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Sticky Sponsorships Rock

Rob and his firm engage in sticky sponsorships. Let’s look in on an example of one in action:

Your board chair introduces Rob, the sponsor of the day. Polite applause ushers him to the microphone. He captures the room when he shares how glad his firm is to sponsor the event. He announces three surprising facts about his firm before issuing a challenge to find a quiz on the table to submit for a prize, then introduces the speaker. As the event concludes, Rob and his coworkers linger to meet even more people. Back at the office, they compare notes, distribute a lot of prizes, and make a dozen follow-up appointments.

Sticky Sponsorships Stick

So, what’s all the hoopla about sticky sponsorships? Sticky sponsorships squirt “glue” all over participants’ minds. The glue dries clear and flexible, with the sponsor’s name glowing through.

  • Sticky sponsorships generate new relationships. They move existing ones upward in the customer acquisition process.
  • Stickiness creates a positive association between the event, the nonprofit, the business, and potential customers.
  • Sticky sponsorships return every dollar and more that sponsors invest in them.
  • By helping your event sponsors to create sticky sponsorships, you generate more revenue. Over time, you can increase your sponsorship rates. What’s more, sticky sponsorships generate “rinse and repeat” future commitments.

The Sponsorship Challenge

Most event sponsorships barely stick. Like a self-stick note taped to a brick wall, they cling in our minds for a moment before fluttering to the floor.

Want proof? Name one sponsor from the last three events you attended. At the events, you heard the sponsors’ names. You noticed the banners. You read the program. You applauded. You might even have filled in a quiz and shook the sponsors’ hands. Do you remember them?

Most of Us Fail to Remember the Sponsors. Why?

After the event, most of us fail to remember the sponsors. Why? Afterwards, en route to our offices, and in the days that follow, we’re bombarded with other names, announcements, and news. If the event sponsor’s name sticks, it’s remembered, Otherwise, it’s lost.

The good news is that research proves that even unsticky sponsorships create lasting positive impressions on attendees. However, obtaining a “positive impression” may not be enough return for a potential sponsor to invest in or renew a sponsorship with you. When I ask my business clients about their return on event sponsorships, most reply, “Not much, but we like helping the cause.” Occasionally clients can trace substantial returns. Most report nebulous gains.

Helping your sponsors to gain sticky returns on their investment supports all the labor you put into events. It assures profitable events. It improves future income.

Sticky Sponsorships Save Labor

Sticky sponsorships are labor-saving devices. Here are a few of the low-labor solutions I’ve developed:

Sticky Pre-Event

Most of the effort to create sticky sponsorships occurs before events:

  • Pick your sponsors carefully. Ask, who can benefit from sponsoring your event? Note: This is a very different question from, “Who can we ‘get’ as a sponsor?”
  • Get sticky early. Ask the business leaders to tell you who they hope will be in the room. Reach beyond fluffy answers such as, “Wealthy people who will become customers.” Instead, try to elicit detail, such as, “People who are new in town and need financial support.” Ask questions to help the sponsor sharpen the invitation focus. Might you offer some kind of joint invitation? Take back what you learn to your office and build your invitation list.
  • Suggest and help the sponsors to craft a pre, during, and follow-up event plan. How will they activate their sponsorship? How will they take advantage of each benefit in their package? Determine what, if any, help they need from you. Set early deadlines.
  • In advance, develop emails and materials to support the sponsor’s marketing efforts. To reduce your labor, explore if the sponsor can help. Would the sponsor’s marketing people like to help?
  • Ask what introductions they would like. Assign these to board members, staff, and long-time volunteers.
  • At least forty-eight hours before the event, provide an attendee list with affiliations.
  • Since sponsors can actually harm their cause by overselling and droning, work with them to script brief introductions. You have options. Consider sharing a clipping file of successful introductions. Or, provide a coaching/planning session with a volunteer expert, etc.
  • Plan your introduction of the sponsor. Make it thoughtful and memorable. If possible, include a personal endorsement.

Sticky During the Event

At most events, you’ll be enjoying greeting people and finalizing details. Support your sponsors by encouraging them, along with board members and staff, to arrive early so people can meet and connect. Station sponsors and helpers at intersections in the room so they have the opportunity to greet many guests and to help with crowd control. Ask helpers to stay nearby to catch overflow and move chatty guests along.

Sticky Ever After

After events, everyone is ready for “normal.” Post-event stickiness, however, is like pressing down on something you already glued. It provides great reward with minimal effort.

  • Within a week, call to thank the sponsors. Ask about their returns. What follow-up do you suggest? Strategize on ways to capitalize on their investment. Can you develop something together? For instance, the sponsor might gather apps, articles, or media recommended at the event and provide it to attendees. As you conclude your conversation, share that you will check in again in a month. Returns take time.
  • Call sponsors in thirty days. Report more good news about the event’s successes. Thank them for making it happen. Inquire about their results. Share any feedback you received and any insights about how the sponsor might achieve even more in the future. Let them know about their next opportunity and when you’ll be personally sharing information about it with them. (Put that date in your calendar.)
  • Add to this list. Use what you learn to make future sponsorships opportunities stickier, helping you to jet start your next event.

What sticky value will you help your sponsors create?

Karen Eber Davis, MBA

About the Contributor: Karen Eber Davis, MBA

Karen Eber Davis is a leading authority on income growth strategies for nonprofits. She helps leaders generate the ideas, resources, and money they need to fulfill their goals and create extraordinary impact.

For over twenty years, Karen has advised nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, The American Red Cross, Ringling College of Art and Design, Meals on Wheels PLUS, and many others.Karen is

7 Nonprofit Income Streams, by Karen Eber DavisKaren is author of the popular 7 Nonprofit Income Streams: Open the Floodgates to Sustainability! (CharityChannel Press, 2014) and is a contributing author to YOU and Your Nonprofit Board: Advice and Practical Tips from the Field’s Top Practitioners, Researchers, and Provocateurs (CharityChannel Press, 2013). She has published over two hundred articles in a variety of publications, including Advancing Philanthropy, CharityChannel Press, Nonprofit World, and The Nonprofit Times. Her monthly newsletter, Added Value, and column, “The Ingenious Nonprofit,” inspire leaders to find ways to realize more funding and more supporters to accomplish their mission.

Karen graduated magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut and earned her MBA in finance from the University of South Florida.

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