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Creating Magical Partnerships with Sponsors

By Holly Barker

At most events today there are sponsors who are to thank for the entire event even taking place – without sponsorship dollars most events struggle to happen.

Creating Magical Partnerships

As event planners we seek to find sponsors months in advance of planning an event. A sponsorship that works for one event, may not work for another.

Mapping out sponsorships into tiny little details is crucial from the get-go. Brainstorming on creative opportunities, providing checklists, setting up pre and post show calls to review marketing and brand strategies, and providing sponsors with a list of resources they can contact at any given moment throughout the event are steps event planners should take when prepping to meet with potential sponsors.

The Best Fit for a Win

As mentioned, not every sponsorship works at every event, so put some thought into the types of sponsorships you want to have at your event. What would make your event stand out by having a part of it sponsored by a brand?

A sponsorship that would be an automatic win for both a brand and the event would be one that can use creative marketing materials provided by the event itself. Sponsors who leverage resources given to them by the event are more likely going to be seen and heard before, during and after the event, than sponsors who fail to leverage those win-win marketing opportunities.

Marketing and communications are important tools to ensure your sponsorship is generating the buzz it deserves, and what better way to get the buzz out about your brand, than by using the free tools and resources provided to your team by the event staff?

By working together, sponsors and event staff can create ideal partnerships that position the sponsor’s brand to engage with its target audience in a creative and meaningful way.

Innovate to Change the Rules of the Norm

Lots of sponsorships at events today start with promotion months in advance to create buzz around what will be happening at the event.

Brands need to leverage the key stakeholders within their companies when signing up for any type of sponsorship. Have different teams promote the sponsorship within their designated areas in the company.

A few ways to do this are to talk up the sponsorship on social media, write several blogs about your presence at the event, send out emails to event attendees if you receive the pre event mailing list, place banners on your website, do fun contests online to drive people to your booth at the event, promote the giveaways you will be having as part of your sponsorship, do a fun giveaway at the end of any speaking sessions your team may be doing, or have your sales team invite prospects to meetings and set-up dinners during the event.

The Ideal Strategy

In order to get the ball started, event staff must provide sponsors with a checklist to make sure sponsors stay on top of what’s needed from them, firm deadlines for action items, goals and objectives, event opportunities, etc.

The details included in the packet you provide to your sponsors should be clear, precise and firm. What exactly do you want out of each sponsorship as the event planner? There should be clear goals set in place during planning sessions to understand what each sponsorship entails, and what the objectives, goals and requirements are of every sponsor.

Make sure sponsors are aware of their responsibilities, whether it’s brand presence - creating an innovative space for sponsors to tell a story with their banners and ads, or do you desire more control over sponsorships – needing final approval before anything is confirmed?

Feeling the Love is the New Black


What type of exclusivity are your providing to each sponsor? Remember every single sponsor needs to feel the love. Besides marketing, promotion, and branding opportunities, how much time and visibility are you baking into your investment for each sponsor?

Will they each receive free passes to the event, access to specific sessions, media outreach, promotion to the event database, space on the event website and blog, or maybe even pre and post show email opportunities? Step up your game and make sure every sponsor, no matter what tiered level they are paying for feels the love.

Each tiered sponsorship level should of course be catered to differently when it comes to free promotion, passes, branding opportunities, etc, but no matter what as the event organizer, it’s your responsibility to make sure every sponsor is happy and their sponsorship is paying off just the way they expected it to, if not better.

At the end of the day event planners expect sponsors to put a lot of time and human resources into their sponsorships, and in return, sponsors expect no less from event staff.

In Conclusion

Event planners should keep in mind all sponsorships must have one ultimate end goal – to add value to the attendee’s experience. If it does not add value, it can effect the overall event experience which will come back to haunt the planner.

Sponsorships should be fun, exciting and creative, but also relative to what the goals of the event are. Sponsorships have become more creative today, allowing for sponsors to think outside of the box, and give event attendees cool experiences they can walk away with and want to talk about online.

Over the next year if events continue to formulate custom and edgy sponsor experiences, we should continue to see sponsorships that take the norm to the extreme.

For event staff, it’s about making a business model out of sponsorships, so it’s time to step up the game when it comes to planning the full sponsor package – from the detailed packet, to checklists, to determining ways to make sponsors feel like they are in a true partnership with the event from beginning to end.

about the author

Holly Barker
Holly Barker is a Digital Native with a passion to help shape events and brands through storytelling, creativity and digital magic. She has over 10 years of experience consisting of social media marketing, events and promotional management, digital marketing, and brand development. Follow Holly at @holsk.
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  • Skenhesie Dolomingo

    I think it is quite difficult to find the perfect sponsor for a certain type of event. I always see the same corporates sponsor an event. And they might not even share the same values. And of course you need to be prepared before going on the hunt for a sponsor.

  • thomasderuyck

    I think all event managers should keep in mind that a sponsor is more than a person who gives you money in exchange for promotion. It’s much more than that, the sponsor should fit the event. You can’t just accept any sponsor, for example when you are organising a green event you can’t go to an oil company to ask for sponsoring. Searching for the right sponsors is essential.

  • Wouter Schokkaert

    Nowadays, finding the right sponsors is a real struggle. Most of the big brands are already planning their sponsordeals way in advance. For smaller and less known events, it’s really hard to reach the perfect sponsor. I’m organising severall events each year and I certainly agree you have to give your annual sponsors an amazing memory about the event. The contact will get better in the future and companies will be happy to coöperate with eachother.

  • Nele De Meester

    A sponsorship is very important for an event. However, it has to be a sponsor that has a link with the event. Too often, there are a lot of sponsors whose core business is very unrelated to the event. I agree that a sponsorship has to add a value to the event, otherwise it’s very usual to make a deal with that sponsor. For these reasons, it’s very important to analyse the core business of the potential sponsors before you try to make a deal with them.

  • Emmanuel Vermeulen

    Companies receive all kinds of sponsor requests. They have a limited sponsor budget, so for them it’s difficult to choose between all these possibilities.That’s why you have to make sure your event has something unique to offer in comparison with the competition.
    You have to make sure your sponsor has a lot of visability before, during and after the event. If not, their investment is worthless and you’ll lose sponsors for your next edition.

  • Danitsja Deneve

    In my opinion this is a good article, but I think this is more effective for big events. Last year I had to organise a small event and it was really difficult to find sponsors. I had a good sponsorplan and a good sponsor proposal and was really prepared but I still struggled to find sponsors. Nowadays it is hard to find sponsors for small events, because you can’t ask a brand like coca-cola to sponsor a small event. I still think this is a good article that shows what you need to do before you go hunting for a sponsor.

  • Geoffrey Auret

    I totally agree with the Marketing and Communication part. The sponsors are looking for the best ROI, so there’s a need to offer them sponsor packages that are best for them. When searching sponsors it is difficult but important to see trough their eyes, what would you do when offered several sponsor packages. The smaller sponsor don’t think as much about ROI as the bigger ones. The small sponsor is thinking about not losing money. The bigger ones think about publicity and exclusivity. These days it’s all about experience and if you can keep the sponsors happy, they’ll eventually come back.

  • Laurens D’Hondt

    First of all, thanks for the great article! I certainly share your view on the event planner/sponsor relationship.

    But what about sponsors who do not want to put effort in their sponsorship and think that the sponsorship (discount, financial resources, etc) itself is enough?

    I have organised a few events now and I always conclude that some sponsors don’t want to put effort in their sponsorship. Is it well-advised to put effort (time, workload, resources) in these relationships? Or should we just decline the sponsorship or ignore the fact that they are not willing to use these opportunities?

  • Tim Van Keer

    I do agree on how you have to treat a partner. I consiously use the word partner, because that’s how they want to be called and need to be.

    I don’t totally agree on the idea that it’s difficult to find a company that fits your event. There are always companies who fit in better than others, but it’s your job as an event manager to sell your product (= your event) to a company. It’s up to you to make them believe that their company should be present at such an event.

    The most important thing is wanting more than only money. If a company can make sure that you don’t have to buy something that you normally should, it is a good partnership too. It’s cheaper for companies to give products or services than to give cash money. If you need the product it becomes a win-win situation for both.