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Taking Event Sponsor Relationships to New Levels

Lori Halley 12 February 2014 0 comments

This month we’re offering up tips, trends and information about meetings and events.  And since finding sponsors and managing those relationships can be critical to event success, we’ve gathered some insight that we hope will help you take your event sponsor relationships to new heights.

“Does it improve the attendee experience?”

Whether you are hosting a fundraising event or planning a membership conference, it all comes down to improving the attendee or participant’s experience. This message came through loud and clear in a post I read back in December on MeetingsNet - Meeting Sponsorship Dos and Don’ts.

In the post, Dave Kovaleski suggests:

A good sponsorship strategy doesn’t start with the sponsors—it starts with the attendees.

“When the attendees are happy, everybody wins”. ... So, when developing sponsorships, meeting professionals should ask themselves: “Does it improve the attendee experience?” That’s the Holy Grail. “Help make the attendee experience better and they’ll remember you.”  

The post offers a list of sponsorship "dos and don’ts" from event experts (such as Donna Kastner, director, expo/sponsor sales and activation, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting). Here are three that really stood out to me:

  • Don’t: Turn attendees into NASCAR drivers. 
    “I was looking at a prospectus last week, and it had sponsorships for logos on lanyards and neck wallets, which ride a little higher than lanyards,” says Kastner.  “What’s next, shinguards?” If there’s too much logo noise, attendees will tune out, and that’s not good for sponsors."
  • Do: Position sponsors as thought leaders
    “Sponsors are not looking to be seen as funders, they are looking to be seen as thought leaders,” says Kastner. “Every time conference organizers can shine that light on them, that’s meaningful.” It doesn’t mean that they have to all be speakers, but try to “connect them to a big idea in some way.”
  • Do: Make it dynamic
    “It can’t just be a sign; it can’t be static” says Sharyn Collinson, vice president and managing director, Fixation Marketing. “It’s got to be dynamic and interactive.” She finds that companies are more willing to explore and purchase sponsorships where there’s more opportunity to interact and engage with prospects at the show."  

Should you think of your sponsors as customers?

In a post on the Event Manager Blog, Kelvin Newman suggests that you make event decisions based on both the attendee AND the sponsor. He advises event organizers to “Frame every decision [as] having to achieve two things. One – it must make for a better experience for our sponsors. Two – it must make for a better experience for our attendees. If it can’t do both of those things it’s not something we should be doing.”

However, Newman also cautions event organizers to be careful they don’t offer up too much just to get a sponsor. He suggests“one mistake [he’s] seen a lot of companies make when starting out with sponsors is bundling everything they possibly can into a sponsor package, just to get the sign off and the invoice out the door. But sometimes you need to take a longer term view. Sometimes you’ve got to walk away from the deal, and the revenue, if it jeopardizes the future of your event.”

Using LinkedIn to “Get Pro-active Looking for Sponsors”

Newman  also reminds us that we “cannot sit back, put a link to a sponsor pack PDF on your site and expect the money to come rolling in. You need to knock on a few doors, make a few calls and send a lot of emails. Often those requests will be cold to people who’ve never heard of your event, but there’s loads you can do to improve your odds.” His advice includes using LinkedIn to “find the person with the right job title” to approach for sponsorship. Newman suggests: 

“If you know the company you want to approach, search for that company name on LinkedIn and trawl through their employees to find the person with the right job title. If you’re calling it’ll help you get past the gate-keeper on reception and if you’re clever about it you might even be able to work out their email address.”

To identify additional potential sponsors, Newman suggests browsing the company profile page to find similar organizations in the section labeled ‘People Also Viewed’. As he notes, "this gives you a collection of half a dozen similar companies; that’s a nice starting point but if I then view the profile of the suggested companies I get even more suggestions."

Tips for activating more corporate sponsors at your next fundraising event

For those of you looking for corporate sponsors for a fundraising event, Shanon Doolittle offers some great advice in her video: How To Get More Corporate Sponsorships For Your Event. In this short, but inspiring video, Doolittle suggests a new way of thinking about corporate sponsors, including:

  1. Seeing corporate sponsors as part of marketing not philanthropy
  2. Involving sponsors in benefit planning process - what works for them? - develop benefits that drive value for the corporate sponsor
  3. Offering a unique opportunity for sponsor follow-up (and she offers some suggestions)

We hope these tips, do’s and don’ts help you take your event sponsorship relationships to the next level so they offer not only financial support for your event but also improve the attendee experience – which is the ultimate goal.

What's your biggest event sponsor challenge?  Let us know in the comments below.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 12 February 2014 at 8:30 AM
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