If there is one truism for all events, it is that attendees don’t want to spend more money than they have to. That’s a challenge all planners face when trying to improve their product each year. Ron Seaver, president of SponsorFx, has one word for planners (and it’s not plastics): sponsorships. It is through sponsors Seaver was able to keep his National Sports Forum alive after it drew three people in 1996, its first year, and 32 the following year. In February, about 1,000 attendees were in Cincinnati for the Forum’s 20-year anniversary. Sponsorships take many meals, audiovisual equipment and off-site activities (like the Budweiser Gala) off of Seaver’s books. Senior Editor Matt Swenson gleaned five tips from Seaver, a speaker at Connect Marketplace later this year, for planners in need of help in the sponsorship game.
- Polish your diamond. Seaver says to spend the first year perfecting your event and drawing the type of attendees you want so you can sell an established product the next year. Otherwise, “you are asking sponsors to take a big leap of faith,” Seaver says. “If you don’t have a track record creating success stories, the chances they are going to write you a check of substance is fairly remote.”
- Go to your herd. Don’t have access to a sponsor you want? Ask one of your attendees who can help set up a meeting for you. Seaver relies on a steering committee to help build opportunities. “Kevin Bacon used to talk about six degrees [of separation],” says Seaver. “Thanks to LinkedIn and other social media, you are only three steps away from anyone you want to reach.”
- Find your Budweiser. “So many people come to me and say, ‘You have such an in-born business like Budweiser,’ and my argument to them is we all have our own Budweiser,” says Seaver. Find the big fish in your industry and sell them on the importance of getting in front of your audience.
- Give sponsors their moment. Sponsors don’t want to be lumped together with other sponsors, and attendees don’t want to sit through a laundry list. “You don’t want to turn off your audience by making it feel like a pitchfest,” he says. That’s why Seaver spreads outs his callouts to the Forum’s sponsors, giving them a brief moment of exclusivity
- Get creative. “You can put a package together any way you want,” Seaver says. At this year’s Forum, he cut a deal with a sponsor in which he would give a credit based off the number of paid attendees it could bring to the event. If sponsor didn’t reach a certain threshold, it would make up the difference. The sponsor didn’t bring in the numbers it hoped to, but Seaver was covered financially by the arrangement.