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Finding That Magical Sponsor-Brand Alignment

What’s one of the best ways to help cut some out-of-pocket expenses and amp up engagement at your event? Sponsorship.

If you’ve ever planned a large event, you’ve probably sought out sponsors to help bear the load, and it’s a smart move. Corporations have caught on that using sponsorships and influencer marketing to promote their products is one of the savviest ways to reach their target market. It’s a great opportunity for them to show consumers their interest in a cause or event and gain their trust.

On your end, you can get a couple hundred or even thousand extra dollars in the budget in exchange for slapping a logo on brochures or setting aside a booth space. It’s an easy win-win, right?

Not so fast…while budget is important, so is taking care of number one (that’s you). Be careful not to sign with just any company offering up a nice little sum of money because at the end of the day, this is your event, your branding, and your reputation.

Here are a few things to consider when searching for the right event sponsors.

Do their values align with yours?

For instance, if you’re pulling together a health conference, you probably don’t want a tobacco company as one of your sponsors. But a holistic health supplement provider? Spot on. Or if your company is known for being eco-friendly, then you’re going to want to make sure that the sponsoring companies are equally green.

Most companies proudly display their values and mission statement on their website so do some research before signing on the dotted line. Check to see what their ideals are, what causes they support, what they hold nearest and dearest.

You might see it as just business – providing money for a service – but your audience is going to connect the sponsors with your brand, for better or worse.

How’s their reputation?

In the words of Warren Buffett, “i takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”.

For the sake of your reputation, be wary of partnering with companies that have just had a scandal or were in the public eye for a negative reason. With social media and the instant news of today’s world, it’s easier than ever for a company to make a misstep that quickly tarnishes their image. To put it into recent context, if you were sponsored by United Airlines after the customer mistreatment scandal in April 2017, it likely hurt you more than it helped.

Of course, while you can research what’s happened in the past, there’s no telling what might happen in the future. It’s always a possibility that your sponsor might make a big whoops but that’s why it’s so important to have a solid contract that protects you in case something goes wrong, as well as a good backup plan.

So who should you partner with?

You probably already know of a few brands that align with your brand and event. When you’re picking out who to pitch, though, be realistic of what you can offer in return. While it’s good to aim high, if you’re organizing a smaller or newer event, the bigger corporations will probably be out of your league for the time being.

Don’t let that discourage you, though. There are a ton of smaller independent businesses, many of which fall into the same category and are more attainable. These partnerships are a great way to build connections and they’re mutually beneficial – the smaller brand has the chance to reach a new segment of their target market (which isn’t always easy to do solo) and you get a little extra padding in the budget.

Unless you’re an influential well-known brand, it’s going to be hard convincing massive corporations of the benefits they’ll receive from sponsoring you. Unless, of course, you happen to have the leverage of an offer from their competition!

How else can you find potential sponsors?

Keep an eye on your social media. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon because they know the benefits of positive active engagement with their target market. In fact, you’ve probably interacted or connected with a company that is similar to yours or holds the same kinds of values. Check them out, then reach out and propose a partnership.

If all else fails, ask your Event Planner for ideas or find an assistant who specializes in sponsorships. There’s a good chance that they already have a network of brands interested in sponsoring events and that can make the outreach process that much easier.

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