Maximizing the Sponsorship Experience
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Maximizing the Sponsorship Experience

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By Paul Hanscom, MBA, CAE, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development

Imagine that you are commuting to work in the morning. You wake up a bit early and get a head start on the day, so you decide to treat yourself to coffee on the way to the office. As you consider your options, you choose to bypass the styrofoam cup of “caffeinated beverage” at the gas station and venture to a nearby coffee shop. You order a smooth grande cappuccino with creme, not hesitating when the cashier requests $5 – more than double the amount you would have paid at the gas station.

You sit in an overstuffed chair and enjoy the cozy surroundings. By choosing the coffee shop, you knew that you were purchasing more than just a cup of coffee; you were purchasing an experience. This is the mindset you want your sponsors to have when they make the decision to support your organization. You can help them get there.

Why should someone sponsor?
Sponsorship creates a meaningful partnership between a vendor and your organization. Through sponsorship, a supplier demonstrates a commitment to advancing your organization and industry as a whole.

Sponsors gain legitimacy by affiliating with a respected association like yours. Your members (i.e. the sponsor's customers) put a lot of well-founded trust in your organization as an objective source for industry information. Sponsorship builds a vendor's credibility and develops a good rapport in the industry. It also diversifies your revenue sources, and can assure additional funding to allow your organization to better serve its mission.

When you seek sponsors, don't be timid. You are offering them an opportunity that may be their best – if not only – chance to get the word out about their product or service to a very targeted market. The alternatives available may be expensive, impersonal, and/or have a low return on investment (e.g. mass marketing, cold calling, direct mail). Don't undervalue what you can bring to a sponsor.

Identifying sponsor prospects

Consider how your organization identifies sponsor prospects. Are you regularly branching out to new prospects, or do you wind up contacting the same few vendors over and over again? While it is important to nurture and reinforce relationships with long-term supporters, you also want to cultivate new relationships so you do not overburden any one sponsor by continuously drawing from the same well.

What companies want visibility but aren't being offered the opportunity to be a sponsor? Companies that have no previous involvement with your organization could see sponsorship as their vehicle to launch into the market.

An additional way to identify sponsor prospects is to research companies that are sponsoring similar activities at a different scale – be it local, regional or national. Find organizations that are similar to yours and see who is supporting them. If they serve a similar demographic, it is likely that the sponsor will want to support you as well. Companies that have a history of supporting organizations in your industry will naturally benefit from sponsorship with your association. Review the event websites and conference brochures to see who is getting recognition.

This is just a short sample of the content in our e-book, Maximizing the Sponsor Experience. Download the full e-book now!

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