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How to Find Sponsors for Your Webinars and Virtual Events

Going digital shouldn’t mean leaving sponsor dollars on the table

Of all the industries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, live events ranks right up there with restaurants, bars, movies theaters, and concert venues. If people are forbidden from coming together, how can you possibly host a successful event?

Well, many event producers are trying to recreate the magic of live events through digital conferences, webinars, and virtual trade shows. But, there’s one huge problem with this transition…

Sponsors

For those unfamiliar with the live event space, sponsorship dollars frequently make up a huge percentage of the profit margins on events. In fact, as someone that spent many years running their own sponsorship management agency, and currently teaches thousands of students how to write successful sponsorship proposals, I know first-hand how many event producers both big and small that not only want sponsorship dollars to survive — they need sponsorship dollars to survive.

And unfortunately, many sponsors are not jumping to digital.

But thankfully, this can be fixed. In fact, digital sponsorships can be as effective, if not more effective, as a live event sponsorship. You just need to know how to offer value to your sponsors in a virtual environment.

To help everyone out there struggling to get their newly-digital events off the ground, I am here to share some proven tips I’ve used in my own business to find big sponsor deals for webinars and virtual events.

The Golden Rule of Sponsorships Still Applies

The first step in finding sponsors for your digital events and webinars is to remember the golden rule of sponsorships: Connect their brand with your audience.

It’s that simple. At the end of the day, an event sponsorship is nothing more than a bridge connecting one side (your audience) with another side (your sponsors). And your job as an event creator is to make sure that this is a bridge both sides want to cross.

How? Through Audience Matching.

Too many people paint sponsorships with a big, broad brush. Their idea of finding sponsor leads is a matter of looking towards the biggest companies in town and sending them a generic sponsor letter. “Company X has a ton of money…” they say, “so of course they’ll want to sponsor our event!”

But here’s the problem: sponsorships aren’t charity. Even if you’re looking for sponsors for a charity event, you still need to show your potential sponsors that you can provide real, tangible value to their organization.

Audience Matching is the process of matching your event’s audience with a potential sponsor’s audience. It’s about finding businesses that make sense for your digital event. Specifically, it’s about finding businesses that want to connect with the group of people you’re bringing together.

No matter how much money “Company X” may have, if their target customer base is 18 to 25-year-old females, and you’re hosting a virtual event targeting retired men 65 years or older, no amount of salesmanship in the world can ever convince them that sponsoring your event is a good idea. There is zero return on investment (ROI) for them, because the audiences do not match.

Instead, you need to utilize Audience Matching to narrow down your list of potential sponsors, and then focus on this targeted group of companies. Ones you know will want to cross that bridge and reach your audience. By employing this Audience Matching technique, you will be able to supercharge your sponsorship efforts, and drastically reduce the time you spend chasing leads that don’t make sense (no matter how big their marketing and sponsorship budget may be).

Audience Matching allows you to tell your sponsor prospects that a sponsorship of your digital event is an invitation to have a direct conversation with their potential customers. To be put in a virtual room with 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 of their prospects, and engage with them directly.

And if you’ve done your homework, and correctly matched their audience with yours, they’ll be signing up faster than you can put a sponsorship proposal into their hands.

Offer Your Sponsors Unique Digital Assets

Once you understand the brands you’re going to target for your virtual event through Audience Matching, it’s time to figure out what sponsorship assets you can offer them. In order to identify the assets you should offer as part of your virtual event sponsorship program, there are two basic questions you need to ask yourself:

1. What are the sponsor’s objectives?

2. What can I offer them to help achieve these objectives?

It’s really that simple. What are they looking to achieve, and how do I get them there? How can it be that easy? Well, legendary leadership coach Zig Ziglar said it best:

“To get what you want, help others get what they want.”

By creating a sponsor-first mentality, and working hard to create a program that works for them (and not a self-serving program that works for you), you are all but guaranteed to create a program so valuable, sponsors will be clamoring to get on board with your virtual event or webinar.

So, what are some common sponsor objectives? According to sponsorship data firm IEG, here are the most commonly identified objectives based on a survey with sponsorship decision makers:

1. Brand Awareness
2. Showcasing Community and Social Responsibility
3. Generating Unique Content
4. Generating Leads/ Stimulating Sales
5. Obtaining Audience Data

Now, many people may think that they are extremely limited in what they can offer sponsors as part of their digital event. But it just takes a little creativity and ingenuity. Let’s go objective-by-objective and think of some ways to help our sponsors achieve these goals virtually:

Brand Awareness

· Place sponsor logos on all pre-event emails, website, and registration page
· Place sponsor logos on all live event slide decks
· Have all virtual speakers make mention of the sponsors during each presentation
· Invite reps from sponsor company to give presentations themselves (showcasing their brand in the process)
· Include sponsor brands in social media activity

Showcasing Community and Social Responsibility

· Have the event chair send out an email to all guests thanking sponsors and reminding attendees that the event would not be possible without them
· Create a charitable component to your event and have it branded with one or more of your sponsors

Generating Content

· Release sponsor-branded articles leading up to your event
· Allow sponsors to share special video content with your network
· Release press releases announcing your partnership with sponsors
· Offer sponsor-exclusive email newsletters to your attendee list
· Conduct virtual sponsor interviews
· Allow sponsors the rights to use of your event’s marks, images, and other content on their own channels

Generating Leads/Stimulating Sales

· At signup ask parties interested in learning more about a sponsor to check a specific box and share those leads with said sponsor
· Distribute white papers, digital product samples, and more on behalf of your sponsors
· Distribute special sponsor coupon codes and offers to guests via email
· Have sponsors share a video product demo and distribute to attendees
· Set up a “Virtual Trade Show Booth” via a separate webinar where a sponsor rep can walk interested attendees through their product

Obtaining Audience Data

· Share any high-level audience demographic data you compile with sponsors
· Offer an emailed survey to your audience on behalf of sponsors

You get the idea. This is just a starting point, but it should help you realize that there is a lot more to offer sponsors for your webinars and virtual events than you might think. Just remember what objectives they are looking to achieve, and get creative with ways you can help achieve them.

Build the Perfect Sponsorship Proposal

Once you’ve identified the audience and value you’re creating, it’s time to articulate that value to sponsors. This is best achieved through a well-developed Sponsorship Proposal Deck. Arguably the most vital component of any sponsorship pitch, we’ve seen proposals range from a half-page word document to a 30-page professionally designed package. The length will vary based on your business, prospect, and opportunity, however all the proposals we build for our clients follow our proven outline:

Cover

Sponsorship proposals are a situation where the book is almost always judged by its cover. Take the time to put together a clean, eye-catching cover that helps the recipient visualize the opportunity. More than just a logo, try to insert something that highlights the value of what you’re offering.

Don’t have a designer on staff? There are plenty of online tools to help you create great designs with just a few mouse clicks. Personally, we’re big fans of Canva, which has a ton of excellent drag-and-drop templates for a variety of applications.

Personalization

One of the most often overlooked pieces of a sponsorship proposal, adding some sort of personalized information is vital if you want to maximize your chances of landing that sponsor. Ideally you should dedicate a full page to this, and include your prospect’s name and title, as well as a high-res version of their brand’s logo.

Opportunity Overview

From there, you want to provide prospects with a high-level overview of the opportunity you are offering. The value proposition should be front and center here, as the prospect needs to know exactly how this opportunity will bring them value.

Target Market

A clear outline of your target market is a must for any sponsorship proposal. Prospects need to know if there is proper market overlap. You should include a profile of whom your virtual event targets, complete with demographics (such as age, sex, location), and psychographics (desires, fears, needs and wants).

It’s tempting to list a broad market in hopes of making it inclusive of a variety of sponsors. However, this will only cause you issues in the long run. No company, large or small, can compete in a market that is too large and vague. Target Markets such as “All Pet Owners” or “All Women” are not nearly specific enough, and will force you to spend a great deal of time and money chasing the wrong individuals. Even mass-market products like Facebook and Coca-Cola have specific, detailed target markets they focus on at various stages of their product lifestyle. Be sure to do the same, and show the sponsor leads reading your proposal that you know exactly who you are targeting.

Advertising and Marketing Plan

Sponsors want to know they are joining a winning team. If you’re not out there promoting your event, why will they want to invest money to partner with you?

Show your leads that you’re actively pushing your digital event forward. Use this part of the sponsorship proposal to discuss your own advertising and marketing efforts, and how the sponsor would benefit in turn if they partner with you.

Activation Ideas

Now is your time to shine. Showcase all the hard work and effort you’ve put into understanding your sponsor lead’s needs, wants, and objectives, and create a series of Activation Ideas for their brand. These are not standardized, one-size-fits-all, “Gold, Silver, Bronze” sponsorship packages. No, these are customizable programs developed specifically for this lead.

Highlight a selection of your sponsorship assets that you believe will best serve the sponsor, and identify exactly what objectives you intend to achieve for them with this activation. Also be sure to reiterate that everything is customizable, and that this is by no means a “yes or no” sponsorship package.

The number of Activation Ideas you include is entirely up to you, however we recommend somewhere between 2 and 4. By including multiple, the sponsor lead will develop a broader understanding of just how robust your virtual sponsorship programs are, and how there are activations for nearly every type of objective they could be looking to achieve.

Pricing

It’s tempting to put pricing in your proposal. It really is. You feel like it’s incomplete without it. However whenever possible, we encourage you to save pricing for a separate follow-up conversation with your prospect. Your sponsorship proposal is about excitement. It’s about visualization. It’s painting a picture for your prospect, one that has them immediately picking up the phone to call you to learn more.

If price is included at this stage, you’ve created a decision point for your lead, which means there is the potential for “no.” Worse yet, you’re not even going to be in the room while they are mulling over this decision. They will be weighing the pros and cons of your proposal and pricing blind.

By leaving price off your initial sponsorship proposal, you have greatly increased your chance for a follow up conversation. This conversation is where you will obtain even more understanding of the sponsor’s objectives, wants, and feelings on the activation ideas you submitted. From there, you can further customize your suggested activations until you know they are perfect. Then, and only then, will you want to start discussing pricing with your sponsor.

Getting Started

The world of events is changing rapidly. As digital adoption of large-scale conferences, trade shows, and other events takes off, now more than ever it’s import to understand how to find sponsors for your webinars and virtual events. Because even in the digital space, sponsors can ultimately be the difference between a successful event, and one that hemorrhages money.

Looking to find sponsorships for your virtual events or webinars? Be sure to check out our acclaimed course How to Write a Sponsorship Proposal that Earns.

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