by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | May 01, 2007

Sponsors bring more than cash value to a firm; they support your company and/or event’s goals and objectives, provide a service or product pertinent to attendees, and bring credibility and cachet to the table.

Additionally, good sponsors are trustworthy, pay at least half their fees up front, are willing to sign your contract and are easy to work with. They do not pose a conflict of interest or elicit controversy -- unless for some reason this supports your goals and objectives.

Ideally, they will not deter other sponsors from participating. For example, if you are hoping to secure several tire sponsors for an auto event, signing the market leader could frighten off or even prevent participation from others if the sponsor insists on a noncompete clause in the contract. On the other hand, signing a big name can encourage smaller firms to join in order to be associated with their stronger colleagues.


There are two basic types of sponsorship: cash and in-kind. Cash sponsorships can be applied directly to anticipated revenue. They are preferable when your budget’s bottom line is dependent on such income to break even.

In-kind sponsorship refers to the provision of equipment or services. In-kind support can be extremely valuable. At a medical event, for example, a high-end company might lend very expensive equipment for demonstrations or exhibition. When calculating the net worth in your budget, in-kind value would be equal to the cost of purchasing or leasing this equipment. In-kind sponsorship also can refer to silent-auction donations or any other revenue-generating or revenue-saving items or services.


It’s helpful for planners to understand the hierarchy and categories of sponsors.

* Title sponsors are single, top sponsors whose names are prominent in the title, i.e., “TechCo’s Wireless Expo.”

* Presenting sponsors have secondary event-title rights but not all the exclusive rights that a title sponsor would have. Their names also can be in the title: “TechCo’s Wireless Expo, presented by Bionic Mouse.”

* Supporting sponsors have no title rights and are entitled only to exposure rights -- on signage, for example. Trade shows often divide such sponsors into platinum (highest cost, most benefits), gold (midlevel) and silver (entry-level).


Negotiation strategy for sponsorships is complex. Discounting a high-level platinum sponsor can cause significant damage to the relationship with gold sponsors and, for future events, can cause loyal sponsors to jump ship or wait until the last minute to secure a sponsor spot, hoping for a discount. Late-signed sponsorships lose their value, as they tend to generate fewer advertisements and direct mail pieces, come in too late to print on signage and generally end up discounted.


Sponsors expect return on investment when they buy into your event. But each sponsor might have a different way of measuring ROI. To make sure you are in step with their needs, ask them up front what their goals and objectives are; they should feel confident these can be met or exceeded. Never inflate your expected attendance or media coverage.

At the close of the event, sponsors also should feel they received good customer service (their pre-stated expectations should be met or exceeded). As the planner, you might not directly be managing the sponsor relationship; however, you do have a responsibility to integrate the sponsors’ interests into your programs.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.