Sponsors - By Ally

Strategies for Keeping Your Event Sponsors Happy

You may have signed some event sponsors, but your work isn’t done. As the event host, it’s your job to create a mutually beneficial experience that adds plenty of value to your sponsors and their businesses.

The key to building long-lasting relationships with your sponsors (so they sponsor again and pay more next time) is to keep them happy. In this article, we explore how.

Free download: Post-Event Survey for Your Event Sponsors

Assign a Point Person or Team

If you have the resources, it helps to put someone in charge of sponsorships. This person (or team, depending on your budget and needs) should handle everything regarding sponsorships – from sales to logistics to the relationship with the sponsors.

As the event host, it’s your job to create a mutually beneficial experience that adds plenty of value to your sponsors. Click To Tweet

If you delegate sponsorship tasks to someone, let them be the primary point of contact for the sponsors. You may want to keep your eyes on things, but it’s easier for everyone if your sponsors can deal directly with the person handling sponsorships.

The point person’s job is to make sure the sponsors understand their role, what they’re expected to provide, and all the pertinent details. Most importantly, the point person should make sure the sponsor gets everything they pay for.

“Events that have the most success with sponsors dedicate quite a few resources to accommodating them onsite,” says Biasha Mitchell, music strategy at Eventbrite. “Set clear expectations with sponsors about what you can and can’t do, especially in the middle of a field.”

It also helps to give your point person some budgetary discretion, especially during the event when they might have to make a last-minute purchase and don’t have the time to run it by you. For instance, if a sponsor’s sign tears, they might have to order a rush printing job.

Create a Timeline of Deliverables

Event sponsors

If your sponsors have to provide you with a number of things, they’ll find it helpful if you provide them with a clear timeline. Jot down everything you need, when you need it by, and where you need it to be. Make sure they have this information early.

It also helps to include the potential penalties they’ll suffer if they don’t give you what you need. For instance, under the line item “Deliver all signage to venue by September 3rd,” add a note that briefly explains why (perhaps the maintenance crew is packing up then) so they understand that your dates are serious.
One of your deliverables should include a final walkthrough of the event space to show them how you’ve laid out their materials or set up their assets. There should be no surprises for your sponsors during the event. A walkthrough gives you and the sponsor the opportunity to identify and fix problems before your guests arrive. Plus, this technique gives the sponsor a sense of ownership over the process, which makes them confident about sponsoring in the future.

Demonstrate Your Sponsors’ ROI

Your sponsors spend money to advertise through your event because they hope it will draw more business to them – thus more money – in the long run. Ideally, their new business should at least cover the cost of the sponsorship, but ideally return far more. So you can please your sponsors by helping them understand how much they benefited from the sponsorship.

Now, you can’t tell them exactly how much money they made off their sponsorship because you don’t know their internal numbers. You couldn’t, for example, tell them how many of your attendees went on to become their customers, or how much those customers spent. You just don’t have that data.

However, by collecting and sharing your own data, you can demonstrate that you delivered on your end of the bargain. They can do the math themselves to determine if the sponsorship had a positive financial return.

Here are some different types of information you could pass along after the event:

  • The number of people who attended each lecture/round table/presentation/etc.
  • How much people engaged with sponsorship messaging over social media.
  • Who and how people interacted with digital signs or attractions.
  • How many people passed or viewed displays, attractions, or signs.

Keep in mind, however, that your sponsors will have specific concerns, so tailor your data reporting to their individual needs. For instance, a sponsor who simply hung a sign at the entrance will care about foot traffic, but a sponsor who partnered with you for an elaborate social media strategy will care about online engagement and clicks.

Integrate Sponsors Organically

Your sponsors want to be an extension of your event. They don’t want to be tacked on so that your attendees can easily ignore their branding and messaging. You can make their presence more obvious by integrating them in more seamless, natural ways.

“One of my personal favorite [ways to integrate sponsors] is activating a sponsor’s brand and product on site and enabling them to completely and very visibly ‘own’ something,” says Keith Gordon, chief operating officer of Fight For Children in Washington. “This can be done to almost any scale, but really depends on the type of event. From branded drinkware to branded entertainment, to outfitting personnel, to transforming entire spaces into experiences, the sky’s the limit.”

For instance, instead of displaying their post on an easel or coating a wall in logos, you might have them sponsor a specialty drink or food dish, provide a phone-charging station, or install a unique prop that draws people’s attention.

Event sponsors
Image: methodshop.com / Flickr

Offer Some VIP Perks

If your sponsors attend your event (and there’s no reason not to invite them), give them the royal experience by treating them like a VIP. This is especially simple if you already have a group of VIPs, dignitaries, or special guests.

Here are some ways you can pamper your sponsors:

  • Create a special entrance so they can bypass lines.
  • Reserve special seating during shows, lectures, presentations, etc.
  • Exclusive meet-and-greets with your speakers, demonstrators, or performers.
  • Offer premium drink and food options (at no charge).
  • Placing their table in a special location (possibly elevated).
  • First reservations at hotels and transportation services.

Follow up After the Event

Don’t break your relationship with your sponsors after the event. Reach out with a letter or email to show your appreciation. Express your gratitude and tell them you’ll keep the line of communication open for future sponsorship opportunities.

This is the point where you should take care of any last minute business, like coordinating the return of their equipment and materials. It’s also a good time to send over any data you collected or materials they might use in their marketing (like photos of the event). If you don’t have those things yet, let them know when they can expect them.

Admittedly, many event coordinators have just as much to do after the event as they do before it. If you’re one of those people, type your follow-up letters before the event. Leave them as editable documents so you can input unique details from your event.

Finally, continue to engage with their brand for a while after the event, even if they didn’t pay for that service. For instance, you might mention them in your company newsletter or tag them in your social media posts. These types of activities make your sponsors feel like they’re more than just customers. It makes them feel like you want to be their partner, which can go a long way in convincing them to sponsor your next event.

Send this survey to your sponsors after your event to learn about their experience, what you did well, and what you can do better next time.

Key Takeaway

Keeping your sponsors happy so they feel like they got a lot of value out of the deal means catering to their unique needs and simplifying the process. If you can give them a pleasant experience that doesn’t place much of the burden on them, they’re likely to sponsor your next event and possibly pay more next time.