Keys to Festival and Event Sponsorship Development

  • Sara Harmouch
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Festival and Event sponsorship development should be a key focus in creating a successful festival, fair or other type of entertainment event. Successful sponsorship sales can help with budget needs; local, regional or national exposure; building credibility with attendees and your community; while fostering new business relationships. Many of those will turn into long term business links.

A good event sponsorship program increases sponsorship by keeping existing sponsors coming back each year while you sell new sponsors on your event, festival or fair. Your sponsorship program helps with shaping public perception in a way that may be hard to achieve by solely using your own marketing and branding efforts. In many ways, a sponsorship is an endorsement by a third party of your fair, festival, or event. The more credible the sponsor, the more credibility it provides to the event itself.

Festival or event sponsorship takes the form of a partnership between the sponsoring organization and the event, fair or festival seeking sponsors. The term used to describe such an affiliation is affinity marketing. It allows brands to target certain market segments that attend these events in a much easier and direct way than can be achieved with other marketing and branding tactics. The festival, fair or event’s “affinity” group are the attendees at their events. When such a group matches a target market of a brand, there is an opportunity for sponsorships because of the common interest of both parties. Sponsorship development is particularly effective when the sponsor and the property share similar goals, values, and vision.

Sponsorship provides certain rights and benefits to the buyer or “sponsor.” It is typically in conjunction with a fair or festival property, venue, or event. Personality or celebrity sponsorship is outside the scope of this article. Most often, the sponsors may use the images and logo of the event, fair, festival or venue and call themselves an official sponsor of it.

sponsorship assest cupsEvery event of venue has items for sponsor exposure to the intended audience. These are termed sponsorship assets and are what the sponsor gets in exchange for their money or in-king services. Most people think of signage or banners when they think of sponsorship assets. There are many more examples, including an opportunity to speak, inclusion on all advertising and promotional pieces, naming rights, exclusivity, dedicated space at the event, VIP tickets for sponsor’s customers, access to event attendee data, etc. The list can be very long, depending on the type of event.

Well-conceived sponsorships include an investment in sponsorship activation. “Activation” is a term used to describe how the sponsored assets are utilized and experienced by attendees. This could include physical space and interaction with fans or followers, direct contact via email or direct mail, special features and offers to brand customers, hospitality, entertainment, and many other forms of engagement. Properly activating this affiliation casts a “halo” that conveys certain characteristics to the sponsor because of strong recognition or the fan base of the festival, fair, or event. Sponsors want to impact those attending in a positive way that makes them feel like they got their money’s worth.

Creating a sponsorship packages and pitch for Your Festival, Venue or Event

Let’s begin with the essential elements your sponsorship package should include. For starters, it must describe the affinity between the two parties and the benefits for both the sponsor and the organization offering the sponsorship. Your sponsorship package should reflect your primary support goals as well as outline the sponsor’s obligations and benefits. It should also include metrics that will help you and the sponsor measure the results of the sponsorship.

The most crucial question you need to answer is what do you have to offer a sponsor? Understanding what sponsors are looking for in a sponsorship is an excellent starting point. Once you determine potential sponsorship assets and how they can be activated, you can then develop your sponsorship development package and perfect your sponsorship sales pitch. Below are a few key elements found in most sponsorship packages:

Outline of key offerings:

    • Overview or summary about your venue or event
    • Market overview
    • Available assets for sponsorship (naming rights, display, audience engagement, VIP, tickets, etc.)
    • Demographics of those who will be exposed to sponsorship assets
    • Sponsorship opportunity pricing

Pricing your sponsorship packages

The biggest mistake most people make is forgetting to do enough research. This typically results in overpricing or underpricing the sponsorship program. Do the research! Find out what others are charging for assets with similar events. Never include pricing in your initial presentation, or it will become the primary focus of the sponsor. Only include the price in your sponsorship proposal, never in your sponsorship pitch package. Do not price out or itemize the pricing in a pitch package.

Finding the right sponsors and keeping them happy

Finding the right sponsors for your venue or event takes time and research. Use on-line search engines to look at company websites. If it’s within your budget, buy into a lead generation provider like Zoom info, Winmo, Sponsor United or Sales Force. Sometimes the best sponsors are right in front of you. Check out the local events, local venues, and local sports teams. Companies already engaged in sponsorship are generally ripe for picking. Look at your local vendors who carry national or regional brands. Often they can help you reach the right person and facilitate the sponsorship pitch.

Keeping sponsors happy starts all the way at the beginning, long before you close the sale. Listen to what the sponsor is saying and provide a prompt response. Always prepare a recap. Over deliver but don’t over promise. And if your sponsor is happy, they will tell others about you.

Sponsorship Development Is a Complex Undertaking

Identifying all of your sponsorship assets and how best to activate them is challenging for a volunteer organization. Next comes finding the right brands and pitching to them. Unless your sponsorship team is very sophisticated, they will unlikely be able to maximize your sponsorship potential. The result is the same sponsors year after year supporting your festival or venue. Nothing wrong with that. But just think if you could keep the ones you have and add additional ones every year.

That’s why having a talented team of sponsorship sales professionals to assist you is the first step in securing more sponsorships. Your event or venue is an important investment, and your goal is to have a successful event, both financially and with happy attendees. Turn to individuals with brand relationships and a successful sponsorship sales history. Nothing beats a seasoned professional to handle this aspect of your festival or event.

steve wilsonSteve Wilson is Director of Corporate Partnerships for TSE Entertainment. Steve is a veteran and pioneer in live entertainment sponsorships. Steve has worked with some of the biggest brands in the advertising industry. His approach is creating long-term partnership agreements on the local, regional and national stage, including naming rights, pouring rights, concert presenting rights, Broadway name in title rights and brand introductions. He was one of the first to create name-in-title sponsorships as part of the subscription program with Broadway Across America. He sold the naming rights for the hugely successful Smart Financial Center in the Houston, Texas market which was named by Pollstar as one of the top venues in the World in 2018.

TSE Entertainment is now a one-stop entertainment agency for fairs, festivals, theaters, casinos, corporate events and other venues. Whether it’s booking your entertainment, providing local or full event production, ticketing, marketing, or event sponsorship development and sales, we have the professionals needed to help you take your event to the next level.

Want to learn more about a good sponsorship program? Contact us today to assess how your current approach to sponsorship can be improved. Email: stevewilson@tseentertainment.com

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Festival Production: A Lot More Than Booking Entertainment

About the Author

Sara Harmouch

Sara always believed that music has a magical power to reach people in ways that nothing else can. Her passion for music and its business inspired her to pursue a career in the music industry. She recently graduated from Berklee Online with a degree in music business and is thrilled to apply her learnings and experience in music marketing at TSE entertainment.

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