Ask the Experts: Pro Tips for Building Sponsor Relations

by Callie Walker

If you work in marketing, event planning, or a position that requires you to wear many hats (Executive Directors and Membership Managers, we’re looking at you), chances are, you’ve had to work with sponsors at some point in time — whether it was recruiting sponsors, developing sponsorship packages, creating recap reports to demonstrate ROI, or all of the above. 

And if you have had experience in sponsor relations, well…you know it’s no easy task. We could ALL use a little help! 

That’s why I’ve turned to the experts. I asked a few marketing pros here at MemberClicks what advice they’d pass along to other professionals seeking to build sponsor relations. Here’s what they had to say:

Erin Hall, Product Marketing Manager at MemberClicks 

“Always remember, your sponsors are more than their logo. In other words, allowing them to have a space to contribute to the association or chamber just as much as professional-side members do, is a really good way to create engagement and instill organizational pride in the sponsor representatives who are involved. This, of course, makes the decision to re-up a sponsorship on a yearly basis much easier.

Also, if you’re going to ask your sponsors for feedback on the value of their sponsorship, you should be prepared to make some changes based on that feedback, especially if turnover is high.

And one more tip: This is a little tactical, but a very nice touch. At the end of each year, maybe at your final board meeting, take 20 minutes to pass around thank you cards for each board member to sign. Those cards will then go to supporting sponsors. The personal touch goes along way! Maybe have the Executive Director write a nice heartfelt note in there as well.”

Colleen Bottorff, Inbound Marketing Specialist at MemberClicks 

“It’s important to have a plan of attack for managing each sponsor’s activation while you’re on-site. One thing I’ve done in the past is create a matrix so I can keep track of what each sponsor has in their package, and what’s already been taken care of before the event starts. (That’ll typically be things like logos are on correct signage, they’ve received attendee lists, a guest blog post has been published, etc.) Then, create a checklist per sponsor for the things you need to ensure will happen on-site. Keeping yourself organized will make it easy to fulfill your end of the sponsorship agreement and give you more time and energy to go above and beyond the value they were expecting and really build a relationship. You want them to return, after all!”

Lindsay Smith, Director of Marketing at MemberClicks

“Sponsorships are a two-way street. Yes, you want and need suppliers at your event to help with funding and to provide your attendees with even more value. But, what are their goals? To generate leads? To build brand awareness? To network with other industry professionals? 

Having a better understanding of what your sponsors are trying to get from the event will not only help you build the right sponsorship package for them, but also help you understand how to appropriately measure success. 

And speaking of sponsorship packages, don’t try and box all of your sponsors into the same three or four (or more) packages. Allow some flexibility! And don’t be afraid to think outside the box in terms of your offerings. More creativity will likely lead to a better attendee experience, which will then likely lead to a better sponsor experience.”

So there you have it: Tips from the pros for building sponsor relations. Have any pro tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below! 

And if you are planning an event and need help beyond the sponsorship component, check out our free guide below. In it, you’ll find tips and best practices for before, during, and after your event — to really make it top-notch! 

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