Business Tips

Improving Your Performance: Event Sponsorship Sales


Many organizations, including non-for-profit associations and government agencies, rely on trade fairs, conferences and events to generate revenue. Event organizers know this all too well and the associated pressures.

The important duty of generating crucial funds often falls to internal staff without experience, in direct sales or relationship sales. These staff members are called upon to multi-task between event planning/operations and sales roles.

If this sounds familiar keep reading as this is a failed opportunity to maximize event sponsorship revenue.

Due to an unfocused effort or limited resources, event sponsorship “sales” is often misinterpreted as “order taking”. Processing an order form that is submitted by a company online seeking to exhibit at a trade show or sponsoring the “lunch break” at an event is not a “sales” process, rather an administrative one.

So why do these orders arrive?

Often times these “sponsorship sales orders” arrive via corporate sponsors who are involved in the organization at other levels, with key executives influencing decisions on where to allocate marketing or advertising dollars in order to support these events. The drivers for these decisions can range from industry support to extending their brand position in front of influential government/policy makers or peers.


This can include leading association members (with influential executives on board or director positions within the organization). The motivation to sponsor an event can be connected to the more holistic drivers to advance the industry or association as a whole, or a corporate driver including improved brand position or government relations aspects.

These organizations are typically well known to the organizers of the event (personal contacts!) and are seeking a leadership brand position among their already known peers which translates into event sponsorships.

The opportunity to generate (create!) new event sponsors involves going outside an organization’s current sphere of influence and contacts.

A successful event sponsorship campaign relies on going beyond those you currently do business with and who are already familiar with your event.

For many organizations going outside this “internal network” of sponsors and to gain valuable revenue contributions from “new/unknown” companies is where the skilled salesmanship begins, and where many organizations simply lack the knowledge, experience or in many cases, time and resources required, to fully capture those opportunities.

The opportunity to generate (create!) new event sponsors involves going outside an organization’s current sphere of influence and contacts.

In all cases the dreaded “cold calling” approach must be adopted, so many non-sales professionals fear the feeling that is similar to a trip to the dentist for a root canal.

Attracting, or more appropriately, “creating” new sponsorship dollars starts with a value proposition related to return-on-investment, and a highly structured salesmanship effort requiring multiple touch points with prospective sponsors to convey that message.

The strategic value (marketing) proposition for an event covers a range of items any prospective sponsor will seek to understand including audience and demographics of the event attendees, key speakers and program details (along with corresponding speaking opportunities for sponsoring organizations).

Sponsor prospects will want to understand the specific branding opportunities the event offers including signage, communicating with attendees and other ways a sponsoring organization’s brand and a message is distributed to conference delegates.

Ultimately they are seeking new leads for their business and want to know why sponsoring YOUR event will deliver over the many other ways they can do this.

Formulating the value proposition goes beyond coming up with a list of sponsorship items available (lunch break, coffee break,etc..) and needs to be a strategic consideration.

Organizations may require some assistance in formulating the value proposition and building the required marketing and sales tools necessary to convey this to prospective sponsors who are not familiar with the event or organization behind it.

With the value proposition in place next, comes building a qualified prospect list. This does not include hauling up a membership contact list and e-blasting away!

The strategy around developing your prospect list involves a variety of factors including matching up conference program content and identifying companies who would be attracted by that content (and an audience) as prospective customers for their products and services.

This can include a combination of new companies or new industry sectors to approach, or even alternate contacts within existing organizations (especially true of larger organizations with vast management teams and siloed divisions/departments).

A significant amount of strategy and research is involved in the development of a prospect list. This needs to occur many months in advance of the event to provide adequate time for researching contacts, engaging in the sales process and working through that process.

This is often times an effort that is not considered at the outset of planning an event and where little or no budget from event operations is allocated. This failure to plan and resource this activity is a fundamental oversight many organizations don’t consider until it is too late.

Sales Success = Management and Process

Sales Success

Once you have done a masterful job with both value proposition and prospect list development, then success comes down to process and discipline.

The old sales adages all apply including time management, timely follow up and using the right tools for the job. Given the prospecting list typically needs to be in the hundreds of companies (in some cases thousands), managing the touch points (emails, phone calls) and timely follow-ups becomes crucial.

Success during this stage often boils down to discipline and relying on the right tools and process to stay on track. As each contact/touch point works through the process, the key decision-makers are uncovered, meetings are hosted, proposals are sent out and follow up messages become crucial in ultimately closing deals.

Salesmanship comes into play when speaking with prospective sponsors, properly communicating the value proposition and careful listening to understand what those organizations value and seek to accomplish.

Making the connection between the event audience and the sponsor’s sales and business goals becomes a win-win for the event and the sponsoring organization.

If you have the right value proposition and allow for adequate time in advance of budget/operational planning for the prospective sponsors, with the necessary resources allocated to get the job done, you create the right winning conditions for a successful event sponsorship sales campaign.




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