The key to sponsorship is to target brands whose target customer aligns with your participation base. A company that is interested in female consumers will likely not be a good fit for a race that has 15 masters men’s category and only one women’s field. Do your research and figure out how to make your event a great brand match.
Your pitch should always be customized to the potential sponsor's needs. Have a conversation first and then send over a customized proposal once you understand their goals for event sponsorships.
Using that female-focused brand as an example, think of ways your event will allow that brand to speak to that customer. In addition to typical event sponsorship offerings, such as logo placements and signage, you might consider offering them the following:
- 2 for 1 entries for the female employees (bring a friend)
- Host a women’s specific clinic (or other women specific programming) as part of your event weekend and give them title or presenting status
- Partner them with other women friendly brands if that works at your event
- Highlight sampling opportunities for the female participants
- Do targeted emails to your female registrants, past and present
- Use a female ambassador from your racing community or organization to do outreach in their name
- Targeted paid social campaigns focused on the brand’s support of your event and their messaging to the female customers - $20 on FB goes a long way!
- Social media posts focused on the connection to female athletes
As you can see, creating a return on investment for your sponsors requires work beyond simply hanging up signage at your event. And it can cost you some $$. Be sure you are keeping track of the costs associated with these deliverables as you make and update your budgets so you don’t spend more on deliverables than your event can afford. An event that promises over half a million dollars of hard costs in deliverables for a sponsorship that is only worth $350,000 is not the goal.
Making Your Pitch
From the marketing perspective, here are a few things you should consider:
- Respect the budget cycle. Keep in mind that most brands have made their marketing budgets in the Fall before the start of the calendar year. Work with that timeline. Sure, some companies will set aside money in a slush fund for opportunities that crop up throughout the year but it’s best not to rely on that. Bringing your partners in early so they can actually make their own activation plans sets their investment in you up for success.
- Know your target. Create a pitch that resonates with the company you are pitching. It doesn’t have to be grand. It can be as simple as going to a local restaurant and promising, in exchange for sponsorship of volunteer lunches, to put a takeout menu and punch card in every race bag. This would reflect your understanding of a reasonable sized request for the size of the business and provide them with what they need (getting their menu into people’s hands along with a frequent diner punch card or coupon).
- Create win-win opportunities. The most important thing when making the pitch is to look at all aspects of your event and figure out how you can parcel them out to sponsors in a way that benefits both parties. Be realistic. Don’t promise a global audience if your broadcast is really just a guy standing at the finish line running Facebook live on his smart phone. However, do get creative.
- Make a list of all your standard event inventory.
- Signage Options – course side and overhead
- Individual Event Sponsorship: Sponsor the Women’s categories, Juniors', etc.
- VIP Hospitality
- Pouring Rights
- Specific Course locations or features
- Specific Race Services (official bike wash partner?)
- Sampling and Sales
- Podium Backdrops
- Social Media
- Event Collateral
- Ancillary Events / Parties / Clinics
- Entry Fees
- Media – live, digital, print, local (sponsor the live feed)
- Logo Placements – jerseys, backdrops, signage, banner advertising, website, FB event pages, merchandise
- Merchandise Sponsorships – the official shoe sponsor, etc.
- Advertising: With a clever media partnership, can you get dedicated ads in publications for your sponsors in addition to event advertising?
From there, think about what you could do specifically for each individual sponsor that plays to their customized needs. A bourdon sponsor might like pouring rights in VIP and sponsorship of the 45-49 year old male category for example, and those guys could receive bourbon on the podium. They might love to give out branded shot glasses to all the adult categories.
Include those tailored options in your deck along with the standard menu of benefits and price it according to the actual value of the exposure provided and you could very well be off and running.