Event sponsorship – how to get the good times back

Why event sponsorship is about adding value: not logos

It would be very easy to talk about the problems of attracting the money that used to slip and slide into your event budget. It would be simple to talk about the impact of  the financial crisis and why we have to baton down the hatches until a calmer wind is more gentle with our event revenue. However this blog will cover how a creative approach to event sponsorship can see an INCREASE in sponsorship; not just in relation to the bad times, but how a creative and tailored approach can increase income in the WORST years.

Remember the start of the financial crisis in 2008? Creative event sponsorship came to the aid

I joined the Council of Mortgage Lenders a few months after the run on Northern Rock (you may remember them!) My brief was to increase the revenue for a financial services trade association. Some thought I was mad.  In the following eighteen months our events department earned more than it ever had. And one reason was of our creative approach to events sponsorship.

Creative does not mean reducing the price of your sponsorship packages

The first thing I decided to do was NOT TO DROP THE PRICE OF OUR SPONSORSHIP packages. I thought that would send out a very negative message. Rather than reduce the price I looked to increase the value of the packages we offered. I was very fortunate that I had such a great team at the CML and they understood that the previous model they had adopted (logo heavy and an over use of the phrase “brand awareness”) wouldn’t cut the mustard in these harder times. To earn extra revenue we had to get creative. 

creative event sponsorship

What does creative event sponsorship actually mean?

1. Asking your potential sponsors what their objectives are. This may sound easy but be prepared to hear a stony silence at the end of the phone when you ask this question. The occasional sponsor is simply looking to spend money at any event. There is of course a great temptation to not look this gift horse in the mouth, but being creative is about taking the longer view. Deal with sponsors who know what they want to achieve from your event.

2. Tailor EVERY package. We stated quite clearly that our packages were only a guide and that we would tailor every sponsorship opportunity. This allowed us to be more creative. If we did manage to get a clear idea of the objectives we were, perhaps, able to increase face to face interaction, or offer a slot on the programme: it all depended on the sponsors objectives.

3. Don’t reduce the price: reduce the offer. This was one of the most successful techniques our team employed. If a potential sponsor said they didn’t have the budget we said “No problem. We believe we have a fair value for the package so why don’t you tell us what you would like to remove and we will re-price it for you?” This really does work. You either end up with the sponsor paying the full value after a failed negotiation tactic or a reduced package that leaves you with parts of a package you can sell to someone else.

4. Every event is different so really think about how you can add value to your event by leveraging the support of your sponsors. I have two great examples to give at the event in Spain and I won’t spoil the surprise for the readers who are attending the event. I will upload the slides and you can see if ideas like those will work for you.

5. Don’t say “sponsored by”. I often struggled with the term “sponsored by”. I tried “in association with” and “partnered by” but they all seemed to fall short. Tech Fest, one of previous events had “powered by” and we think it was a factor in selling our packages so quickly. The three sponsors really did “power” the event as we used their technology to power the event. This type of partner approach is the value a creative approach can add.

6. The more your sponsorship package says “brand awareness” the less value it will add. Events have to offer much more than logo placement. Focus on real value, not vanity value.

7. Never, ever sell more than a handful of sponsorship packages. Gone are the diamond, platinum, gold and silver multi sponsorship pacakges. The more logos the less value.

8. Use your event theme. Help and support your sponsors to leverage your event theme. Consider the theme when you are thinking about how exhibitors and sponsors can use it to create interesting content around your event. If you are creative they will be creative too.

Create value by being creative

In summary sponsors are people too. And they like to be treated well and as individuals. Tailor your offering. Speak to them. Get to know them. There is a good chance they are quite creative too. So harness that creativity and focus on value.

Doing this will mean there is no need for creative accounting only room for creative sponsorship.

Check out our Creative Sales, Marketing and Event Sponsorship online workshops.

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3 comments

  • Ricardo May 3, 2013   Reply →

    Interesting post William. I couldn’t agree more with most of the points (except number 7)
    Another good approach we have used before with sponsors when requesting a discount, we would ask them how else other than the financial element they would bring to the table. Either use of their technology or in most cases securing and agreeing a set number of marketing campaigns to their database. Something marketing department always struggles to secure.

    On point number 7, I think if all sponsorship approaches are the way you are suggesting, there is no reason to limit them. Ultimately sponsorship revenues are important to the bottom line of the organiser.

    • williamthomson May 3, 2013   Reply →

      Thanks Ricardo. I appreciate your note. And you have suggested a great approach to ask for other things just than cash. Re point 7 you make a good point too. If all packages are adding value through the other points then maybe you can sell more of them.

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