Getting sponsorship is so important! Without it your event will almost certainly lose money. This is one of the most important (and also one of the hardest) things to do for a first-time event.
Think of all your favourite events – they probably all have some big sponsors. Sponsors help an event stay profitable, while also keeping them affordable for attendees. Getting sponsors is important to raise funds but it is also important to prove to the community that your event is a good idea, and get others behind you, adding legitimacy to your event.
When asking for sponsorships, you need to be prepared to deal with a lot of rejection. At the start, getting companies to sponsor takes a lot of time, and can be discouraging when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. Stick with it and see each rejection as a learning experience rather than a failure. How can you get more effective at convincing the company that your event is worth their money, and putting their name on?
When we first started the Norfolk Ram Rodeo, we were pregnant with our first son and not prepared to put up over $40 000 of our own money at risk for an event. We committed to raising at least $20 000 in local sponsorship before even announcing the event to the public.
This gave us a goal, as well as a way out if they sponsorships didn’t happen. We had to convince the local businesses that it was a good idea. If you can’t convince successful local business owners that your event is worth paying $300 to advertise at, what makes you think that 1000 average people will pay $20 each to attend? The more businesses you have sponsoring, the more local involvement you automatically get too. These companies are going to naturally promote the event for you.
When looking for sponsors, think about your target audience – who is attending your event and what type of event sponsors fit this market?
For our rodeo, our target market is families and people in the horse / agriculture world. For this reason, some of our big sponsors are tractor dealerships, horse trailer companies, pool construction companies etc. Think about what kinds of businesses would benefit from advertising to the crowd at your event.
Before going to ask for sponsors, put together a good sponsorship package to show to potential businesses. It should give a good idea of what your event is, say why you are running it, and clearly layout the different sponsorship packages. We like to have 3 different levels of sponsorship (ie. Gold, silver, bronze), so that big companies who want more exposure can do that and small companies who want to contribute but don’t have a big marketing budget can also be involved.
Our first year the levels were priced at $95, $225 and $700. The middle level includes 4 day passes, a banner in the arena, a listing in our program and on our website, and several shout-outs during the rodeo event.
Companies love to see their logo and hear their name, so think of as many ways as you can show it that doesn’t cost you much extra. A great place to add sponsor banners is on the top of your bleachers from Bleacher Rentals! 😊
Make sure that you clearly explain what they will get with this sponsorship. We believe that you should include tickets to the event with all sponsorship levels. You want your sponsors to come to the event and see how great it is. This makes them more likely to tell others about it and sponsor again next year.
The first year it was a lot of “cold visits”… we just went around to all the local businesses, told them about the event we wanted to run and asked if they would sponsor. We got a lot of rejections, but every time we were rejected we asked ourselves “why?” and maybe tried a different angle the next time. At the very least, now you have told 1 more person about your event and maybe they will let you put up a poster. Of course, it is easiest to start by visiting companies that you already know or do business with, as they are more likely to listen to your pitch.
At your event, try to make time to network with your sponsors. Buy them a drink and ask them how they are enjoying their day. Make a point to say “hi” and start building a relationship with them. This is the fun part of getting sponsors! If you don’t get a chance to talk to them, consider sending them a message after the event thanking them for supporting the event, and include a photo from the event with their banner if possible.
After the first event, getting sponsors gets a lot easier. Now, every time we hire or purchase from a local company, we tell them about our event and ask them to sponsor. They are more likely to give you money when you are giving them business. After running the event a few years we just have to call up the previous sponsors and almost everyone of them agrees to sponsor again. Now companies are actually calling us and asking if they can sponsor.
So, take the time to put together a good package and start knocking on businesses doors. Remember, don’t take the rejection personally!