How to get sponsorships and partnerships for successful association events

Selling event sponsorships is a great way to drive revenue for your association. Here’s how to get event sponsorships and partnerships that deliver big value for your organization.

Selling event sponsorships is a great way to bring in non-dues revenue. And since your association probably already hosts multiple events, selling event sponsorships just makes good sense. But how do you get an event sponsored – especially when you have a small staff?

In this article, we’ll look at four aspects of securing sponsorships and partnerships for association events:

  • Ideas for types of event sponsorships to offer
  • Ways to balance the needs of your sponsors and members
  • Tips for marketing and selling your event sponsorships
  • Ways to provide value to sponsors to keep them coming back


Three types of event sponsorships to offer

Before you create a bunch of sponsorship and partnership opportunities for events, it can help to start by thinking more broadly about the types of event sponsorships you offer. While there are many different kinds of sponsorships, here are three sponsorship categories to consider:

  • Branding – These opportunities allow sponsors to display their logos to event attendees. Their logos might be displayed in onsite signage, the event website, emails, videos, event slides, attendee gifts, and more.
  • Lead opportunities – These opportunities give sponsors a way to collect sales leads. Opportunities might include exhibitor booths, exhibitor appointments, sponsor demos that attendees sign up to view, and sponsor content downloads in which sponsors receive contact information from the downloads.
  • Networking – With these opportunities, sponsors have a way to get to know attendees one-to-one. For example, the sponsor might be given some number of tickets to a member event so that they can meet and greet attendees. This type of opportunity might be bundled with branding so that the sponsor logo is included on the networking event invitations and signage.

With these types of event sponsorships in mind, you can begin building appealing sponsorship packages. As you do, be sure to consider how to balance the needs of your sponsors with the needs of your event attendees (your members).


How to balance the needs of your event sponsors and members

While selling event sponsorships is a great way to increase non-dues revenue for your association, irrelevant sponsor marketing and advertising can be a turnoff to your members.

It’s a bit of a balancing act. But with a thoughtful approach, you can give companies in your industry exposure to a targeted audience (your members) while giving your members valuable information about relevant products and services from your sponsors.


Here are some ideas for considering the needs of your association’s sponsors and members so that everyone wins:


For your members

  • Be upfront.
    Let your members know about the importance of sponsorships for your association. Be clear that sponsorship dollars make it possible for you to deliver the content, resources, and other member benefits your organization provides.
  • Keep things relevant.
    Partner with companies whose products and services are truly useful to your members. Otherwise, your members may grow tired of sponsored content, activities, and advertisements, and the return on investment for your sponsors will be poor.
  • Stay consistent.
    Keep your brand and member experience consistent by collaborating with sponsors in sponsored activities. For example, your members are more likely to register for a session or attend an activity that has co-branded sponsorship and is hosted by your organization. And, by co-presenting information with your sponsors, you can ensure that the member experience remains consistent.
  • Ask for feedback.
    As you conduct member satisfaction surveys, ask about their satisfaction with sponsor activities and advertisements. Also, ask what additional services and content they might like to see in the future. Then, conduct an audit of your event sponsorships to make sure your members continue to find value in them.


TIP: YourMembership association management software (AMS) by Community Brands has survey functionality built in, making it easy to build and send targeted surveys and get feedback.

For your sponsors

  • Get to know them better.
    Maintaining a strong event sponsorship program starts with understanding your sponsors’, (and potential sponsors’) needs. A great way to do this is to survey your current or past event sponsors. Ask them questions that will give you insights into how to retain them as sponsors as well as how to attract new sponsors. For example:

    • How did they hear about their latest sponsorship opportunity with your organization?
    • What benefits did they find most important to their sponsorship (such as logo visibility, number of leads, speaking slot, clicks through to content, networking)?
    • What sponsorship opportunities/benefits would they like to see in the future?
  • Offer a variety of event sponsor options.
    Using the feedback from your sponsors, offer a variety of event sponsorship packages. Be sure to provide options at various price points so that companies can select the packages that meet their goals and budgets.

Examples of sponsorship packages for events might include:

    • A booth package with signage at the event tradeshow
    • An advertising package with ad placement in conference materials
    • A package that includes a special session presentation
    • A meals or entertainment sponsorship package
    • A combination package that includes multiple sponsor benefits or even a build-your-own sponsor package

Also, consider offering event sponsors packages that include year-round opportunities. These packages could include event sponsorships as well as sponsorships for content, virtual events, and member discounts on products and services. They could also include advertising opportunities via your publications, online job board, online member community, online member directory, social media, and educational events.

TIP: Membership directory and online community functionality in YourMembership AMS include ad space capabilities, allowing you to easily place companies’ ads in multiple locations.

Tips for marketing and selling your event sponsorships

Once you have outlined your event sponsorship packages, it’s time to get the word out so that you can begin attracting sponsors for your event. Here are some tips for marketing and selling your association’s event sponsorships:

1. Build a sales kit.
A sales kit helps to communicate your association’s value and the value of your event sponsorships to companies in your industry or profession – your potential sponsors. It’s also a one-stop place for potential event sponsors to learn everything they need to know about sponsoring your events.

When you have a small staff, building a sales kit can make it easier to sell event sponsorships because, as a pre-packaged set of materials for potential sponsors, it’s an easy way to set the stage for why your association’s events are the perfect place for them to spend their budget.

A sales kit is your opportunity to really grab your potential sponsors’ attention. Of course, you’ll want to list the various sponsorship opportunities. But it’s also a chance to sell prospective sponsors on why this event is THE place for them to be.

Your sales kit can be presented on a web page and/or in a PDF format that you can also print to make available to potential sponsors in a variety of ways. Some key things to include in the sales kit:

  • Your association’s mission and background.
  • The background of your events, such as the purpose of the events, how long you’ve been hosting them, and how many people typically attend.
  • Why your event attendees are an attractive audience for the potential sponsor’s business.
  • List of event sponsorship packages with benefits and prices. Be sure to include any images or examples you can add to make the opportunities as compelling as possible.
  • Details on how to find out more and purchase a sponsorship.

2. Post the sales kit.
Create a sponsorship opportunities page on your event website and add your sales kit to it. Include a convenient form that companies can use to sign up for sponsorships. Set up automatic alerts to send the completed forms to your team that is responsible for managing sponsorships. And be sure to have a process in place for quick follow-up. If someone is interested and willing to spend money with your organization, it’s best to get them on board right away.​

TIP: YourMembership AMS includes built-in form builder functionality to help you easily create forms for sponsorships, membership applications, and more.

3. Get the word out.
Run a marketing campaign that lets previous and potential new sponsors know when your events are open for sponsorships. Make sure you provide important event information and what packages you offer. ​

Be sure to share your sponsorship opportunities in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Send targeted emails and/or text messages to past sponsors of events and conferences to let them know about your event sponsorship packages and point them to your sales kit for more information.

TIP: YourMembership has built-in capabilities to create email and SMS text messaging campaigns that can help you easily promote your sponsorship opportunities. 

  • Send a link to companies that inquire about event sponsorship packages, pointing them to the sponsorship opportunities page and sales kit on your website.
  • Post about your sponsorship program on your social media accounts. ​
  • When companies are ready to pay for a sponsorship, make it easy on them by allowing for payment through your online store. Just send your advertiser a link to the sponsorship “product” in your store, and they can quickly pay online.

TIP: YourMembership AMS includes functionality that makes it easy to sell items, including sponsorships and advertising opportunities, through a familiar online shopping cart experience.  


How to provide big value to your association’s event sponsors (to keep them coming back)

Once you have event sponsors on board, make sure you show them as much value as possible for their investment. Giving them a great experience with extra perks will help you to keep them returning again and again as event sponsors.

What most companies want from their event sponsorship is exposure to your event attendees. They also want to be known as leaders in your industry.

With these things in mind, here are some effective ways to provide big value to your association’s event sponsors:

  • Get them involved with sessions.
    Many of your sponsors and exhibitors work in your industry and have helpful insights and experience to share. Beyond asking them to sponsor a session and provide a brief intro, ask them to participate in session development. For example, they might serve on a thought leadership panel. Or they might co-develop and present a session.
  • Ask them to share data and resources.
    These same sponsors and vendors might have timely industry data and other resources. Ask them if they have recent research data, papers, articles, or other helpful resources that could be shared with attendees.
  • Provide a meeting space.
    A great bonus for sponsors is to provide them with a meeting room for one-to-one meetings with attendees. You can even facilitate by surveying attendees before the event to find out what products or services they might be looking for, and then pairing them with an appropriate sponsor or exhibitor for a meeting.
  • Help attendees find them.
    Another way to connect sponsors and exhibitors with the attendees who need their products and services is to provide an interactive online sponsor/exhibitor directory. Make sure the directory is easy to find and navigate. And be sure to include basic information, such as company descriptions, website links, and contact information.
  • Invite them to provide giveaways.
    One way to keep event attendee engagement up is to offer drawings for prizes throughout the event. Ask sponsors to “donate” items for these giveaways, and then recognize the sponsor of each giveaway as you announce each winner.
  • Ask for their input.
    One of the best ways to provide value to your sponsors and exhibitors is to ask them for feedback. Survey your sponsors after each event to find out what would make their sponsorship of your next event extra valuable. Also, ask them what’s been useful to them at other events they might have sponsored. The simple act of asking for their feedback will go a long way toward showing them that you appreciate them.


Learn more about hosting great association events.

Building compelling event sponsorship opportunities, marketing them, and making it easy for companies to sign up and pay are key to a successful event. It’s also important to have the right technology in place to support your efforts. Learn about more techniques and tools to help you plan successful association events in our new guide, The Small Staff’s Guide to Planning Great Association Events: Simple Techniques and Genius Tech Tips for Creating Next-Level Events.

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