How to Get the Most from Corporate Sponsorships

Sponsorship Can Pay Off, If You’re Smart About It

Are you thinking about sponsoring an event, conference, trade show or community fundraiser? Read this first, so you can turn a potential money pit into a real opportunity to build your business.

If I sound harsh, it’s because I know all too well that sponsorships can be money pits if not handled properly. Just like any other marketing investment, the decision to be a sponsor deserves careful consideration before you commit.

What’s in it for You?

First and foremost, know what your goals are for the sponsorship.

There are three main reasons to sign on for a sponsorship opportunity:

  1. You are focused on “soft” objectives like increased visibility or building awareness within a targeted market, like a local community of interest or executives in your industry.
  2. You have clearly measurable goals like launching a new product or generating demand (and leads) for a service offering.
  3. You want to create goodwill within the community so you can be seen as a good corporate citizen or to make it easier to recruit great employees.

Determining which of these goals is most important to you is your first and most important decision. You can’t effectively evaluate a sponsorship opportunity without understanding how it fits your goals, so start with what you need, and not what the organizer wants. (Even if it’s a cause that is dear to you!)

Are You Hanging with the Right Crowd?

Second, does the audience provided by the sponsorship align with your target prospects? If it’s a community event, what percentage of the attendees will be interested in your business? For industry-sponsorships and trade groups, are the people participating the real decision makers or influencers? You must reach the right people to get any financial return from the sponsorship.

Don’t hesitate to ask organizers about the job functions or titles of attendees. Before committing, find out how many people are expected to participate (attendees, members, website visitors, etc.) and get demographic information to be sure it matches your target prospects.

If the event is not brand new, this information should be available. For trade shows, you may even be able to get an audited report on prior year participation.

Next, look closely at how the sponsorship will help you meet your objectives. For example, if you want to build awareness for your business, consider how your company will be represented, and how much visibility you will get.

Is your company listed on event signage or will you have a website link? Will your sponsorship be mentioned in presentations or printed programs? Can you distribute coupons and flyers to participants? If there are not enough impressions (views of your brand name) then either pass up the opportunity or ask for more.

Document Sponsorship Agreements

Get ALL commitments in writing as part of your sponsorship agreement, especially if you’ve negotiated something that is not part of the standard package.

Sometimes the sales pitch includes verbal offers like, “We’ll give you top billing on the signage,” or “You’ll be including in at least 3 press releases.” Make sure those promises are documented, so you have something to fall back on if those promises are not fulfilled.

You also need to know what will happen if the event is canceled. Ask these questions in advance to avoid potential problems later. As they say, “Get it writing.”

Get Involved

Don’t forget about what is required of you to get the most from the sponsorship. If it is an event, are you expected to provide a presence with a table, display or speaker? Can your small business support that? Do you need to submit graphics or other marketing materials that you have not yet created?

You can’t just write a check and expect a big payoff from sponsorships, it takes work to leverage the opportunity for maximum return. This work extends beyond the event itself, to follow-up and connect with people who are interested in your business.

Time for a Payoff

Finally, how quickly do you need to see a return on this investment? Building brand awareness is a long process, requiring consistent effort over time.

If you are sponsoring an event with the hope of immediately increasing sales, you need to have a specific offer with a compelling call to action. Define (in advance) how you will track sales back to the event so you can evaluate the ROI. Use QR codes on coupons or flyers to help link inquiries to the sponsorship, or provide a unique web address and landing page for prospects.

Keep it Going

After the event, evaluate the sponsorship and decide if you would do it again. You may get a discount for signing on early for the next year. You may also be able to take advantage of year-round promotions that latecomers won’t get.

Continue to leverage the contacts you made from the sponsorship through email marketing and other engagement tools like social media. Use your contact list to reach out to attendees for the next event – even if they haven’t bought from you, they can generate referrals or become future customers. Don’t let the seeds of the relationship you’ve planted dry up. Keep nurturing them and your sponsorship investment will grow.

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