At your association events, especially the bigger ones, sponsors can be both a blessing and a curse. The pros include physical and financial help with the event. The cons could include diverted attention from the real event and your members feeling like they’re being marketed to at an event they’ve already paid for. There is a way to put on an amazing event that everyone will love, from your members to your sponsors. Here’s how.
1) Be really clear about opportunities and expectations
When you approach sponsors or they offer to sponsor your event be very clear about what you’re getting in cash and services and what they’re getting in business opportunities. Already have discussed with the planning committee and board different levels of sponsorship and decide if you want to have specific sponsors. For example, do you want to have a technology sponsor, a WiFi sponsor, etc? Or would it be simpler to have silver, gold, and platinum sponsors based on commitment? Be clear where logos will be used and what kind of information you’ll need from the sponsor for information in the programs, on t-shirts, signage, and so on. You’re more likely to land sponsors if you’re clear about the amount of exposure you’ll give them and you’re more likely to have a smooth experience if they know exactly what the boundaries are.
2) Have a set schedule
Will your sponsors be present with a booth or marketing materials? Be sure it’s clear when presenting your sponsorship proposal when members will be able to interact with any people the sponsor sent. Perhaps the sponsorship simply includes materials to be handed out in a conference bag. Be sure sponsors know the opportunities they’ll have to reach their target audience. This also protects your members from being marketed too constantly throughout the event, which they will appreciate.
3) Inform your members that sponsors will be attending
It’s certainly not surprising for a big association event to have sponsors, but in your pre-event marketing material be sure to note who the sponsors are. This will give your sponsors a little pre-show boost and encourage them to promote your event, too. This will also inform your members what to expect. Having this set in advance will also give sponsors time to evaluate if any competitors are also sponsoring the event as well.
4) Don’t bring on any sponsors your committee and board aren’t comfortable with
As always, use open communication with your event planning committee and your board. If, for some reason, a proposed sponsor doesn’t fall in line with the mission and vision of your association it may not be a good fit regardless of how much money they’re willing to put in. In your paperwork and solicitations be sure to note that all applications are appreciated but your association reserves the right to refuse sponsorship if it does not fit.
5) Be sure you get along with the sponsors personally
This seems like a negligible detail, but it’s important. Successful association events almost always include a social aspect and by allowing sponsors to come on you are inviting them to your event, possibly in its entirety. Sponsors may choose to come to social events and if the personalities just don’t work with your membership it might be wise to consider that. For example, if you have a somewhat quiet and reserved membership chances are you don’t want someone who’s going to be really rowdy. Remember this is all about good experiences for your members.
Above all, keep communication open and make these decisions as a group with your board and event planning committee.
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