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by Mimi Almeida | October 01, 2012
Takeaways
Never make promises to sponsors that you can't keep. Remember, you are trying to cultivate long-term relationships with these organizations. Be careful not to jeopardize your credibility.

During the research phase, look at potential sponsors' ad campaigns to determine who they are targeting and what their message is.

Emphasize that you are offering a business deal and not looking for a donation.   

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A key way to reduce or offset costs associated with a meeting is to secure sponsors, companies that view such an opportunity as a way to raise awareness of their brand and make meaningful contact with customers, consumers and stakeholders.

Finding and securing such sponsorship opportunities can be a daunting experience for both sides; following are tips on how to source, approach and build relationships with potential underwriters for your events.

Getting Started
The first step is to compile a list potential sponsors. Among those to consider:

• Firms (and their competitors) who have supported events similar to yours;

• Corporations and organizations that have an interest in the demographics of your audience; for example, a hospital opening up a new cancer wing might be interested in reaching out to participants in a race that benefits cancer research;

• Companies launching new products that are being marketed to the same demographic as the event's attendees;

• Community-minded local businesses, such as retailers that are looking to expand their client base;

• Sponsors suggested by top executives, advisory committees and/or members, and

• Providers of products and services attendees use in their downtime, e.g., golf gear.

Also, consider tapping into some sponsor-matching websites such as sponsorhub.com, which let groups list their events in a marketplace where interested sponsors can find them.

The Proposal Process The next step is to develop a well-written and persuasive proposal that "sells" your event to potential sponsors.

Focus on the needs of the sponsor. The key to presenting a targeted proposal is to speak with the sponsor's brand manager, regional marketing manager, senior member of the marketing team, public relations manager and anyone else who might have input into sponsorship decisions.

Once you have collected as much information as possible, start drafting the proposal, which should include the following:

• A brief description and history of the event and organization, along with its mission;

• Detailed data on the audience to highlight the value and fit of this group with the sponsor's brand;

• Testimonials from past or current sponsors (be sure to get their permission to share their feedback);

• Detailed information about specific sponsor opportunities and fees. Savvy planners recommend offering a menu of tiered packages and benefits, so sponsors can choose options that best match their budgets. Be prepared to explain how you determined the value of the package; and

• A list of special perks, in addition to the targeted marketing opportunities, that are available to sponsors, such as media coverage, VIP access to private receptions or hospitality suites, etc.

Remember, sponsors get lots of requests to support events. By following the above steps, you will help them see exactly why a partnership with your particular event will be a smart business decision.