I was talking to an organiser of a popular community event. She remarked that the worst part of her job is looking for sponsorship. “I really don’t like asking people for money” were her exact words.
Most often than not this is exactly what sponsorship seekers do. They ask potential sponsors for money for displaying their logos in return. Such approach is painful. Not just for the sponsorship seeker/rights holder, but also for potential sponsors who are reviewing different sponsorship opportunities.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
LOOKING FOR SPONSORSHIP IS JUST LIKE APPLYING FOR A NEW JOB
Imagine you are looking for a new job. You make a thorough research of the company you are applying to work for. You look into its values and its corporate objectives, you research the company culture, and finally prepare a killer CV and a cover letter. In these documents, you outline those skills and competencies that you believe will be in interest of the particular company. You also highlight the benefits this company will get from hiring you. In whatever you decide to expose, you are looking for your unique ‘value proposition’. You put quite a lot of effort into the preparation of your application. And if you are applying to different companies, you will most likely tweak the CV and the cover letter to fit each company. Looking for sponsors and preparing sponsorship requests should be no different.
HOW TO MAKE A PROCESS OF LOOKING FOR SPONSORSHIP FUN AND CREATIVE
First of all, truly and fully understand your product. What are your goals and what do you need to achieve them? Do initial research and choose those potential sponsors that you believe might help you get where you want to be.
Then research thoroughly each potential sponsor. What are their corporate objectives? Think about how could you help them achieve what they are striving for. Prepare a ‘CV’ of your event and align it with each potential sponsor. Write a ‘cover letter’ in which you highlight the benefits of the potential sponsorship, for the sponsor, for your event, AND for the target audience (see below about this last part).
Sit down with your team (if you have one) and get creative. Don’t worry, there is no right or wrong. And it doesn’t have to be a rocket science, it can be something really simple. But it has to be something that will make your sponsorship request stand out from all the others. And get you ‘the invitation to the interview’!
Once you got the initial interest from a potential sponsor, everything gets easier. Talk to them, sit down with them and brainstorm different options. Pick their brain and I am sure you will come up with some awesome ideas that the sponsor, your event, AND the target audience will benefit from. And you might even get more money from this particular sponsor than you were initially hoping for.
I have mentioned a couple of times above that you need to look for benefits for the sponsor, your event, AND the target audience. Start with looking at the sponsorship relationship as a win-win-win relationship, as described by Kim Skildum-Reid from Power Sponsorship. The sponsorship relationship is only effective if it creates benefits for the target audience as well.
Think about it. Why are you organising an event, for example? You might be someone who is really passionate about event organisation. But the real buzz most likely comes from the happy audience and from all the positive messages you receive after the event. The potential sponsor (the one whose target audience is the same as your target audience) would also like to see these same people satisfied. If it could somehow contribute to this satisfaction that much better. After all, this will create a positive brand experience for its end customer.
And this is exactly what the sponsor is after. If you will only stick logos around the venue and on brochures, that won’t cut the deal. The audience will have no benefit from it, and thus, the sponsor won’t benefit from it either.
IT’S THAT SIMPLE
The above might sound daunting, but it really isn’t. Let me give you an example. A conference organiser was looking for someone to sponsor an ice breaker event, networking drinks and nibbles on the opening night of the event. The opportunity offered having banners with the sponsor’s logo put up at the venue, and a brief address to the audience on the night, just like any other sponsorship opportunity. However, it also offered to be actively involved in the ice breaker activity itself (sponsorship activation).
When guests will arrive to the event, they will receive a piece of a puzzle each. They will be invited to mingle with the crowd, talk to the people in the room, and find those who held the missing pieces of a particular puzzle. Fun and simple game to get people talking to each other, right? The key was that each puzzle ended up displaying a (harmless but funny) joke about accountants (the potential sponsor was an accounting firm) and the reference to the sponsor. Imagine how much fun conference attendees had when they were trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and when they read the final sentences. And how much easier was for them to remember the sponsoring company.
Looking for sponsors doesn’t have to be a painful job, instead it can be a very much creative and fun process. Furthermore, it can result in not only more money (or kind) secured for your event, but also in better experience for the audience, and in the start of long lasting relationships with sponsors.