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Festivals, fairs and fundraisers – Oh my!

It doesn’t matter if you own a small business or a big business, or how long you’ve been in business, sooner or later you’re going to be “hit up” to be a sponsor of…something.

You know the drill. Perhaps it’s a school needing sponsors for a team; a non-profit organization putting on a gala fundraising event; or a group raising money to save an historic building. Sponsorships come in all shapes and sizes – and requests come in all amounts of money, too.

Once upon a time, sponsorships were simple. You got a t-shirt, maybe a couple of tickets and eternal gratitude. Nowadays, sponsorships are big business, and it’s serious business.

In some cases, the “cause” you’re asked to support may be something very close to your heart, something you are interested in on a personal level. You give without expecting anything in return. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s one of those feel-good-things that make the U.S. of A. so absolutely wonderful.

But sponsorships can also be a good way to get your business name – your brand – out into the community, especially to a targeted group of folks who might want to be your customer. If you’re like most business owners, you have a limited amount of money to spend, and you may get 20, 30 or more requests a year. How do you decide what to support, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the group or the event?

There are some simple questions to ask, questions that should be easily if not immediately answered, to help you make a wise decision:

  1. Is there a sponsorship packet available showing the different levels and what a sponsor receives at each level?
  2. How long has the group been in existence?
  3. Does their website have opportunities for sponsor advertising (generally called banner advertising)?
  4. Does it have IRS tax-exempt status? Some groups may not have the type of status that allows donations to be tax-exempt. This may not be important - talk to your accountant about using your sponsorship as either as a marketing item or a donation. It could help you decide the viability of the group.
  5. Who is on their board – they do have a board, right?
  6. If the request is for an event, how many years has it taken place?
  7. How many people attended the event the last three years and is there a targeted age group? Demographics are all-important for you and your business.
  8. Are tickets being sold for the event, or is it free? Ticket pricing can also help determine demographics.

A few other things to consider is how sponsorships are billed – immediately payment, payment after the event, monthly payments.  Are multi-year sponsorships available and if so, could there be a discount?

Ask to see pictures and press releases/copies of press coverage – and examples of what previous sponsors have received in the way of printed recognition.

Many sponsorship levels include your logo on a poster. Don’t ask how many posters are printed – ask how many are thrown away. Placing posters has become more and more difficult in the past few years and many organization print far too many (and waste money).

Generally, good sponsorship packages will include opportunities for logo placement on printed advertising or event materials, banners for display during the event, advertising discounts, free tickets, and even free booths or spaces – a “presence” – at the event.

Look for opportunities while you’re listening to the pitch. Some ideas may come to you and there should be some flexibility by the group to at least consider your ideas. 

  • A plumbing company could sponsor a water balloon fight after a high school track meet.
  • A fencing company might sponsor pet adoptions during a gardening expo.
  • The county fair could be a great place for a craft store to give out small baskets of beginning sewing supplies or kits to youngsters.

The marketing opps associated with sponsorships could be awesome, with just a bit of homework and imagination. If you find the right fit, with the right cause, you might find the perfect partnership that may last for years to come.

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Vicki Felmlee

Vicki Felmlee is a former newspaper reporter and editor, and holds a degree in Geology which she actually used for 10 years before starting her own business, TCS Marketing Group, Inc., in 1996. She serves on various boards and committees and is currently president of Palisade Sunrise Rotary.

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