Written by Katie Zupancic
You proudly hit “send” on the email containing the signed sponsorship contract you just sold. After giving yourself an internal high-five, you think, now what do I do?
Event sponsorship is the product of two major phases, acquisition and activation. Everything up until you and your sponsor sign on the dotted line is part of the sponsorship acquisition phase. This includes prospecting, research, initial meetings, benefit brainstorms, proposals, pitches, and contracting. Perhaps your sponsorship includes marketing trade, which required you to get buy-in from your marketing team. You may also have negotiated an in-kind sponsorship for product or found a sponsor to underwrite an aspect of your event costs. Regardless of cash, marketing trade, or product trade, sponsorship is a direct impact on the bottom line for your event, which is key to event health and sustainability.
Once the sponsorship is legally confirmed, you move into the second major phase of event sponsorship: sponsorship activation. In this phase, your relationship with your sponsor will deepen as you collect the information you need to execute your sponsorship. You’ll execute pre-event benefits you promised to your sponsor, perhaps online, in emails, or via social media. When it comes to event day, you’ll guide them through setup, the event, and teardown. After the event, you’ll debrief and talk about how to make next year even better. The renewal process for next year starts the moment this year’s contract is signed — though your event may give them incredible exposure to participants, volunteers, and spectators, if getting to that point of interaction is a painful process, then the renewal process will be a much harder (potentially impossible) sell.
The key to a successful sponsorship activation experience is supporting your sponsor throughout the entire process.
S — Set expectations for your event’s pre-event, on-event, and post-event sponsorship experience.
Though your sponsorship proposal may have shared a high level overview of the benefits that accompany their sponsorship, make sure you are very clear about what your sponsor should expect. This includes the branding of pre-event materials, the event atmosphere and schedule, and what role you and your team play in executing the sponsorship and maintaining the relationship. Remember that while you live and breathe your event and its branding, this is a new experience for your sponsor.
U — Utilize a cohesive system when requesting information from sponsors.
To execute your sponsorship, you need logos, content, links, contact information, and many more pieces of data unique to your sponsor and unique to your event. Build a system that allows you to collect this information all at once so you’re not inundating your sponsor’s inbox with one-off requests. This allows you to focus on relationship building instead of struggling to get the correct logo file.
P — Prep your sponsors with on-event logistics information.
Make sure that your sponsors are aware of on-event details, including timing, location, parking, and your specific load-in and load-out plan. Remember, your main contact may not be the same person representing their organization at your event. Your plan should be comprehensive enough to inform someone completely unfamiliar with your event.
P — Provide your staff with information on sponsors and key players.
Keep your team apprised of important sponsors and people-to-know at your event. While you’ll be checking in with them all day, a visit from your team’s leadership with a mention of something pertinent to a specific sponsor shows that you value their partnership.
O — Make On-event engagement a priority.
Make sure to learn the names of the sponsor’s representatives and check in with them throughout load-in, event day, and load-out. A VIP tour is a great way to showcase other aspects of your event and lay the groundwork for future upsells.
R — Recap the event with your sponsors while the event excitement is fresh.
Reach out to your sponsors while they are basking in the event afterglow. Discuss wins and opportunities for improvement while the enthusiasm and connection for your event is still strong.
T — Thank them for their support of your event.
Thank your sponsor in person at the event, immediately after the event, and then schedule a more formal in person thank you. Consider sending a recap of their brand’s exposure and be sure to tie in the impact that their dollars are making. Know their organization’s goals so that you can structure your recap to align, emphasizing marketing exposure, causal impact, or ROI.
By making the sponsorship activation process a smooth experience from pre-event exposure, to the event, to the post-event wrap-up, you will have happy sponsors who view themselves as true partners… and who will be ready to return year after year with an investment that directly impacts your bottom line.