For many event organisers, potential sponsors are hard to find, and even harder to convert. But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. After all, you have something they want: the attention of their target audience.

These five steps will help find sponsors for your event, win them over, and build long-lasting relationships.

1. Create a list of ideal sponsors

Event sponsors want to reach people who are likely to become loyal customers. To do that, you need to partner with a product or service your attendees will want. Use your ticketing platform and knowledge of your base to match their interests with potential sponsors. Think about the needs of your attendees, list companies who meet those needs, and you’ll end up with a broad range of potential sponsors.

This doesn’t mean you have to stick to the obvious companies. “Let’s say, for a sponsorship example, your event gathers heart surgeons for an annual summit,” says Chris Baylis, the president and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective “Pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers will be on your list. But what about car dealers? Or mortgage banks?”

Before you approach companies to sponsor your event, contact them to ask who makes sponsorship decisions. It may be a marketing or PR manager, a dedicated sponsorship manager, or the owner of the company. Save this information for later but don’t reach out quite yet — you have a little more to do before making your pitch!

Now that you’ve built your list, organise your list of prospects into a spreadsheet. Include the following columns to help you track sponsor outreach efforts:

  • Company
  • Decision Maker
  • Contact Made
  • Meetings Booked
  • Proposal Submitted
  • Follow-up Meeting
  • Outcome

2. How to craft a sponsorship proposal

Companies want a return on their investment. When crafting your sponsorship proposal, come prepared with data by including.

  • Ticket and registration sales: Use attendance records to show how many people a sponsor could reach and how much your event has grown each year.
  • Demographics: Sponsors want to know their audience’s age, gender, and location, but you can go even deeper with education level, job title, and income to show purchasing power.
  • Non-attendee demographics: Gather information about vendors and media at your event, especially which audiences they appeal to.
  • Social media actions: Track when, where, and how often your event is mentioned on a website, blog, social network, or news site.

3. Connect with event sponsors

You’ve done the background work to find them, now it’s time to approach each company for sponsorship. As you begin to reach out, follow these steps to put your best foot forward.

  • Draft an elevator pitch: Write two to three lines about the type of event you’re organising, the value to a potential sponsor, and a request for a short meeting. Practice delivering this pitch if you meet a prospect in person.
  • Connect with prospects: As you approach potential sponsors, your goal is to get a meeting — not close a deal immediately. Connect with sponsors by attending events, interacting on social media, reaching out on LinkedIn, or sending emails.
  • Follow up kindly: Decision makers are busy, so it’s not a “no” if you haven’t heard back. Show respect for their time by keeping it brief and to the point. Reiterate your value statement and ask to meet.
  • Meet and listen: Bring your data, but don’t overwhelm by presenting everything. Instead, ask sponsors how they measure success and cherry-pick the information that’s relevant to them. Most importantly, take notes about what they want to customise your proposal.

4. Design your event to attract sponsors

Once a sponsor is interested, it’s time to craft a sponsorship package that reflects both the sponsor and your event’s brand. Sponsorship is a partnership between your event and your sponsors that requires dedicated attention.

  • Customise your proposal: Use what you’ve learned about their objectives to show how your event can help achieve their goals and justify the spend.
  • Get them excited: Create a one-of-a-kind event experience with an experiential marketing campaign. 

5. Build a long-term relationship to keep sponsors

Satisfy the needs of your sponsors so they come back to build exciting experiences attendees love. Use this list to strengthen your relationship with sponsors.

  • Once a proposal has been accepted, make a checklist so that you keep the promises that have been made.
  • Keep your sponsors informed and involved leading up to the event.
  • Stay flexible. If a small adjustment to plans can benefit your sponsor without cost to you, make it with a smile.
  • Be a generous host. If you can extend VIP amenities or other positive experiences to sponsor employees, do it.
  • Share data about the results of sponsoring your event (impressions gained, brand mentions, sales, and leads generated).

With thoughtful research and coordination are key to get event sponsors and keep them coming back for more.

Want to learn more strategies to find sponsors for an event? The 2019 Guide to Event Sponsorship has the top trends and best practices needed to win sponsorship today.