Sponsorship is the "misunderstood" sibling of event planning

“Just find a sponsor!”

“What company wouldn’t want to pay millions of dollars for their logo on that?”

“Brands should jump at the chance to push money over the table to sponsor this event”

These are real statements I hear all of the time in the event world that make sponsorship sound as easy as going to the money tree and pulling off thousands of dollars to underwrite event expenses.  For those of you in the event world and those that regularly follow this blog, you’ll know that NOTHING in this profession is as easy as it seems.  Sponsorship is possibly the most misunderstood element of the special events industry.  Sponsorship can be counter-intuitive from the reasons sponsors are at events to the methods of engaging and thinking through sponsorship activations.

Perhaps you remember the 1992 classic Wayne’s World where Mike Meyers provides audiences with a succinct explanation of sponsorship and its intentions.  Arguably a better job than any text book or blog!


Sponsorship is a marketing function that is mutually beneficial.  Happy sponsors pay events big money to incorporate their brands into the event.  A good way to conceptually understand sponsorship is to think of it as the commercial break in a TV show.

The executive producer is responsible for creating, directing and producing a really good television program; advertisers pay to promote products during a number of agreed upon breaks in the show.   For event sponsorship this means banners, stage mentions, social media integration, stage naming rights and logo placement on marketing materials. When a TV show goes to commercial break that’s when you are subjected to the advertising that supports the program.  It’s the same thing with sponsors at an event.

Retro TV Commercial

When an event is looking to increase revenue or generate a sustainable level of capital it’s common to look at many different areas of income generation i.e. ticket sales, food & beverage concessions, merchandise sales and sponsorship.  It’s more common for an event to consider all of those concepts before thinking about sponsorship simply because an event leader can solely manage the above mentioned revenue streams without involving another entity.

Metaphorically speaking, sponsorship involves inviting someone ELSE to your “party”.  It requires an event leader to now consider the goals, objectives and mission of another entity in order to have a successful event.  If the event went well and was by all measures a success, but the sponsor did not do well (by whatever measures are previously set forth) then the event wasn’t truly successful.

Why would anyone in the event world WANT to take on more responsibility? Event leaders have all they can handle to produce a successful event on their own and now the success of another company is a priority? The answer is YES. That’s why the sponsor pays money…so that the event leader CAN take on more responsibility.

The trick is to work with sponsors to develop platforms that truly engage audiences and connect with the event attendees in such a way that it doesn’t feel like awkward advertising.  Sort of like when you’re watching a TV show and it goes to commercial and you find yourself saying, “I love this commercial” or “That commercial is hilarious”.  From the Budweiser “WASSUP!” campaign, to Betty White getting tackled in the Snicker’s commercial or nodding your head in favor of Eminem’s attempt to make “Imported from Detroit” a positive new trend.

The bottom line is that when the advertising is captivating it can even make the program you are watching more interesting.  When event sponsors are creative, funny and clever attendees are more likely to respond favorably.  Attendees that leave events with positive comments about the event sponsors is a WIN / WIN for event leaders and the companies that support their initiatives.

Sponsorship is an excellent way to increase revenue and allow the event to purchase bigger acts, design cooler props and enhance the overall event experience.  It’s just a matter of working together to develop a concept that best compliments the event attendees AND the sponsor.

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