A corporate sponsorship is a mutual business proposition that offers something in exchange for a financial commitment from a corporation. These relationships have been growing significantly throughout the years. So how can your small business tap into corporate sponsorships? Let’s look at 6 steps to securing corporate sponsorship and the 5 reasons why sponsorships fail.
How to Secure a Corporate Sponsorship
- Know Your Audience
Companies are interested in reaching audiences they typically do not have easy access to reach. It’s less expensive to hire an influencer who already has a trust relationship with their target audience than purchasing social media ads and traditional advertising to target these individuals directly. By leveraging an influencer that already has their attention, a corporate sponsorship it is a win/win. Make sure you can articulate who you serve. Are your readers/viewers male or female? What age demographic? How much income do they have? Do they have children? How often do they interact with your brand? Do you have an email list or private online group to communicate with them?
Once you identify all the characteristics of your customer base, start researching companies that or want to reach that group. For example, if mothers are your primary customer, look through the pages of parenting magazines and research parenting websites. What companies advertise on those sites? Then make a list of those businesses as potential corporate sponsors.
2. Introduce Yourself
Securing sponsorship is not going to happen from a cold email. People give money to people they like to know and trust. You need to personally connect with someone. I like to do LinkedIn research first. Send a personalized LinkedIn request first, then ask for a 15-minute meeting to introduce yourself to your new connection. Do not waste people’s time. If you ask for 15-minutes, get off the phone after 15 minutes. Tell them what you want and that you’ll follow-up with an email with specifics.
- Identify the Sponsor Benefits
Sponsorships can involve many different types of benefits and deliverables including:
- Social media mentions (How many tweets, posts or FB stories are you offering?)
- Targeted Email Blast (Send a 300-word email to your list about the brand.)
- Media interviews (Doing media interviews and mentioning the brand or product)
- Product placement (You wearing or using their product in an Instagram photo)
- Videos (Appearance in a demo video about the product or a testimonial video)
- Books (Mentioning a brand product in a book)
- Sponsored content (Writing a sponsored post on your blog or doing media mention on the podcast)
- Product giveaways (conducting an online contest or stuffing an event giveaway bag)
- Product reviews (telling the world what you think about a product or service)
- Advertising (Being a spokesperson where you license your likeness in ads for a brand)
- Events (Brand mentions on signage and mentions from the podium about sponsorship, and someone from the brand gets a speaking role to welcome attendees)
- Sponsor presentation (When you allow a brand to do a sales pitch at your event)
Come up with a few packages that offer a mix of these activities. Talk with your potential sponsor about what they are looking for first, then let your potential sponsors pick items a la carte. Remember, you want to build a long-term relationship with your sponsor, so it’s in your best interest to come up with ways to engage them and work with them for years.
4. Write a Compelling Sponsorship Proposal
You want to write a story about you or your business that is exciting and meaningful. Don’t simply state what you do; explain why your audience follows you. Remember, sponsorships are not just about your business: the company you want to partner with will want to know how you can help them. How will their sponsorship reap benefits they wouldn’t otherwise get? Make it clear why a corporation should sponsor your business or event.
Every sponsorship proposal should have these elements:
- Start with a compelling story. It could be your story or the story of someone in your online community who reached out to you after you did something that changed their life. The goal is to make an emotional connection with the person reading your proposal. That’s how you close the deal.
- Describe what you do. Share your mission statement, why you do what you do, and why people follow your brand.
- List the benefits. You need to have really great benefits for the sponsor you’re approaching.
- Describe your demographics. (Use this as an example 55% female/45% male, 40% millennials. 75% Educated, 35% have children and include how often to engage your audience.)
- Create an advisory board. If this is your first time hosting an event. Show potential sponsors that you have a team.”
- Ask for the money. Give three options.
- Promise deliverables. Make sure your money options include which deliverables come with each dollar amount.
5. Ask for Enough Money
Many small businesses make the mistake of not asking for enough money for sponsorships. Remember, you are offering these corporations value and direct access to the customers they want to reach. Please understand that these corporations are used to making deals in the tens of thousands. Don’t ask for $1,000 from a company that has the pockets to give $50,000. I don’t think you should ask for less than $10K, even for a first-time event. No one will take you seriously if you don’t. If value your connection to this demographic don’t be afraid to charge what it’s worth.
6. Follow-Up is Key!
It’s hard to reach people, especially on the phone, but don’t give up. How many times have you ignored an email or phone call because you’re busy or on a deadline? Corporate executives are busy too. So many people lose sponsorship deals because they do not follow up timely. If you don’t hear back from an organization after you’ve submitted your proposal, pick up the phone and check-in, and always send an email to follow-up the voicemail you left.
Top Reasons Why Sponsorships Fail
1. Contacting the Wrong Department
Don’t take a no from someone who can’t say yes. People waste their time talking with people who don’t have the power to approve a sponsor deal. The marketing department is good, but it’s not always the right place to go. Sometimes you need the corporate foundation, diversity, and inclusion or the office of corporate social responsibility, as every company doesn’t have a foundation. Make sure the person you’re talking to is the decision-maker or has an influence on the committee making the sponsorship decision.
2. No Value Proposition
Everyone listens to the same radio station WII-FM—or What’s in it For Me Radio. You need to be clear how your sponsorship opportunity will benefit the company you are pitching. If there’s not enough value, there’s no deal. Be direct. What does “exposure” mean? You need to quantify your reach. You can use social media, email, promo videos, flyers, books, events, traditional media, and digital platforms to promote your sponsors. Be specific about your sponsor benefits
3. Talking Too Much About Your Brand
No one cares about your brand or your event. Make sure you highlight how you can help your target sponsor reach their target customers. People go on an on about what they do, media reach and how great they are, but the sponsor wants to know how you can help them enhance their brand, further their cause and sell more stuff. If you can give them a compelling reason for how you can do that, you’ll get the sponsorship deal.
4. Poor Audience Development
Getting butts in seats is hard, but if your proposal says you will have 250 attendees that’s what you better deliver. I’ve seen cases where businesses promise 250 attendees and only get attract 100, that’s when you might need to give some money back to the sponsor, and you are guaranteed to never get sponsorship again. Make sure that you have a marketing plan and budget to promote your event, and affiliates to push the event as well.
5. Not Have a Sponsor Handler
Effective communication is another thing that can make or break your sponsorship. Make it clear what the sponsor support onsite will look like. Will you provide phone numbers for quick texts and questions? Will you provide a personal contact? It’s not fun to have things go wrong at an event and have no way to get in touch with someone for assistance. If you have a speaking time attached to the sponsorship, work closely with the sponsor to ensure that their session will actually be valuable. You don’t want their content to come off like a direct pitch. Always focus on adding value for your audience, you will help your sponsor shine at your event.
A corporate sponsorship is a great way to partner with large corporations looking to expand their reach. If you want to monetize your audience, make sure you have an engaged audience. Study your analytics on your website and social media to make sure you know as much as you can about your audience. Start researching corporate sponsorship opportunities and think about the most compelling story you can tell about your brand impact. That’s how you create a brand partnership that becomes corporate sponsorships.