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4 Tips for Attracting and Retaining Event Sponsors

Three people in business clothing discussing an event sponsorship package.

The presence or absence of sponsors can make or break your nonprofit’s events. Your team has likely poured many hours into the planning process to ensure your venue, marketing materials, and event content are innovative and engaging for your attendees. However, sometimes, your budget falls short, and your true vision can’t come to fruition, limiting your event’s effectiveness.

The right sponsors can help your event vision become a reality. That’s why it’s so important to create a sponsor cultivation strategy to attract and retain event sponsors who are willing and able to help make your event a smashing success.

In this guide, we’ll review four tips to help you jumpstart your sponsor cultivation approach. Let’s get started!

1. Develop irresistible event sponsorship packages.

Think of your event sponsorship package as a product—you need to really sell it to potential sponsors. Your packages should be enticing collections of the marketing services and benefits your sponsors will unlock from working with you.

EventMobi’s event sponsorship package guide recommends thinking like a sponsor when developing your packages. Consider potential sponsor goals to form the right combination of benefits. These goals may include:

  • Promoting a new product or service
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Reaching a new target audience
  • Building relationships with attendees
  • Repositioning the brand
  • Aligning the brand with corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives

Once you’ve gotten yourself into the sponsor mindset, develop your packages using one of two models:

  • The tiered model, which includes different offerings based on sponsorship level
  • The à la carte model, which allows sponsors to pick and choose which benefits they’d like

Whether you adopt the tiered or à la carte sponsorship model, there are certain elements every event sponsorship package should include, such as:

  • Information about your organization, including your mission and overarching goals
  • Information about the event, including the date, schedule, and expected attendance
  • The benefits or features of the package
  • Pricing options
  • Examples of past sponsorship packages
  • Visual elements branded to your organization

If you’re creating a sponsorship package for the first time, start by developing a basic template. That way, you can easily fill in the blanks and customize it to the event and potential sponsor you’re pitching it to.

2. Prepare a compelling pitch.

Take your business mindset a bit further by creating a sales pitch for your sponsorship package and organization. To create a compelling argument and presentation for why sponsors should partner with your nonprofit, follow these steps:

  1. Create a sponsorship deck. Organize your pitch into a cohesive presentation that’s branded to your organization. Include all important details about your potential partnership, including an overview of your event, audience, sponsorship tiers, and pricing.
  2. Personalize your messaging. Cater your pitch to each potential sponsor so it reflects their goals and values. For instance, if you find that a potential sponsor wants to promote brand awareness, make it clear how your sponsorship package achieves this objective.
  3. Promote the benefits. This step is where the true sales pitch language comes in! Highlight the benefits sponsors will receive from your partnership, whether new connections with your attendees, more social media engagement, feedback on their new product, or something else entirely.
  4. End with a call to action. At the end of your pitch, potential sponsors’ next steps should be clear. You may set up a meeting to further discuss the opportunity or draft a sponsorship contract for them to sign right then and there.

No matter the outcome of your pitch, thank potential sponsors for their time and willingness to meet with you. Even if prospects turn down the opportunity, store their contact information for future reference so you can re-engage them when the time’s right.

3. Feature sponsors in your event materials as much as possible.

Once you’ve successfully won over your sponsors, make their investment worthwhile. The best way to drive up the ROI for your sponsors is to feature them in various event materials and marketing channels. That way, you can maximize the number of touchpoints attendees have with the brand, increasing their receptiveness to and awareness of your sponsor.

Here are a few ideas you can use to ensure your sponsors receive adequate promotion at your event:

  • Introduce your sponsors on your event page. The event page on your website is likely one of the first touchpoints attendees have with your event content. Introduce your sponsors by featuring their logos and adding a line or two about your partnership in the event description.
  • Showcase your sponsors’ logos on any physical materials. With every flyer or brochure your attendees pick up, they should be reminded of your sponsors. You may also include your sponsors’ logos on any event signage at the venue to increase visibility.
  • Include sponsor profiles on your event app. For those who want to dive deeper into who your sponsors are, create and upload sponsor profiles on your event or conference app. Request a synopsis of what attendees should know about each sponsor so they can highlight their key products, services, and brand differentiators.
  • Enable appointment booking with sponsors. The right event app will also allow your sponsors and attendees to easily connect through appointment booking. Through one-on-one meetings with attendees, your sponsors can form personal connections and transform attendees into brand advocates.
  • Develop branded or sponsored activities and challenges. Gamification keeps your event fun and engaging for attendees. Throw your sponsors into the mix by developing branded or sponsored challenges that inspire attendees to tap into their competitive sides. For instance, you may host a networking challenge in which the attendee who forms the most new connections gets free samples of your sponsors’ products.

No matter how you showcase your sponsors, remember to secure the most updated versions of their logos and branding so they’re accurate on all event materials.

4. Solicit feedback from your sponsors.

After your event is over, the retention process begins. Start strong by thanking your sponsors. Just as donors want to be appreciated for their contributions, sponsors want to know you’re grateful for their support.

eCardWidget recommends taking your stakeholder appreciation strategy to the next level by:

  • Personalizing your thank-you messages
  • Incorporating engaging stories and images
  • Emphasizing their impact on your event

For best results, send your thank-yous promptly after your event—ideally within 48 hours—to show your appreciation as quickly as possible. Then, ask sponsors if they have any feedback about their participation in your event. The questions you ask may include:

  • How would you rate your overall experience as a sponsor at our event?
  • Did our event meet your expectations and objectives as a sponsor?
  • Have you seen or do you expect to see a positive ROI from your participation in our event?
  • Which benefits of our sponsorship packages did you find most valuable?
  • Did you feel that you had ample opportunities to engage with our attendees? Why or why not?
  • Would you consider sponsoring another event of ours in the future? Why or why not?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how we could improve the sponsorship experience?

Soliciting and incorporating sponsor feedback will show your sponsors that you care about their opinions and experiences with your organization, leading to stronger partnerships with these businesses. Plus, this input will allow you to constantly improve your sponsorship packages and increase your chances of attracting new sponsors.

Event sponsors are crucial stakeholders that some organizations may overlook. Develop a comprehensive event sponsor cultivation and retention plan to form impactful relationships that spark event success.

To ensure new sponsors align with your event audience, ask attendees which sponsors they have connections with or would like to see partner with your organization. That way, you can reach out to companies that you know your attendees will want to engage with, increasing the value of your sponsorship packages.

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