By Janice Jackson
A SPECIAL SECTION BROUGHT TO YOU BY MEETING PROFESSIONALS INTERNATIONAL
Meeting planners are always looking for at least two things: (1) ways to stretch their event budget and (2) ways to increase their event offering or branding via a sponsorship. With strong sponsorships, you can accomplish much more than your original budget allows. Here is where the world of sponsorship and event dating begins. Much like finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, you have to know what you want and what you have to give to this relationship.
An event sponsor is an entity that supports an event in exchange for a benefit. In layman terms – your event needs something. A sponsor gives your event what it needs in exchange for something, usually in the form of exposure. This exposure can come in the form of branding/signage, presence on your event website, or something within the event, i.e., event tickets or access to attendee info. Event planners should approach sponsorships in the same way you would a dating prospect using a process I like to call the PRP technique: Prepare, Research and Pitch.
How to begin: You create a dating profile answering the basics, (do I have a profile picture, what am I looking for, what do I have to give, how much time can I really commit?) The same steps begin your sponsorship search. What is your event about? What does it need? Preparation is all about evaluating your event and assessing what areas are enticing for another entity to sponsor. What areas could benefit from “conscious” coupling? Are sponsor opportunities in the registration area, social activities, on the website, speaker panels, general session or meal functions perhaps? Planners should also know specific information about their event attendees. What about your attendees makes them attractive to a sponsor? What is their demographic, how do they use social media, what are they buying tendencies, etc.
Once you identify what you have to give, now find that perfect match to supply your event needs. Research is knowing a company’s mission and objectives. This is usually found on their website. What is the mission? What are their goals? Who is their consumer? What community does their product and services serve? Where is there an opportunity to elevate their brand via your event? Once you find that special company whose interests align with your event needs and objectives, you are on your way to finding that perfect match. However, much like the guy or girl that meets none of your wants, feel free to swipe left on sponsors that do not quite fit your event objectives.
This is where people usually get nervous but think of this as the courting process in the first of many dates. Once you identify the person at the company to contact, make a solid pitch. In your pitch, highlight your company’s strongest attributes and why anyone would be greatly remiss of not being a sponsor. Pitches should be customized to each company. Just like each dating prospect is unique, so should your sponsor pitch deck. Sponsors — like relationships — want to feel special. In today’s world, sponsor packages must entail that extra step.
What exactly does that mean? Dig deeper in those conversations with sponsors. Is a potential sponsor a startup company looking for new tech ideas? Maybe have a shark tank themed event where attendees can come up with new products. Huge expo event? Perhaps have a company sponsor scooters so attendees won’t have to do a lot of convention walking. Like relationships, we all want to be in possession of something special and exclusive. The extra step moves the relationships past mere ROI statistics to real engagement returns.
Event sponsorships are essential as they enhance your events and elevate brand awareness of companies. Yet, finding event sponsors is a process. To find that special match, you must put in work from the beginning, to make it grow and sustain it once it has begun. E-Harmony or one-night stand is ultimately measured by how well you have done your PRP.
Janice Jackson, CMP is the Events & Meeting Manager for the National Football League Players Association in Washington, D.C. Janice is an active MPI Potomac Chapter member and a Charter Member of MPI’s Association Planners Advisory Board!