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.

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