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Event Planning

Event Sponsorship Levels: How to Create Custom Packages and Attract Top Sponsors

A2Z Team February 13, 2024
Table of Contents
9 min read

Event sponsorship levels represent the difference between a money-losing event and one with a positive ROI. Savvy event marketers take the time and try to build sponsorship packages that appeal to their prospects' needs. They know that offering sponsorship tiers is essential in building sponsorship packets. Why? Because, for starters, people need options. Like typical software subscriptions offer levels, your event sponsorships should provide sponsorship tiers. Find out more about how and why to create sponsorship levels, what kind of benefits you should offer sponsors, and how to create a compelling pitch that resonates with your prospects.

What Are Event Sponsorship Levels?

Sponsorship levels describe the varying degrees of support and recognition a sponsor can receive from you in exchange for a fee. The more meaningful benefits you provide at each sponsorship tier, the higher the price to the sponsor. The top level of support receives top billing at the event, along with the most significant and meaningful opportunities to engage with the audience before, during, and after the event. Lower sponsorship tiers provided decreasing levels of support accordingly.

You can build your event sponsorship levels in a way that aligns with your event and the access you want to provide. Remember that prospective sponsors will be comparing event sponsorship packages, so what's most important is ensuring that the relative value and cost make sense financially.

The Benefits of Event Sponsorship Levels

The most important reason to offer structured sponsorship levels for events is that it establishes relative value for your prospects. Grocers often carry low, middle, and premium-priced items, like a gallon of milk, specifically to help prospects see the value of mid-priced items. They know that mid-priced will outsell the others, so having a premium price makes the mid seem like a value, which is why premium-priced is sometimes so much more. The low price helps establish the baseline so customers can decide whether to upgrade. Creating sponsorship tiers also forces you to strategically review what value you can bring and how that value should be split between sponsorship levels.

Less reliance on ticket sales

One way to build resiliency around your events is to create additional revenue streams like merch, VIP experience, and, of course, sponsorship tiers. By diversifying your income sources, you lessen the financial risk and reliance on ticket sales alone. If you can increase your overall revenue, the target number of visitors you need to break even drops. Plus, revenue from sponsorship levels is generated and paid in advance of the event, so you know where your revenue stands before the event even starts.

Provides Consistent Revenue

Sponsors can become valued event partners. When you can provide measurable value, sponsor partners will return, possibly even at a high sponsorship level. If your event helps them exceed goals, sponsors will want to protect their territory and keep their place to freeze the competition. Category exclusivity should only be provided for top-tier sponsors, who won't want their competitors to take their place in subsequent years. As such, follow up after your event to discuss the wins with your sponsor partners. After a positive experience, they are more likely to sign a longer-term deal to remain a sponsor, which brings you consistent revenue.

Accesses New Audiences

Another strategic benefit of sponsorship levels is that they can help you attract a more diverse range of sponsors, as lower sponsorship tiers offer an entry point that may better appeal to prospective sponsors not previously on your radar. Event marketers sometimes get so focused on their specific audience niche that it's easy to overlook adjacent audiences that would benefit from the event and its content. These under-the-radar sponsors can offer many benefits, including the chance to become higher tier, longer-term sponsors, and the potential for audience expansion they bring.

Increase sponsor visibility

Sponsorship levels force event marketers to evaluate what the event offers sponsors strategically. Creating multiple levels deepens your understanding of the value of each asset as you work to put the assets into sponsorship tiers. By thinking about the relative benefits to a sponsor, you can more easily see how the relative value of the sponsorship increases with each tier. Events with sponsorship levels are easy to spot. When you visit a trade show or event and see "presented by" with a prominent logo, you can safely assume you've identified a presenting sponsor at the highest level. Top-tier presenting sponsors are the ones with their names on arenas and jerseys, and they even have their logos on all tickets and some merchandise. Attendees would be hard-pressed not to recognize the presenting sponsor at an event.

How to Create Levels of Sponsorships for an Event

Creating sponsorship levels is a thoughtful, strategic process. It deserves you and your team's full attention, as it represents a significant opportunity for you to build a recurring, secondary revenue stream. To begin, start with a list of all the assets you have available or are willing to offer, from logo placement to email drops.

Next, check out sponsorship packages for events in and out of your category. Look at the type of sponsor assets they offer and decide if you're willing to provide something similar. For instance, some events offer (limited) access to the database of attendees, others don't.

Talk to past sponsors of your event or contacts who have sponsored other events. Ask what assets are most important to them and how they measure success. Update your master asset list accordingly.

Now, evaluate your assets to ensure that you can efficiently deliver as promised. For instance, don't offer something logistically challenging to execute or add significant costs you can't quickly recoup.

Once you've created a list of potential assets, evaluate them in aggregate. Ask yourself, "If we sell all these assets, will we still retain the integrity of our event?" No one wants to be accused of creating an event that appears to be nothing more than a pitch fest. Yet, sponsors need to see value in order to come back. Evaluate where you think that balance is.

Create preliminary sponsorship levels by sorting your assets into at least 3 tiers. The highest sponsorship tier should get the best assets, but every jump should feature something desirable.

Setting Your Sponsorship Levels

Get strategic with your sponsorship levels. You want to clearly demonstrate the value at each level as you move up from lowest to highest. When setting your sponsorship levels, consider the value you can bring. Your market can significantly influence the value of your sponsorship. Sponsors are interested in making a good impression on your audience and ultimately turning them into customers. So, the number and composition of attendees matter, as does the amount of media money you spend on promoting the event before, during, and after. A conference filled with CEOs or buyers can be more attractive to a sponsor than a roomful of entry-level employees unless their product is specifically targeted at that market.

At some events, speakers can sell from the stage (make a specific offer to your audience). Other shows prohibit doing so. Allowing a speaker to sell can positively influence the value of your sponsorship, as a small number of sales on-site can potentially result in a positive ROI for your sponsor.

While awareness is a nice-to-have, most sponsors must present a business use case that more concretely shows that supporting your event will result in a positive ROI. As a result, you need to develop opportunities for sponsors to meet their goals, so they will return year after year.

Naming Your Sponsorship Levels

Clear outperforms clever. You can name your sponsorship level anything you'd like, but the naming conventions should clearly reflect the "good, better, best" concept. That's why many sponsorship levels use relatable titles like bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, or even 1-star to 5-star.

Providing Benefits to Sponsors

The possibilities for sponsor benefits are endless. Remember the primary goals of your potential sponsors and then consider how you could help them achieve those goals. The type of benefits also depends on your event, but options include:

  • Presenting sponsor with acknowledgment on all marketing materials, on signage, and at the event
  • Official Press Release inclusion
  • Opportunities to speak at keynote or breakout sessions
  • VIP access for sponsor guests (seating, upgraded merch, hospitality, etc.)
  • VIP experiences (senior-level roundtables, 1:1 with speakers, happy hour, dinners, etc.)
  • Exclusive email to attendees
  • Social media posts, live interviews at event
  • Room drops (multi-day conferences)
  • Branded swag
  • Distribution of marketing materials or demo booths
  • Access to preview or post-event content
  • Attendee discounts for those who engage with the sponsor

Remember, it's not about the cost of your sponsorship assets that matters; it's the value. Sponsors are more willing to engage when you can deliver high value at a perceived low cost.

Tips for Successfully Pitching Your Sponsorship Levels

Developing your sponsorship packet is just the beginning of the process. Pitching potential sponsors is a sales job that requires a commitment of time and resources. Like any sales outreach, it includes:

  • Identifying the "low-hanging fruit": companies that would benefit the most by sponsoring your event
  • Building a contact list of targeted potential sponsors
  • Creating a compelling introductory pitch message and subsequent follow-up messaging customized to the contact
  • Following up on a cadence until the target says no, yes, or refers you to someone else is a significant effort that deserves the attention and commitment of resources to ensure

You can successfully pitch your sponsorship levels by showing prospective sponsors how your event can help them meet their marketing and sales goals more easily and effectively than other events or marketing options.

Understanding the Needs of Potential Sponsors

Pitching a sponsor requires more than just emailing your sponsorship packet. The best sponsorship salespeople will research the prospect's business in advance, listen to their needs and then guide them to the most appropriate level, showing how the sponsorship can help them meet their needs.

You can optimize your pitches by categorizing your prospects into ABM (Account-based marketing) segments. You can assume that prospects in a particular business vertical or sector share commonalities, such as similar target audiences, overcoming the same pain points, solving related challenges, and even facing similar buying cycles. By segmenting your sponsor targets, you can "customize" your messaging for all the prospects in a segment at once.

Crafting a Compelling Pitch

Making the sponsor pitch all about you and your event is tempting. However, the highest-converting pitches are all about the prospect. They weave a story about how the prospect's ideal audience is primed to look for solutions like theirs at the event and that your event will provide the ideal opportunity to convert these prospects into customers.

Compelling pitches clearly communicate the benefits of each sponsorship level and how the benefits grow from level to level. They show how your sponsorship solves your prospects' most significant challenges and provides access to them.

The best pitches are also aspirational. They use inspiring, compelling language to help the prospect imagine precisely how the sponsorship can transform their business results.

Using Data and Testimonials

How can you prove the value of your sponsorship? The best way is through data from past events and, ideally, testimonials from previous sponsors. This "social proof" is worth its weight in gold as it demonstrates the value you provide, the ROI that similar sponsors have realized, and, ideally, how easy your organization is to work with.

Over time, you can gather additional data and testimonials to build into future sponsorship pitches. If possible, assign a team member to get video testimonials from on-site events where happy sponsors can share their delight about the event.

Follow-up Strategies

Discuss effective follow-up strategies after the initial pitch. Provide tips on maintaining communication, addressing concerns or questions, and closing the deal.

Rarely will you get a "yes" at the time when you pitch. Ensure you don't leave your meeting without clear next steps on what the prospect needs to do to move ahead. Do they need more information from you? Will they want a digital copy of the deck to share with other stakeholders? Who makes the final decision, and when will they decide?

After the meeting, email a thank you to the attendees with an outline of the next steps and answers to their questions. Then, follow up relentlessly against the deadlines they provided. If they engage you in a meeting, they owe you an answer, yes or no.

Conclusion

Sponsor dollars help mitigate the risks of creating events by giving event planners an additional revenue stream. However, successful sponsorships need strategic development and sales support for optimization. Creating sponsorship levels will ensure that your team has strategically considered the value you can offer sponsors. Sponsor tiers give prospects a method of comparison to help them make a choice. But that's only the beginning. You need to commit resources to help identify, attract, pitch, and close sponsor prospects.

Sponsorships are just one way to grow your event ROI. Discover the many other ways that A2Z Events management software can help event managers increase profitability.