Building a Successful Event Sponsorship Program for Mid-Sized Events

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We define mid-sized events as events with up to 5,000 participants and how you approach sponsorship can differ from that of a larger event. You still need disciplined sales practices about how you manage your time and your pipeline, but there are unique success factors that will help you land in-kind, cash, and media sponsors.

Unless your in-kind sponsor is also paying cash, limit their exposure to to product placement onsite at your event (e.g. XYZ energy drink at the finish line). This will also boost the value of your cash sponsorship packages, not only because you are giving in-kind sponsors incentive to upgrade their involvement the following year (with cash!) but you are also ensuring you do not end up with a dilutive sponsor ‘alphabet soup’ with 50+ logos on all your event marketing materials.

When it comes to cash sponsors, pursue regional and national companies with a strong brand and a local presence (such as a Volkswagen dealership). This will lend credibility and raise the profile of your event which will also helping you land other cash sponsors.

Media sponsors, however, really should be your first stop when building out your sponsorship program for a mid-sized event. Go after media partners in every category (TV, radio, print, etc.) by offering sponsorship benefits – much like you would to any other potential sponsor – in exchange for promotional inventory (e.g. 15-sec radio spots) you can use to promote your event while folding this in to your sponsorship packages as an added sponsor benefit to your cash sponsors.

Building a Successful Event Sponsorship Program for Small Events

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Whether you manage a small event (up to 500 participants) or a larger event many of the principals of building a successful event sponsorship program remain the same. You still need to build your sales materials and have a sales process in place. However, how you approach sponsorship can differ dramatically because your event does not have the same reach for a sponsor as a larger event.

When approaching in-kind sponsors go after local companies for budget relieving product (i.e. bananas, bagels, etc.), but also one that will serve to enhance the participant’s event experience and increase the profile of your event. For example, if you are able to secure your local Whole Foods Market then not only will you get food for your participants but a national brand attached to your event at the same time.

Cash sponsors for smaller events are harder to secure, but not if you take the right approach. Go after local companies that are heavily tied into the community that are accustomed to making cash “donations” to sports teams and leagues. Also be sure to tie in with a local charitable cause as this will make writing a check for the sponsor much more palatable if they know your event supports a worthy cause.

Lastly, be sure to pursue local media sponsors by pitching them great stories about your participants that could garner editorial coverage for your event. Tie in with a local charity and talk about how your event is helping to change lives. We are, after all, in the business of raising the self-esteem and self-confidence of millions of people and everyone loves a great story!

Building a Successful Event Sponsorship Program for Large Events

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Building a successful event sponsorship program for large events of 10,000 or more participants differs dramatically from small- to mid-sized events. Not only does it require a higher level of sophistication on behalf of you and your team, but the sponsor is also generally much more sophisticated and truly understands that sponsorship is simply another form of advertising. As such, the sponsor’s expectations will largely revolve around return on their investment as compared to other forms of advertising their product or service.

For in-kind sponsorships pursue sponsors that not only offer budget relief but that also have the ability to write a check. Often times in the negotiating process you can offer to accept more product than cash if the in-kind product also helps your bottom line. For example, a shoe and apparel company (e.g. Brooks) might be able to supply some or all of your participant tech-T’s in addition to their cash sponsorship.

Within cash sponsorships larger events have a wider range of endemic and non-endemic companies they may pursue. Generally speaking, because of their higher level of sophistication the sponsor will also likely spend more dollars to activate the sponsorship than a sponsor of a smaller event. As such, it will be important for you and your team not only to activate the sponsorship on your end effectively but to perform a 3rd-party sponsorship valuation to show a high return on investment for they know they are getting higher return than a traditional advertising medium.

When it comes to media sponsorships not only will you want to feed your media partners stories for editorial purposes and negotiate promotional inventory to fold into your sponsorship packages, but you will want to embark on joint-selling opportunities. Joint-selling with a media partner will open the door to potential sponsors you may not otherwise be in touch with on a regular basis, whereas your television partner may speak with these companies on an on-going basis. For example, up-selling Volkswagen into an advertising package that also includes sponsorship benefits to your event could be a win-win-win for all involved!

Announcing Sponsorship Webinar With Industry Heavyweights

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RaceHQTM Announces Sponsorship Webinar With Industry Heavyweights

Executives from Competitor Group, Inc. and AVIA to join panel

San Diego, CA – October 9, 2014  RaceHQTM, a first-of-its-kind cloud-based project management, collaboration and task management tool for participatory events, announced today its first webinar in the Managing the Millions of Details Webinar Series titled ‘Building a Successful Event Sponsorship Program’ on October 21, 2014 at 4PM EST. The webinar will feature industry expert panelists including John Smith, Senior Vice President, Competitor Group, Inc., and Cape Capener, Senior Vice President, AVIA.

RaceHQ’s Managing the Millions of Details Webinar Series was created to help race directors take their race to the next level by bringing together the industry’s top experts in their given field to provide perspective and knowledge on the hottest topics impacting the participatory event industry. ‘Building a Successful Event Sponsorship Program’ is the first in this series of highly interactive webinars that will be moderated by industry veteran Anton Villatoro, President & Co-Founder of RaceHQ.

“We are thrilled to host this panel of top industry experts and colleagues in the ongoing discussion on how to crack the nut on sponsorship,” said Anton Villatoro, President and Co-Founder of RaceHQ.  “Often the difference in profitability or whether or not a charitable event raises money for a cause comes down to sponsorships that create opportunity, meaning, and business”.

RaceHQ webinars are for event managers of small-, medium-, and large-sized events and includes a ‘Critical Success Factors’ one-pager, ’Your Road Map to Success’ info-graphic, and a free RaceHQ account. Webinar format will be a 30-minute panel discussion, followed by 15-minutes of Q&A. For more information or to register, visit racehq.com/webinar-sponsorship.


About RaceHQ

RaceHQ.com is an online project management, collaboration and task management tool for participatory events. Developed specifically for event managers, RaceHQ incorporates a comprehensive set of features to more efficiently operate and execute events within budget every time. RaceHQ replaces the clipboard and yellow notepad by allowing race directors to easily take control of their events online using any device, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.

How To Build a Successful Sponsorship Program

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In my previous webinar on ‘Permitting & Financing Your Event’, I discussed how to build a 12-month Cash Flow Summary for your event. Within that discussion, I demonstrated the importance of sponsorship revenue on your bottom line. If we assume that registration fees essentially cover the expenses to pull off the event, then you can quickly see how sponsorship revenue has everything to do with the profitability of your event. In short, if you want your event to be profitable (or you want something left over to go towards your charitable cause) you can’t ignore sponsorship.

I have a love/hate relationship with selling sponsorship. My track record proves that I’m actually quite good at it, although I don’t know anyone (ok, I know a few) that actually like doing it and I’m no exception. Selling sponsorship is like selling anything and requires a sales process like anything else. Give a good sales person the right tools and they can sell anything from underwear to software, and yes, even sponsorship. But where do you even begin?! Here are three steps to get you started:

Step 1: Take Inventory

Your first step is to create a ‘Sponsorship Benefits Matrix’. Before you can start selling, you need to know what you are selling and how much you have to sell at each sponsorship level. This can be done on a spreadsheet with ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, ‘Bronze’ along the top columns and then all the possible sponsor benefits listed down the rows with check-marks determining which sponsors get what benefits. Once this exercise is complete you can start determining a value for each package based on benefits received and number of participants (or impressions) for your event. Keep in mind, potential sponsors will want a higher ROI than they could receive by buying traditional media.

Step 2: Build Your Sales Materials

Now that you know what each sponsor gets, it’s time to create your sales materials. First thing you’ll want to do is build your ‘Event Overview’ deck. This is the who, what, when, and where of your event. This will not only serve to get you that first meeting with a potential sponsor, but you’ll also likely use it to “sell” your event vision to the City, Contractors, Volunteers, and anyone you need to tell more about your event. You’ll also want to give a summary of all possible benefits available to a sponsor as you don’t yet know their marketing and business objectives nor their budget. Besides the ‘Event Overview’ deck, you’ll next want to create your ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, and ‘Bronze’ Sponsorship Opportunity decks. Within these decks, you’ll drop in the various benefits from your Sponsorship Matrix only with more detail. After that first meeting with a potential sponsor, this is the deck you’ll customize and will serve as your “proposal”.

Step 3: Approach Media Partners

Before you start stuffing your sales pipeline with potential sponsors, it’s critical you build media value into your sponsorship program so your first stop should be pitching media partners (i.e. TV, radio, print, web, etc). Give them the same sponsorship benefits you would give a paying sponsor – value for value – in exchange for free media. So, let’s say one of your packages is valued at $5,000 and your local newspaper is willing to give you $5,000 worth of print ads then that’s a good deal. Now, you can go back to your Sponsorship Benefits Matrix and your sales materials and build that media value into your sponsorship program. Aside from their affiliation with a community-based event and exposure you will be giving them, your media partners might also want the opportunity to sell select benefits to your event as ‘Value Add’ to their advertisers. If one of their advertisers can also get the opportunity for onsite exposure at your event, then it’s a win-win-win and you might even secure additional sponsors you wouldn’t otherwise.

Now you’re ready to approach potential sponsors. Like all sales, it’s a numbers game. The more companies in your pipeline, the more deals you’re going to close. Be diligent about your sales process and how many companies you contact and follow-up with on a daily basis. Remember, sponsorship is just another medium for a company to advertise their product or service. Don’t lose site of what the sponsor is thinking. How will sponsoring your event help them meet their marketing and business objectives? Good luck and don’t get discouraged. You’ll get far more no’s than yes’s.

Be sure to tune in to my next webinar on sponsorship. We’ll do a deep dive into building a successful sponsorship program that will be sure to bring great results. Until then, let us know how we can help. If you’re a RaceHQ member and would like free access to this Sponsor Benefit Inventory Matrix, email us today.

– Anton Villatoro, President & Co-Founder, RaceHQ