In simple terms, a sponsor is a person or organization who contributes to the cost of an event in return for publicity. Sponsorship should be viewed as a professional/formal relationship where both parties have obligations that must be fulfilled. A document should be produced detailing what is expected from the sponsor and what is being offered in return.
It is possible for an event to have a sole sponsor or multiple sponsors. In most cases however an event will have multiple sponsors with one particularly prominent sponsor known as the “title sponsor”. The lead sponsor will usually be the most high-profile company or brand to be associated with an event and will certainly have invested substantially more financially than the other sponsors. As such the prime publicity opportunities will be reserved for the title sponsor.
In the instance of there being multiple sponsors it is common place to employ a system of tiered sponsorship packages. As an example imagine a pyramid split into 3 levels, as listed below.
- At the highest level (or first tier) you have the lead sponsor and their package includes all the prime publicity opportunities. This might include their company logo on the banner at the event entrance, their product exclusively displayed at the bar or even the main stage in their company name. This package also comes with the most expansive price tag.
- On the next level down we find the two second tier sponsors. Their sponsorship packages aren’t quite as involved. Perhaps they have their names put to a smaller stage or a complimentary cloakroom service and they get a full page colour advert in the event programme. Their logo would be displayed but at a smaller scale and perhaps not in such a prominent position. The more modest nature of their sponsorship package is reflected in its price point.
- Next we have the three sponsors on the third tier. Their packages are the “best value” and include a quarter page colour advert in the event programme and their logo on the tickets and promotional posters. These will inevitably be the easiest packages to sell.
- Note that if there are too many sponsors, the event may lose its appeal as a brand can become lost in a sea of other sponsors. Almost anything can be sponsored – printed materials, interval refreshments or even a speaker’s lectern. Make a note of things you have seen sponsored at other events.
Another method of funding your event is to establish a Partnership. An event partner is a person, company or organization who pledges support in an event due to a shared interest. The role of an event partner is different to that of a sponsor. A partner could be a member of the local community, a local business, venue or service provider who sympathises with your goals for reasons other than publicity and money.
An example of this might be a charity five-a-side football tournament. The event is being sponsored by a local sports retailer who will be providing the prizes in return for letting them publicize their store at the event. At the same time the local sports centre is partnering the event and letting the organizer use their five-a-side pitch free of charge. They have a shared interest because the sports centre wants as many people who enjoy playing football as possible to know about their facilities in the hope they may want to use them again in the future. It also raises their profile within the local community and a portion of their corporate social responsibility.
Try to identify local organizations, businesses and individuals who have a shared interest in your goals. Think about where the event is taking place, who will be taking part, what the activity is and who the beneficiaries are. Make clear what help you are looking for and why you think they would make a suitable partner for your event. You must research the people you intend to approach – what is it exactly their company does, do they sponsor or partner any existing events or is their a mutual contact that connects you to them? If you make contact with them by email, telephone or post be sure to give them only essential details – ask to meet in person to discuss the event in more detail.