Whether your festival is a local event that targets a small, close-knit audience or a regional, national, or even international festival that brings in hundreds of thousands of people, developing festival sponsorship assets should be part of your plan. Fortunately, festivals provide a multitude of potential sponsorship assets.
Both potential sponsors and festival/event organizers are seeking creative ways to engage attendees with their sponsorship assets. As we will see, the digital world provides a myriad of ways to do just that. Using online applications with creative offline immersive activations is what is expected today by brands as they look for the right events to sponsor.
Brands are looking beyond old sponsorship assets such as banners and other activations that just expose the audience to their brand. They want assets that are experiential, where attendees become immersed in the brand.
Before we get to potential sponsorship assets, let’s review why sponsorship development is critical for festivals and other events. For many brands, it’s a crucial part of their marketing strategy as well. Finding aligned brand partners is vital to the success of festivals and other events. Having an inventory of festival sponsorship assets that appeals to their potential customers is part of the sponsorship development process.
Why You Want Sponsors
Most people equate sponsorships with money. While providing funds and/or in-kind services is a critical reason to seek brand sponsors for your festival, it’s not the only reason. Even if you have the funding in place for your festival, there are other reasons you should seek to have businesses and brands involved with your event.
Of course, funds can help you increase the scope and size of your festival. Having enough funds to do the necessary marketing can also mean having a financially successful event.
Credibility: The right sponsors bring credibility to a festival. It increases the event’s standing in the eyes of potential attendees to see the brands associated with it. Each sponsor is a testament to the event, evoking trustworthiness in the eyes of those who are considering attending the event. Of course, the sponsor must be credible as well and aligned with the target audience for the event.
Promotion: The right sponsorship partners bring other resources to the table besides funding. They bring their own audience to the table. After all, they have customers and those that follow them on social media. Whether it’s a local business for a local event or a national brand for bigger events, getting their participation in promoting the event to their audiences can make a big difference in growing the number of attendees at your festival.
It All Begins with the Nature, Objectives, and Target Audience of Your Festival
Before you get into the weeds of building your sponsorship assets, you should do some serious thinking about why you are organizing the festival, what you want to come out of it, and who you want to attend it.
It’s not rocket science to realize that brands and their sponsorship assets at your festival must align with the purpose and audience(s) targeted for the event. The brands and businesses you approach will want to know this as well. If you can’t answer the why and who for the event, then don’t expect brands to be enthusiastic about becoming a partner for it. They are looking for a good fit for their brand, i.e., the right event drawing the right audience.
Brands want to be associated with festivals that share their values and their audiences. The more you can show potential sponsors how your event and a major targeted audience of it aligns with their brand, the easier time you will have in getting them to become a partner for your event. They also like to have their brand associated with charitable causes as well. Make that part of the pitch if your event is working with a charitable organization.
It’s Not About Sponsorship Assets, It’s About Sponsor Alignment
Once you get that commitment, finding the right assets for them becomes much easier. That’s because, with their commitment to sponsor, they will help you develop the right sponsorship assets and activations that fit their brand culture and the resources they can commit to the festival.
You should be able to describe your festival and the expected number and characteristics of those targeted to attend it in great detail. Remember right fit, right audience will be top of potential sponsors’ minds as you approach them about your festival or event.
For more insight on the right data for sponsorship sales, check out our blog: Get Event Sponsorship Brands Using Good Data.
As mentioned earlier, today’s sponsors are looking for more immersive activations for their brands at the events they sponsor. Fortunately for you, festivals offer many means to have creative and experiential sponsorship opportunities. Before diving into some let’s discuss the most common and lucrative sponsorship asset.
If you’re not familiar with the terms used in sponsorship development, here is a glossary of the common terms used in sponsorship development.
- Naming and Presenting Rights
Naming and presenting rights are slightly different. Name rights equate to title sponsorship where the brand name is part of the event name. An example would be “The Company XYZ Texas Strawberry Festival.” Naming rights are typically an exclusive sponsorship.
Presenting Rights are similar to naming rights, but the sponsor’s name does not appear as part of the festival name but would be part of the title. An example of presenting rights would be “Texas Strawberry Festival presented by Company XYZ.” Presenting rights may or may not include exclusivity.
Be Creative in Creating your Inventory of Sponsorship Assets
Knowing about the event and the audience who will be attending it will help immensely in developing an inventory of potential festival sponsorship assets for your event. Here are a few that should be in your inventory.
- Event App: Events apps have come a long way since their introduction in 2010. Many festivals and events now use their own apps that allow attendees to navigate and customize their experience at the festival. An event app also allows you to connect with your audience, before, during, and long after the event.
They solve many of the issues faced by those attending larger events by helping them navigate the event and find what they need. A well-designed event app will also help the event organizer gain valuable insights into their audience, their preferences, and their habits.
It also provides numerous sponsorship opportunities and ways to promote sponsors within the app itself and its connectivity with websites and social media. For a more detailed discussion of why you should use an event app: Festival Production: Why Use an Event App?
Because the ability to access the Internet and social media sites is so important to creating buzz during your event, you should also consider these as part of your sponsorship asset inventory.
- Phone Charging Stations: It’s a win-win to have a place where attendees can stop and recharge their phones. After all, you want your attendees to engage and interact with social media and the event app during the festival or event. This should be a priority for you. Supplying phone charging lockers should be a sponsored activation. Often people dwell longer at charging stations, offering sponsors more opportunities to engage with them. Combining the charging station with an environment where visitors can relax while charging their devices creates an even bigger sponsorship asset.
- Free WiFi: While challenging, providing free WiFi at your festival site is important to get the highest engagement by visitors with your event app, sponsor websites, promotions, and social media use by attendees. This is a high-value asset for you as the organizer.
Branding the WiFi login page, network name and password with a brand name can be a high-value asset for potential sponsoring brands. You might even collect names and email addresses (with permission) as part of the process of accessing the service. If you can’t cover the whole event site with WiFi, consider setting up WiFi hotspots in certain locations.
Continuing our search for the right sponsoring assets, consider these:
- Photo Spaces: What traditionally has been labeled a photo booth, has been transplanted by other ways of capturing the attendees’ experience with photos. You can use a traditional branded photo booth where people can dress up and pose. Better yet are larger spaces with oversized, branded, or themed props, social media frames, backdrops, signage, etc. that they can use for their selfies.
Getting attendees to share photos on social media and the event app should be a high priority for your event. Consider hosting photo contests and having people vote on their favorite photos within your event app. Sharing photos allows your sponsor to reach a wider audience as users share their photos to their own timelines.
- Filters: If your audience is a younger demographic, filters can be a good sponsorship asset for brands. These fully customizable and branding transparent illustrations overlay the photos or videos taken by attendees at events. Snapchat filters are a great way to add fun visual features of your sponsor and get your attendees to share their selfies on social media. Snapchat filters are easy to create. The filters are superimposed over selfies and will motivate people to share them on social media. You upload the transparent illustration and tell Snapchat where and when to make it available. There are other filters you can use as well including Augmented Reality (AR) filters, TikTok filters, etc. Filters are a fresh approach to a sponsorship asset. They are an excitingly different way to engage with your audience. Social media users like them and share them with the chance to go viral. When used correctly, their use can turn your sponsor’s visitors into fans. They are also popular among influencers. Filters can be a very creative activation for sponsors as they are still relatively unknown to many event and festival organizers and sponsors.
When you use them, don’t forget to create hashtags to track your success online.
- Lounges: Offering a place or places for people to sit down and relax offers a whole set of opportunities for sponsorships. You can have different types of lounges at the event. You can combine a lounge with the device charging area for example. Can’t provide WiFi to the whole event area? Why not WiFi hotspot lounges.
Lounges can be furnished to reflect the sponsor’s brand and, depending on the sponsor, can also provide sample products, displays, demonstrations, infomercials, product literature, etc. Game lounges are popular as well at certain events. If your event allows children, you can provide activities for them as part of the lounge setup. Whether it’s coloring tables, books, or play areas, these lounges will attract families that sponsors want to reach.
Lounges offer a host of ways they can be “customized” for festivals and other events. For outdoor events, tents replace indoor lounge spaces.
In this post, I’ve only scratched the surface of potential assets that should be considered for part of your sponsorship asset inventory. In the second part of this post, I will address more ways to create the kind of sponsorship assets and activations that sponsors seek in today’s environment. Brands are no longer satisfied with signage and visibility for their sponsorship dollars. Brands seek to become festival or event partners and want to help design the assets they sponsor. They seek activations that create engagement with attendees in experiential and immersive ways before, during, and after the event itself.
As you go about developing your sponsorship asset inventory, remember it’s all about alignment. Aligning your festival, sponsors, sponsorship assets, and the targeted audience. A congruence of interests of all these stakeholders means you have just the right formula for success in attracting sponsors and keeping them for future events.