The most effective way to attract sponsors to your event or organization is to start your pitch talking about the potential sponsor, not your race, tournament, team, league, stadium or charity. Corporate sponsors have limited money for cause-related marketing, so show them how working with you will help them meet their goal of “doing well while doing good.”
Pinpoint Your Audience
The first step in finding corporate sponsors is to determine which businesses will benefit most by being involved with you. This requires you to determine who will attend your event, join your association or otherwise be involved with the activities you need sponsored. For example, your women’s breast cancer run might be a very worthwhile event, generating lots of publicity and attendance. However, a company that sells products to men won’t benefit as much from a sponsorship as will a company that sells to women. Get as much information about your audience as possible, including information on age, sex, income levels, geographic location and whether they have children.
Find The Right Target Sponsors
Find companies that sell to your audience. If you will have mostly parents attending your event, look at local parenting publications and websites to see what companies advertise with them. If your target is women, write a list of companies that market to females. In addition to using demographics, use lifestyle attributes. For example, if you’re looking for sponsors for a women’s 10k run, approach companies that sell to active women, such as fitness centers or makers of sports or workout apparel. If your audience is young, affluent singles, seek out companies that sell tech products or approach a local upscale restaurant that caters to this crowd. Don’t be shy about approaching companies that have sponsored events similar to yours, even if these other events are your competition.
Set Your Fees
Once you know the benefits you can offer sponsors, create a fee structure that allows companies to purchase your opportunities in packages or a la carte. For example, a platinum-level sponsor would get all of your benefits, such as pre-event logo placement on brochures and your website, ads in your program, onsite signage, free tickets and post-event recognition. Gold- and silver-level sponsors would receive fewer benefits, such as smaller program ads or signs at events. Assign a cost for each opportunity, discounting the total cost for package sponsors. For example, if someone purchased each of your offerings at full price and the price was $10,000, offer a platinum sponsorship for $7,500 or so to show sponsors they save money by getting more involved. Use your competitors' fees to set your prices. Your competitors would include any other print, broadcast, website, event or media marketing options businesses can use to reach your audience.
Prepare Your Proposal
Create your proposal, including an introductory section that briefly describes your event and the target audience. Tell potential sponsors how you will promote the event and what type and amount of media coverage sponsors will receive. Describe the non-media exposure that sponsors will get, such as their name or logo on T-shirts, signs at the event, access to your mailing list, free tickets to the event or the chance to include their product in goody bags. Talk with business owners you know to learn what they look for in the sponsorships they buy. List your offerings using bullet points to show that sponsors will receive a host of valuable benefits. Finish your proposal with the sponsor’s fee or range of fees, which can include a cash contribution, in-kind product donations, in-store signage for your event, promotion on the company’s website, or the use of employee volunteers at the event. Finish with a strong appeal about your mission and how sponsors receive not only valuable marketing, but also a chance to improve their brand image with their target customers.
Contact Potential Sponsors
Reach out to sponsors with a printed proposal accompanied by a cover letter. Call the company’s receptionist or visit its website to determine who is in charge of marketing. Your cover letter should be short and focus on the fact that you have an event that will attract the company’s customers. If possible, provide the number of expected participants. Tease the potential sponsor into wanting to read more – don’t discuss the details of your event or any costs in the cover letter. Follow up with a phone call or arrange an in-person interview to make a presentation.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.