in 2022!
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 2021. The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.

Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 8: How Do You Sell Your Virtual Event?

Recently a report was released by EventMB called The Virtual Event Tech Guide about the state of virtual events as well as giving information about virtual tech. Two very noticeable stats that came to light for me is that only 32% of live events pivoted to virtual this year and only 2% of event professionals were able to recover 100% of their annual revenue and “70% of event professionals were unable to recover more than 25% of their annual revenue using virtual.” These stats just verified what my agency and myself had been experiencing firsthand. That Virtual events aren’t replace live event revenue and part of that is sponsorships. The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Sell Your Event! The Easy to Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsors.” “How do I sell my virtual event?” This is the question I was asked the most in the early months of 2020. As events tried to create virtual events that would make up for the lost income of their canceled live events, they often expected to pull in their same sponsors. My answer to them was sell your virtual events with the same principles as you sell your live events. You follow the same steps, and you provide the same information. The one thing I ask my clients when they are considering a virtual event is “What is the ultimate goal?” Are they creating this virtual event for marketing purposes to help keep their event top of mind and their patrons engaged? Are they creating this virtual event to make up the lost revenue? Or are they creating this virtual event to replace their live event for the year? Knowing what you are ultimately trying to accomplish will help you understand the reality of the situation and set your expectations. Although I do not believe virtual will replace the live event experience, it is not going anywhere, so we need to adjust for this popular form of event. To do this, you want to keep a few things in mind when it comes to sponsorships: 1) Audience data is the lifeblood of your sponsorships. You don’t have to be Coachella to sell sponsorships, but you do have to understand you are selling access to your audience. 2) The principles for selling live event sponsorships are the same for virtual or hybrid events. You must understand what the sponsor is trying to get out of the sponsorship. Just like in a live event, you need to know what the sponsor is trying to achieve. You need to know if you can help them meet that goal no matter what type of event you are doing. Just taking a sponsor who had a major activation at your live event and offering them a logo on a Facebook stream will most likely not generate excitement or sponsorship dollars. 3) If this is the first time you have taken your event virtual or hybrid then you are up against unproven results. Keep this in mind when you consider how you price your sponsorships. Perhaps you charge less than you normally would, but the event gets more sponsorship dollars based on impressions, clicks, or marketplace visits (if you are doing a virtual marketplace). You cannot just take the price of your live event and slap it on the virtual or hybrid event. 4) In the case of virtual or hybrid, make sure your production and your technology are good. When virtual events first took shape during the pandemic, it was okay to host in your living room, but things have changed. As virtual events become more commonplace, the audience is demanding more. Good production and professionalism are required for success. 5) You need to upgrade your marketing and make sure you message how your virtual event will work and how a patron can be a part of it. I have seen several events create great virtual events but did a bad job of marketing them or explaining how they work. This leads to low attendance numbers and low sponsorship dollars.

Virtual Event Assets

Digital assets can still be utilized for a virtual event. In fact, the value of these may become higher, since all you have is your online presence to connect with your audience, but again, this all depends on how much of your audience is actually seeing these assets. Traditional assets such as naming rights can also be integrated into a virtual event. Depending on the setup of your main entertainment, multiple stages could be named after sponsors. In addition, a virtual event could also host a presenting or title sponsor. Shaq’s Fun House vs Gronk Beach, Presented by The General® Insurance found many ways to involve sponsors. As you can see, in the name they hosted a presenting sponsor for their event. They also hosted multiple “challenges” that integrated sponsors into on-screen activities. These challenges included a Lip Sync Battle, presented by The General Insurance, where Shaq and Gronk faced off. The McCormick Grill Mates Steak Challenge had Shaq and Gronk grill, with Shaq taking home the title of top chef. Fortunately for Gronk, he won the jousting competition, presented by Monster Energy. Rocket Mortgage Sports Showdown involved a photo finish to see who won the final obstacle, an egg and spoon race. It ended with Gronk defeating Shaq in the Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Challenge. As you can see, each activity involved the sponsor in a unique way. It also provided fans with hilarious entertainment to see two major athlete-celebrities go head to head in fun and light-hearted challenges. Sampling can still be done with some virtual events through welcome packs or swag bags. Our client, Hood to Coast, teamed up with their sponsor, ONE Bar, to include bars in all of their “Finisher Packs.” When a runner completed their mileage, they would log on to the event website and enter their time. Hood to Coast would then ship them a package which included their medal, a t-shirt (depending on the race), and a ONE Bar. This met the sponsor’s goal to get their product into the hands of their target consumer, and it did it when there were no events happening. Mailing a racing package to a registrant is a great opportunity to involve sponsors in a virtual race. This is a way for the event organizers to connect with their fans and engage with sponsors in a way that feels like how a normal in-person event would. It also gives races a chance to keep their most staple sponsor asset, the event t-shirt, along with the opportunity to include unique products. However, make sure you factor in shipping and production costs when adding items to the package. Coupons or free sample cards have the best return on investment. By using a tracking code, you can also see the usage from those bounce-back coupons. As an event organizer, you will want to limit the number of sponsors you include in any type of package and make sure you include items of value. You don’t want to be shipping junk mail. Not only will it drive up shipping costs, but it dilutes the value of the sponsorship. Limiting how many can be involved in the direct-mail assets will help keep the costs down and the value high.

Virtual Expos and Conferences

A virtual expo might also be the way to go. It provides another gateway for an online event to connect partners and viewers. A virtual expo allows organizers to incorporate vendors and sponsors into one portal. EventHub created a platform that allows for meaningful and high-quality interactions. Event partners can engage with attendees in real time through virtual booths. Each virtual booth allows for video conferencing between the attendee and booth host. Sponsors and vendors are organized in a grid format and can be sorted and searched by category. A Toronto marathon found through the virtual expo, they could showcase their sponsors, vendors, and even the charities they support. They even added programming to attract attendees to the platform. Throughout the virtual event, they hosted a speaker series that featured informational sessions for runners of all abilities hosted by celebrities and elite athletes. A virtual expo does not just have to be for race events. Organizers of all kinds of events can integrate this platform into their live streams. Music festivals, pride events, state fairs, wellness expos, and more can benefit by adding this outlet for interaction between attendees and partners. The portal can even be organized by priority, allowing for sponsors to pay more for a premium spot.

Hybrid Events

Live streaming a music festival is nothing new. Major festivals like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas have been live streaming their events for years. Coachella historically has received millions of views and broke viewership records when it hosted Beyoncé as a headliner. These would be considered hybrid events, where there is an in-person and virtual experience for the same event. But not all hybrid events are six-figured attendance numbers. I just spoke at a conference in Florida where there was a small, socially distanced summit with 100 people over two days. It was recorded and streamed to a much larger virtual conference audience of event professionals. The combination of both the live and virtual is the direction that many events are headed as we wait for the reopening of the event industry. Hybrid sponsorships tend to lend themselves to higher sponsorship dollars than just virtual, because they allow for some element of the in-person connection that is so important to virtual events. My biggest piece of advice that I can offer in the virtual/hybrid event space is just like your live event: Audience data is the lifeblood of your sponsorships. If you know your audience, then target those prospects who want access to them. These are unprecedented times, but I have seen such innovation from the event world this year that I know firsthand you can sell sponsorships to virtual and hybrid events if you use the same principles and techniques used to sell successful live event sponsorships. Don’t wait! Get out there because now is the time to make it happen!
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 November 2020. The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.

Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 7: Using Audience Data to Sell Your Event

A lot of small and mid-size events make the mistake of mass calling or emailing any and all businesses in their area looking for sponsorships. They typically have no real rhyme or reason when doing so. They are playing it like it is a numbers game. The more people I ask, the better results I will get. This theoretically can be true, but it is by no means the most effective and efficient way to go about sponsorships.

The most efficient and effective way to go is starting with prospects that are a fit for your event. Now you may be asking, “How do I know what’s a good fit?” You know by looking at your audience data. This data derives from these questions: 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 and in turn, doesn’t lead to the sponsor resigning for the next year.

I bring up audience data and patron demographics a lot. These are essential for building your patron profile so that your event and your sponsors know who you are targeting. It’s what defines your attendees and your fan population. Knowing your patron data is the lifeblood of selling sponsorships. I will say this again. Knowing your patron data is the lifeblood of selling sponsorships. It’s a very important component that many small and mid-size events ignore. In this day and age where data is so readily available to sponsors those who don’t take this aspect seriously will be left behind.

Difference Between Audience Data and Demographics

Oftentimes the terms audience data and demographics are used interchangeably. I even catch myself doing this on a regular basis but there is a slight difference between the two.

Demographics refers to age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, income, education, and employment. They are characteristics that define a population segment but do not usually include so-called lifestyle characteristics. Whereas audience data refers to demographics and anything else you have on your audiences such as their favorite vehicle companies or the movies they are watching. For the sake of this article, they can be used interchangeably but it can be important to know the difference.

How to Obtain Audience Data for your Event

I’m hoping that you have already collected your audience data for your event. If you have then this metaphorical is for you! If you haven’t, then don’t stress I’m going to walk you through some ways to start the process!

1) You can use past ticket sales for zip code information to determine where your patrons are coming from.

2) Pull demographics from social media. This is not full proof but will give you a good sense of who is at least interested in your event and who is following your branding message. It may not tell you who is showing up at your event, but it will give you a good idea of your audience and their interests. If you do not have any data, this is a great place to start. You can go to your Facebook or Instagram insights and pull analytics of your fans instantly. There are many tutorials on how to do this online.

3) Ticketing platforms have become increasingly better at being able to collect audience data upon purchasing. Ask your ticketing platform what kinds of data you can collect. Many of them are able to integrate with patron’s social media and pull even more data like age, gender, job, and other important info. Some can even allow you to ask a couple of questions upon purchase of tickets.

4) Conducting a survey is one of the easier ways to get the information that is most important to you or your sponsors. You can do this either online or on-site. To get the best results we suggest providing an incentive. Maybe it’s a free gift like a hat or t-shirt. You could also give a chance to win experience upgrades, ticket packages, or a discount code prior to the event.

5) Finally, you can invest in a third party to poll demographics for you. For example, you can hire a company to come out to your event and collect this information for you. If you do not know what to do or need more in-depth information, then I would suggest having professionals come out and implement it for you. This is helpful to get a really good understanding of what your patron demographics are even if you only do it every few years.

The more audience data you can collect the better your prospects will be. Sponsors love audience data and making it essential to sponsorship goals will prove to be so much more successful for your event than mass emails and cold calls!

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 August 2020.

The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to www.ifea.com.

Crowd Hands 2

Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 6: How are Sponsors Responding to Live Events Amongst COVID-19 Crisis?

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
Teresa Stas

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.


Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 5: No Sponsorship Recap Means Money Left Behind

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.”

Meeting 2

Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 4: The Four Steps to Pitching Your Event

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.


Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 3: How to Increase your Renewals

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.

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.

OJ Kickoff

Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 2: The Three Types of Sponsors

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.


Small Event, Big Sponsors Vol 1: Two Essentials for Successful Small Event Sponsorships

Most events need sponsorship sales in order to succeed and grow but getting sponsorships can be a little tricky when you’re dealing with smaller numbers of attendees. If done correctly, however, Small and mid-sized events can successfully find sponsors and generate a decent revenue from their support.

Guess what? These small events still make money from sponsorships.

My goal with this column is to share ideas, case studies, and tips that will help smaller events find, build, and land sponsorships that will not only help them secure revenue, but grow their event.

First though, let me share with you a story from one of our clients.

Case Study: Texas Music Takeover

Texas Music Take Over is an organization that works with Texas-based musicians to bring tours and shows to international locations such as London, Australia, and Ireland. This not only promotes the Texas music scene internationally, but it also gives musicians the opportunity to perform in areas they probably wouldn’t normally get to play.

As you can envision, building out these kind of international events costs a significant amount. Just imagine the travel budget for approximately 20 people each trip! Here’s the kicker. These events are in venues that can only host a maximum of about 500 people.

Circling back to my story, Amy – the director of Texas Music Takeover – was reminiscing about the very first event she did in London. She booked the acts, hopped the pond, and landed in a venue. As Amy sat in the green room, she found herself on the verge of a panic attack, knowing she had poured her blood, sweat, tears, and money into it, but having no idea if it was going to be a complete flop. (I’m sure everyone in the event industry has had this feeling on more than one occasion!)

Then Amy heard a knock at the door. It was one of the venue’s personnel telling her the show had just sold out! Instead of jumping up and down over the success of her slam dunk, she started crying uncontrollably, releasing all the stress, fear, and anxiety that had built up worrying that her event might fail. She even had to kick everyone out of the green room so that she could pull herself together and finish out the night!

I loved that Amy shared this story of vulnerability with me because it was one that I could relate to. In fact, it’s one that most events can relate to! Here is the kicker though. Once you have a successful event, the need for sponsorships comes right up on its heels.

In Amy’s case, that first successful trip has now evolved into four week-long trips with five shows each and is adding a U.S. tour as well! Of course, all of these elements need support from sponsorships. But these shows are not large festivals or even shows with 1,000 people. These are shows that have 100 to 500 attendees each.

Two Essentials for Successful Small Event Sponsorships

So how do you sell sponsorships for events that have attendance numbers under 5,000? I’m going to be up front with you. It’s not always easy. As I’m sure you already know, there are many elements to selling sponsorships, but two that are essential for small events are creativity and the ability to super serve your sponsor.

For Amy and Texas Music Takeover, a big part of their value for sponsors is the access that they have to artist influence. Her attendance may not be huge, but the influence that these artists can provide to sponsors is of major value.

Does your event have access to influencers? Is this influence something you can provide a sponsor, such as through a social media? To clarify, I’m not just talking about a logo post and “shout out” to your sponsor. I’m talking about exclusive and creative content.

An example of using influencers and exclusive content is a pop-up concert that Amy’s team did with DFW airport. They had a few of the artists perform at the airport for unsuspecting bystanders, then posted the videos on their social media. This content was exclusive to DFW’s socials and something that DFW could not have done without the event’s support. For a sponsor, this kind of reach has nothing to do with the amount of people in the venue, and everything to do with the influence of your event brand and the people they are targeting.

Look for opportunities that lie outside of the attendee numbers. These types of opportunities will excite sponsors and get them interested in what your event can offer. A simple example of a creative asset for a small event that we’ve used several times is a digital photo booth that uploads to social media and has brand logos and hashtags. These are always a hit and can extend your sponsors’ visibility outside of the event. Every time someone takes their photo with the digital photo booth, it will upload with a brand logo or hashtag that is visible to that attendee’s social network.

Let’s work the numbers. Say you have an event where 100 photos are shared on networks, and each of those guest’s social media network averages 350 people. Even if only 10 percent of those 350 people see the photo, you have created “endorsed visibility” to 3,500 people who probably weren’t at your event.

What do I mean by “endorsed visibility?” It’s the idea that if a friend is sharing a brand or product favorably, they are seemingly endorsing that brand. People are more likely to buy or partake in a brand that is endorsed by a friend than by an advertiser, so endorsed visibility can be more powerful than advertising!

I have lots of other suggestions on ways to generate sponsorships for your small or midsized event that I can’t wait to share with you over the next year! In my next column for IFEA we will look at some small events and how they brought in some big money.

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 2019.

The premiere association supporting and enabling festivals and events worldwide. For more information on the IFEA, go to: www.ifea.com.”