Strategies to Launch a Successful Conference Sponsorship Program
A successful conference sponsorship program can be hugely beneficial to both the sponsor and your event. Sponsor dollars help with your event bottom line while the event can give sponsors an innovative way to engage with highly targeted attendees.
In fact, many large conferences and exhibitions are based around sponsorships. Some even allow attendees free entry, sometimes with the caveat that they agree to pre-arranged meetings with the sponsors.
But some events are more organic, and weren't created for the sole purpose of sponsorships. As these homegrown shows grow larger, so does the opportunity to collect sponsorship dollars to improve your bottom line. There are many different ways to formulate sponsorship programs, and they should be tailored to your unique event and industry.
A well-planned conference sponsorship program takes time. Give yourself plenty of time leading up to the event to figure out sponsor packages including pricing structures and the benefits that each level will receive. If you are starting from scratch, do some research. Attend a few sponsored events and speak directly to the sponsors themselves. A quick chat with sponsors will give you a good understanding of what they are looking for in terms of the event experience. Additionally, many events will have sponsorship pricing and packages right on their websites. Identify one that is similar to your event and your goals. Start to identify your unique selling proposition and begin crafting your own packages.
Setting sponsorship goals will help you and your stakeholders stay on task. Put a dollar amount on the sponsorship revenue that you would like to receive from your event. Check in often with your own progress and with that of your stakeholders, if you have any. Make sure to celebrate each victory or new sponsor, even in a small way. A message on social media is a quick way to announce your latest sponsors.
Research companies in your community that you think would be a good fit. Check their websites for other events that they may be involved in. Think about who may be launching a new product or service and see how that might fit in with your event.
Timing is important and so is casting a wide net when it comes to potential sponsors. If it is a challenge getting sponsors to commit, now might be a good time to hire an event planner. A professional event planner will have the contacts and the industry knowledge that will make sponsorships happen.
Be descriptive when soliciting sponsors. You want to describe your event in a compelling way that encourages sponsor participation. Clearly explain your cause and reason why sponsorship dollars are needed. If the benefits of a sponsorship have been clearly defined, you may consider listing them like a Chinese restaurant's takeout menu, so that the sponsor can select whether the "Keynote Speaker" or "Opening Day Breakfast" would be the better fit.
All too often, sponsorship “ask” letters are sent without information that clearly connects the informational dots. Utilize imagery along with descriptions to clearly tell your story. If conducting an email or social media sponsor ask, utilize short videos. While being clear in any written communication is key, never be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to potential sponsors. It's an easy format for quick clarifications and negotiations.
A strong sponsorship is a two-way street. With this in mind, it’s important to note that while pricing and benefits should be clearly defined, you want to be flexible with your sponsors. Let them know that special accommodations can be made and discuss the additional cost to do so. For example, say a sponsor wants to include a small product in your conference welcome packet. That can be arranged, but it could come at a cost to your already busy staff. Simple, upfront communication with the sponsor is best. Be sure to have unique arrangements agreed upon in writing.
Once you have approached potential sponsors, make sure to follow up via phone or in person. You want to create a sense of urgency for potential sponsors and a follow up is a great way to accomplish this. The earlier you can get a sponsorship commitment, the more time you have to plan a quality event experience. For example, the first sponsors get the best conference floor space, the best presentation times, the earliest load-in. If a sponsor is happy with their experience, chances are they will return for future opportunities.
Keep these strategies in mind for conference sponsorship program success. For more ideas on sponsorship programs please contact us at Strategic Event Design.