Hey Kenzi -
The best experiences I’ve had with sponsorships has come from doing a bit of research on the companies you want to reach out to first, and figure out what their priorities are. You can look at other events/programs that they sponsor, or even reach out to their sponsorship/marketing team to ask if they have any specific goals or priorities that they try to hit when looking for a sponsorship.
Then, when you create your sponsorship tiers, you can offer something that you KNOW they want!
I also look for ways that I can turn them into an active participant, rather than a passive contributor. This may rule out potential sponsors…but it’ll create massive opportunity for creating long term value with a sponsor who actually engages with the community instead of simply writing checks.
The last thing to consider is…what exactly do your members care about? Mutual benefit and alignment is key. It’s easy to slap a logo on a wall and offering conference room space, but take into account how that impacts your members, both positively and negatively. Companies want to be “seen” in a certain way and sponsorship can help with that. But it actually works best when members are on board with it, too.
I used this to land us a HUGE sponsorship: the sponsor originally wanted to put their logo on a wall and essentially “brand” our meeting space so they could tell meetups to use it…but I did a little bit of research and discovered that they really wanted opportunities for their employees to get to know people in the wider tech community. I was able to put together a 3 part sponsorship package that included:
Sponsor logo/credit for upgrading a piece of technology that our members use every day, displayed in a friendly/tasteful way
A special monthly event series that would allow their employees and our members/neighbors to come together and network
A pre-paid block of memberships that they can offer their employees as a perk. (we specifically avoid giving out general company memberships - we’d rather employees actually become active members of the community, rather than just people who come in and crash a conference room once in a while.
We offered all three options as individual sponsorships, but they opted to pick all three (meaning more $$ for us, and a longer-lasting relationships with the sponsor).
And don’t forget you can offer alternatives or even just say “no” to items that are deal breakers. We once had a prominent company who really wanted to sponsor us…but in return, they wanted access to email our members directly (100% non-starter) and other kinds of unnatural brand placement (joint press releases, etc). We turned the whole thing down.
In all cases, the most important part is finding a person who is a decision maker and figuring out what their priorities are. From there, look for ways your goals and theirs align, and specifically for ways they can help improve you and your community (while them benefiting from the brand awareness and equity they earn as participants).
Hope this helps you think about ways to land great deals and built long-term business relationships between your sponsors and the community they’re helping support!
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