Identify and Approach a Potential Sponsor

What is Race Sponsorship?

Race sponsorship is the way in which organizations give support to an event by providing financial assistance, products or services. Companies, nonprofits, and small businesses give a certain amount of cash or incentives, in exchange for both visibility and brand awareness at an event.

Here we want to cover how to identify and approach sponsor candidates. Generally, you can choose 2 different approaches when contacting sponsors:

  1. Spend time to identifying the sponsors that are most likely to respond to your proposal and tune the message to their specific needs by targetting each company individually
  2. Reaching out in mass to as many sponsors as you can with a less personalised proposal (spray-and-pray!)

Having worked with events adopting both of these approaches, we tend to see better results utilsing the first option.  If you want to succeed you need to carefully pick your opportunities because the investment that will be required in putting together a winning sponsorship proposal and converting sponsors will be considerable.

Identifying potential sponsors

So, who could sponsor your event? The answer to that question begins with your participants. What can they offer your participants, and how can your event facilitate the beginning of a lasting relationship between sponsor and participant?

Make a list of prospects, and note them down in a spreadsheet with the following headings: Prospects, Contact Made, Meetings Booked, Proposal Submitted, Follow-up Meeting, Outcome. Keep all your potential sponsors in the prospects column. 

Here are some examples of sponsors who may be more receptive to your first point of contact:

Sponsors who have done it before. If a company or organisation has experience with the kind of sponsorship you are looking to offer, they will be more likely to appreciate what you have to offer. So take a look at who’s sponsoring events similar to yours and make a list of sponsors who are already in relationships similar to the one you want to aim for.

Competitors of sponsors who have done it before. If a certain type of company is sponsoring an event similar to yours, they likely do it because the sponsorship serves their business objectives. Which means your sponsorship would probably serve their competitors’ business objectives. So approach them as well, using the power of FOMO to get them interested in sponsoring your race.

Good in-kind matches. We single out in-kind sponsors because, in most cases, identifying suitable sponsor targets is fairly obvious. For example, if you have finisher T-shirts to buy you may want to reach out to a T-shirt brand with a sponsorship proposal. Or if you have accommodation packages you want to offer participants and guests, your obvious choice of target is hotels in your area. For more ideas on where to turn and what to look for, check out our piece on in-kind sponsorship.

Locate the decision maker

Often, the person who will deal with sponsorship requests will be in the marketing department. If you reach out to senior members of the organisation you’re at risk of getting ignored and not re-directed, and if you go through the general enquiries route you may never get a response. So do your research well (on the company website, LinkedIn or by searching Google for names on past company press releases etc), because once you reach out to someone, you are pretty much committed to talking to them unless they themselves point you to someone else.

As you approach potential sponsors, remember that your goal is not to sell sponsorship — it’s to find the decision maker and ask for a meeting. You can accomplish this a number of different ways. Attending an event your potential partner is sponsoring, for example, is a great way for you to make connections. Social media is another good channel for reaching out to a potential sponsor so that they become aquainted with your brand and event.

Making Contact

The objectives for your first contact with potential sponsors are:

  1. To come across as a credible partner
  2. To secure a follow-up meeting or call

It is in that follow-up meeting, that you and the sponsor will be discussing your sponsor’s needs and how a sponsorship of your event could help meet them.

You can connect with potential sponsors on LinkedIn or through email, but it’s important that you keep your messages brief — two to three sentences should be enough. If you’re going in cold, offer a date and time to speak on the phone or meet in person. That way you’re asking them which time works for them, not if they want to meet you or not. 

To make that happen, you need your initial reach-out to be as concise and to the point as possible. This is where you get to make a first impression and also stand out from a sea of sponsorship demands that end up in the trash bin. So make it count.

When drafting the all-important first email, here are a few things you can include:

  1. Introduce yourself and your event
  2. Briefly point to what sponsor objectives your event could fullfill 
  3. End with a request for a follow-up meeting or call to share more details

Including an attachment showcasing some key aspects of your event is ok. But avoid going into lengthy discussions of your race or sponsorship proposal before hearing what your sponsor needs (ideally you want to get into this discussion in the follow-up meeting).

Getting in the room

If you’ve secured a meeting with a potential sponsor, well done! Thats already a huge achievement.

Your number one task now is to listen. Although it is tempting to spend your first meeting with the sponsor pitching your event to them, try to resist the temptation and instead use the meeting to understand what the sponsor’s objectives are. This means trying to figure out:

  • What is the sponsor trying to get out of a potential sponsorship of your event? Expand awareness of their product? Increase sales? Enhance their brand’s image?
  • What assets of your property could potentially provide a good match for your sponsor’s objectives?
  • How much work will be involved on your end in delivering on the sponsorship?
  • How will your sponsor assess the sponsorship and whether it has been a success for them?
  • How will the person opposite you stand to gain from the sponsorship? Will they be seen as an innovator in their company if the sponsorship succeeds? How invested will they be in the sponsorship’s success?

Remember: sponsorship is a partnership between your event and your sponsors. It’s a two-way street that requires genuine interest in the sponsor’s objectives and how you can help them achieve their goals.

Once you understand what is of most value to them, and how this links with what you can offer, you can create a custom offer that suits them. For more on sponsorship proposals and going forward from here, see our guide on What can your race offer a sponsor.

On Hand To Help

The team at Eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of Eventrac. We are here to help.

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