On its face this seems like a rather innocuous question, right? Every promoter is inherently a marketer and vice versa so it makes sense that event planners around the world have learned how to find like-minded partners that share their brand positioning to help offset the costs of an event or experience.
The issue is, the majority of times we are asked this question there is just no there “there.” Either the promoter or partners haven’t done the necessary work to understand their demographic and what brands share that ethos or they have not built a platform that can even support the metrics required to generate that kind of interest from brand partners.
As one of the foremost experiential marketing agencies in the world, we get asked this question A LOT. It’s something we take a tremendous amount of pride in because as cultural marketers we are connectors first and foremost. Sponsorship has and will continue to be a major area of growth for our team but there are some outstanding myths I want to bust for the nascent promoters out there so that they have a deeper understanding of how this truly works behind the scenes.
Sponsors for Sponsors Sake:
If you need sponsorship to pay for the event please go back to the drawing board. It will never happen. In this age-old paradigm of chicken before the egg the sponsors rarely, if ever are going to underwrite an event that may not even happen. The confidence of conviction is a salesperson’s greatest asset here and if you can’t sell the event pro-forma independently of sponsorship then sponsors are far less likely to bite on the opportunity.
First and foremost, if you’re going to reach out for sponsorships and are smart enough to leverage your rolodex in this fashion you need to go one small step further. Think about who you want to partner with? It’s so simple but I cannot tell you how many organizers are not equipped with this information. The best way for me to help you is by providing a direct call to action; i.e. We think Spotify would be an amazing partner for this and not sure how to get in touch with them; or We have an idea for Absolut vodka and just want to make sure we can get in front of the right decision makers.
If you have a piece of programming that you feel would benefit from additional partners, you need to think about what that integration looks like and most importantly how you can quantify it against their investment. Brands don’t just spend money for the sake of sponsorship, you need to understand the ROI on your platform and be prepared to deliver that back to partners. Additionally, it’s not always about a check, sometimes a brand can offer an experience or a product that creates value for you that supports your bottom line. Don’t overestimate those hard costs on either side of the table. If Red Bull is going to donate a full sound system and DJ booth there is a real tangible cost to that, not everything comes down to just dollars if you’re smart you can offset your hard costs with creative partnerships that support everyone’s objectives.
The Power of No:
Don’t just take money for the sake of taking money, if your programming can’t stand on its own then you might need to reconsider the planning before taking money from brand partners. This is a bit more complex as it speaks to both promoter’s intent and financial motives, but I see so many times where the brand partners do not necessarily align with the program. The onus on promoters is to curate brands and experiences that connect with fans and event attendees. If you take money from a brand partner, you need to be ready to sacrifice some creative control to meet their objectives and if that doesn’t align with your goals and objectives then you need to revisit the spirit of that partnership.
Below is a beginner’s guide to mastering the art of sponsorship. Before you email me asking if we have a sponsor, I want you to think through this quick checklist so that we can both respect each other’s time and resources. Ultimately, you are that much closer to finding your perfect match from a brand perspective.
- Who do you want to work with? Put together your target hit list!
- What are your sponsorship goals? Do you just need to cover product costs for a beverage sponsor, or do you depend on sponsorship to even bring the event to life?
- What does the competitive landscape look like? Who sponsors similar events in your market? If you are paying attention these opportunities are usually right in front of you.
- Are you ready to share creative control with brand partners?
- Do you understand how to quantify deliverables that drive ROI for partners?
- And the most important question of all? Do you have a deck or marketing kit to support your vision that clearly outlines the opportunity(s)?
As always would love to hear from you about this topic and if you ever find yourself needing a little insider’s advantage please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my team, all I ask is that you have done your homework!