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How To Get a Sponsor for Your First Event

This guide will help you get a sponsor for your event. It’s written by someone with over 15 years of event sponsorship experience,

If you’ve always wanted to have a sponsor for your events or wanted to do your first event and get sponsors, this guide will help you.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think!

Ramon Ray, publisher, ZoneofGenius.com; motivational speaker and event host – RamonRay.com

What’s Inside?

About the Author – Ramon Ray

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Ramon Ray has produced large events with global brand sponsors since 2005. He’s an in-demand event host and motivational speaker for corporate events and association conferences.

A few of the events he’s produced include:

  • The Small Business Summit in New York City, starting in 2005. He sold it years later!
  • The Small Business Influencer Awards with Anita Campbell, Publisher of Small Business Trends
  • Small Business Technology Tour, sponsored by Microsoft
  • and many other marquee events.

Ramon’s the LEADING expert on hosting, producing and organizing events for small businesses.

Sponsors he has directly partnered with have included – Zoho, Dell, Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Verizon and many other brands.

Ramon’s started 5 small businesses and sold 3 of them. He’s authored 5 books include, “Celebrity CEO” (all about personal branding). He’s been on stage with Deepak Chopra, Gary Vayerchuk, Seth Godin, Simon Sineck and others.  See more about Ramon at RamonRay.com

Ramon’s First Sponsor Almost Didn’t Happen

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In 2005 I was on the phone with Intuit, makers of Quickbooks. I had pitched them on the idea to sponsor my first conference, the Small Business Summit. An event live, in New York City, held at the Roosevelt Hotel, near Grand Central Station.

I got on the phone and heard several “beeps”. These beeps represented the people from Intuit who were on the conference call. When I got connected it was ONE beep – just me.

The good folks at Intuit were thorough, professional and very nice. They asked me smart questions:

  • Had I done this event before
  • Could I guarantee that 300 people would attend

The answers to these questions were no. I was crestfallen.

However, minutes later, I shared with them the following:

  • My experience in building communities and bringing people together
  • The NY area brand I had developed in the small business community
  • I sold them on the passion and professionalism I had to do the event
  • I shared the vision of a big stage with hundreds of people, their perfect customers

Days later I received a check for about $20,000 – Intuit Quickbooks was one of my first sponsors.

Years later, my sponsors have included Dell, Zoho, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, Salesforce and many other brands.

That was my story, what’s your story going to be?

Here’s your blueprint for how to get sponsors for YOUR next event.

Take Action

Take Action: One of the biggest hurdles in getting your first sponsor is your own MINDSET and SELF-LIMITING beliefs. Check out Jon Acuff’s book “Soundtracks”. One
of many books I recommend about getting rid of the head trash that stops us. Need a referral to someone who can help you? Want to talk about this some more? 
Contact me.

Sponsors not Donors

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One of the biggest challenges I see in new event organizers who are seeking sponsors is they mix the word sponsors and donors. 

They are NOT the same.

Sure, an event organizer wants money for their event. So they figure, great, a donor can give me money or a sponsor can give me money.

However, the words we use for the money we get, it matters.

A donor gives to the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Salvation Army. The only thing they’re getting back is a) maybe a tax write off and most important b) they get the FEELING of joy happiness of giving to a cause. They FEEL great in helping the organization fulfill their mission.

A sponsor is investing their money in your events success. You want an investor, not a donor.

Ramon Ray

A SPONSOR is INVESTING their money with the desire to get a return on their investment through your event.

They are sponsoring (not donating) $5,000 for a “sponsor table” and expecting to get people stopping by the table (or booth), adding business cards to their plastic fish bowl, so the sponsor can build their leads or something else.

The sponsor is INVESTING their money into your event as they hope to make sales. They want sales at the event or sales after the event. 

Maybe it’s not DIRECT sales that the sponsor is wanting from your event, it could be brand building, it could be connections.,

But the SPONSOR is not looking to DONATE to your event. They want to SPONSOR IT.

A sponsor and donation are two different things!

Ramon Ray

How to Craft Your Event for a Sponsor

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There’s not one way to have the perfect event for a sponsor. It could be an event with 50 people in a small restaurant – and this could be sponsored. It could be a 500 person event in a hotel ballroom. There’s many ways to attract the right sponsor for your event.

The key is to indeed match your event to the right sponsor.

What has the sponsor done before and what are they looking for now?

Overall a sponsor is only looking for a few things:

  • Leads from the event to convert to a sale soon after the event – or after time
  • Sales leading directly from the event and in that case they might want to speak from the stage
  • Brand recognition with your event to align their brand with your event
  • Connections with your event attendees or speakers for their sales team or executives

So now the challenge is up to you.

Talk to future potential sponsors, do your own research and find out what kind of event can you create or do you want to create that aligns with your sponsor.

If your sponsor is a local auto dealer, them having a sustained presence at smaller event in a restaurant could be amazing. But this same time of event might not be a great fit for a large global brand with a national sales team.

Is your event going to have a stage, great lighting and be a more “premium event”, although this costs more, it might earn you the right to get.

Take Action

Take Action:  Need a referral to someone who can help you craft your first event? Want to talk about this some more? Contact me.

How To Get In Touch with a Sponsor

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Getting a sponsor is NOT easy but it is quite doable! I’ve done it so many times in the last several years!

Cold calls and cold relationships

The hard way is through cold calls or connections. LinkedIn can give you access to just about anyone you want to reach. Just look up the right terms. And remember many business sponsorship dollars are not controlled by the “head of brand sponsorships” unless they’re a very big company.

I’ve sold over a million dollars worth of sponsorships, that’s a good guess, and the sponsorship dollars have been through someone who manages sales, marketing and/or the PR team. These professionals have been the decision maker and/or a powerful influencer of the decision of the CMO, CEO or VP to say yes!

Warm relationships are better.

The easier way, but the one that takes longer, is to build a relationship with the right person over time. 

Through my podcast and my blog, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing amazing executives to share their knowledge with the small business community. Oftentimes I’ve worked with their media relations teams to schedule the interview. I’ve first shown value.

Why do they want to be on my podcast or be featured on my blog? Because these assets help them reach small business owners.

So over the years, when I’ve produced amazing events, such as the Small Business Summit – I’ve simply reached out to these same people and given them the opportunity to sponsor.

They already know, like and trust me, so half the work is done.

Now it’s just a matter of do they have the budget, do they sponsor, is this the right time and etc.

Let’s say you’re a travel planner and you want to do your first event, gathering 100 people to attend a 3 day conference about how to travel to high-end destinations and have the time of your life. 

The event is gonna cost you $10,000 – let’s say.

Your perfect sponsor is a cruise line or an airline or a luggage company or some other service.

Start by having the executives from these brands on your own podcast, featured in your own blog. Now you have the relationship and now you can pitch them on sponsoring your event.

Take Action

Take Action: Ready to invest the time in putting together your first blog or podcast? Need help getting it done. I’m happy to refer you to a few resources who can help you put together or setup your first blog or podcast. Contact me.

Learn How To Sell

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I’ve not been professionally trained in how to sell, but I’m pretty good at it. I’ve sold tickets to events, sponsorships to events and more.

Over the years I’ve picked up tips on selling from many amazing sales professionals.

You should learn how to sell as well.

Even if you get someone, who knows, likes and trusts you, on the phone or an email chat, if you don’t know a few things about sales, you might not get the sale. If you know how to sell your chances of getting the sale are increased. Here’s a few tips:

  • Listen and understand what the client wants
  • Do research ahead of time to know what they might want
  • Be very clear in what you can and cannot do
  • Don’t over promise
  • Do consider adjusting what you’re offering to fit their needs if you’re able to do so

This last point is important. I was working with a brand once, who said they had some extra budget to invest in my event. They asked me what else I had to offer. I thought about it and came up with an amazing sponsor, attended by influencers, which they were very happy to sponsor.

I didn’t have this opportunity before, but in listening to their needs I craft it, on the spot and they were happy. I knew it was something I could do.

Take Action

Take Action:  Need a referral to someone who can help you? Want to talk about this some more? Want help in getting better at sales? Contact me.

Sponsorship Deck – Simple but Good 

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Putting together a sponsorship deck is not hard to do. However it can trip you up.

I’ve sold sponsorships from a simple word processing, nothing fancy. Other sponsorship decks I’ve done in Canva and others I’ve hired people to do.

The key is what goes into the sponsorship deck.

  • Remind the client of how amazing your event is and is a fit for them. Include some good pictures of past events OR related things you’ve done to give them a visual of the event.
  • Add their logo and branding and make the sponsor deck personal.
  • Event data – when is the event, how many people do you HONESTLY expect to attend, where is the event, attendee demographics, attendee psychographics
  • What are the sponsorship levels and what do they include
  • Who is the organizer – in my event sponsorship decks, I include my bio. I want my sponsors to know they can TRUST me in hosting and organizing a great event

Sponsorship Level

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Your sponsor level is too low and cheap

One of the big “dangers” I see that sponsors do is having their sponsor pricing too low.

Here’s what I mean? Instead of having a “sponsor” at $100, why not just make this a premier ticket or something.

For an event with “serious” sponsors, like sponsorship levels at $3,000 (or so ) and up, don’t seem cheap.

Asking United Airlines to pay $1,000 for your event means you’re not serious or it’s simply not worth their time to even cut the check to sponsor your event.

So be clear on a SPONSOR level ticket or just a premium level ticket.

Think about it….

Do you want 50, $100 sponsors, or 3, $10,000 sponsors.

Yes, you must craft the event that EARNS a $3,000 or $30,000 sponsors and that’s YOUR CHALLENGE.

But a low ticket sponsorship level is frustrating for you and the sponsor. No ones happy.

A sample sponsor package

Here’s a sample of how you might craft a sponsorship package, noting that this is done from my experience and how I do my events.

But FIRST note a few things…

What MOST sponsors want is only one of two things – if not both a) their representative to speak from stage and b) leads from your event. These are the two main things they want.

You’ll be tempted to throw in all the FLUFF of what everyone else does – logo placements, logo placements, logo placements and more logo placements. These only matter at UFC fights and Nascar races – I’m kidding – sort of.

You might also include – putting their stuff in goodie bags. This is nice but don’t forget the main thing.

So here’s a few things for a sponsor deck and then you can put these things in buckets. 

So you have a low tier, mid tier and top tier sponsorship deck.

  • Main stage speaking
  • Table/booth sponsorship
  • Opt-in attendee registration list – attendees opt-in to hear from them
  • You will send their call to action to all attendees
  • Placement of their sales material on attendee seats
  • Logo placement on website, event hand outs such as agenda, etc
  • Pre-marketing of their sponsorship in your marketing material leading up to the event
  • Pre-conference lunch or meeting with speakers and/or attendees

Speak with your sponsor and understand what’s important to them. And understand what’s NOT important to them.

Price Your Sponsorship Levels

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Before you read what I’m putting here, I want you to read the following very carefully.

I’m going to share with you what MY sponsorship price ranges look like. But note this is for MY events. You’ll have to adjust your prices so they’re a fit for the VALUE of your event sponsor and the event value you seek to create.

My events have a stage and lights. I get 300 or so attendees. They’re well marketed and they’re one full day or more. In addition I bring to together influencers to engage with my sponsors.

For these events I can charge from $5,000 for a sponsor table to $50,000 (or more).

I feel that the TYPE of event I’m doing, my own brand value, the attendees, the pre-marketing and the influencers and media I’m bringing to the event are well worth it.

There’s two main elements to what your event sponsorship might cost:

How much money do you want to need to make, factoring in your event expenses.

What’s your event worth. This lsat part is based on perceived and real value.

If I have Oprah Winfrey at my event, the perceived and real value of my event goes MUCH higher than if I have the local sales agent at an insurance company, accounting firm or car dealer speak.

It’s the SAME for your event.

Remember pricing is emotional and telegraphs value. Seth Godin writes quite a bit about pricing, check out his blog posts about it here.

How Can You Make Money from Your Event

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Many people THINK that the way to make money from your event is through sponsors and/or ticket sales and this is true.

You can surely MAKE a healthy profit through these two income streams.

However with sponsors and ticket sales you can also BREAK even.

If you break even this can still be a success as there are other ways can event can help you and your business:

Sell your own products and services at this event.

Selling from stage and being your own biggest sponsor is a skill. MANY successful business owners make serious money be “selling from stage” at their own events. Grant Cardone’s 10X Business Conference, Lamar Tyler’s – Traffic, Sales and Profit – TSP and the Aspire Conference are just a FEW events who do this so well.

Connect with Influencers

It can be challenging to have a phone call or connect with influencers and media and others. However when you invite people to an event they’re more willing to stop by. When they stop by you can connect with them, but they can SEE YOU IN ACTION and see you in a different and hopefully a good light.

Reward Your Clients

Use your event to reward your clients and invite them to shine at your event. The only thing better than a client, is a long term client.

Deliver On What You Promised

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When organizing an event and getting sponsor money, be sure to deliver on what you promised. 

If you said 300 people would attend, did they? If you promised a sponsor a 30 minute speaking slot, did they get it?

When Things Go Wrong

Nothing is ever going to happen perfectly. You thought 300 people would show up and only 250 showed up or less.

Ideally speaking, major issues you’ll know are going to be a problem, ahead of time. But either way, honesty and “make-up” are the best policy.

So you promised 500 attendees and only 400 or 300 attended. One, congrats as you still probably had a full room, here’s what you can do:

  • Be honest and let the sponsor know what happened before they have to bring the issue up with you
  • Suggest to the sponsor how you can make it up to them.
  • Don’t lose money and give them back their money, this is not good for them or you
  • How can you make it up to them
  • Maybe you can host two or 3 follows up webinars with them to make up for the lack of attendees
  • Maybe you can give them a discount on your future event

Always check around and be aware of what’s happening so you know what problems might occur before they happen. 

Be honest, be prepared and do the right thing.

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Good Design Is Important

Good design is so important. I’ve seen many, many events where the event landing page and event marketing material look 2nd rate. It looks like it was done “homemade”. 

Canva is a great tool and has great templates – use them. 

Where people go wrong is they don’t use Canva templates but design from scratch or they edit the Canva templates so much that the design doesn’t look professional.

If you want your sponsor to take your event seriously, you’ve got to take the event seriously as well. Having an event that LOOKS good makes your sponsor FEEL good about sponsoring your event.

It’s a step that’s just a bit closer to a yes or at least having a serious look at your event.

Below is just one of hundreds of images and designs for events I’ve done. It looks simple, but I hired a professional design to put this together so our event badges would look good.

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Cheat Sheet – How To Make Your Event A Success

This guide is focused on how to get sponsors for your event. However, here’s a list of things I’ve learned over the years that will make you overall event a success as well:

  • Hire an event planner who can help make the ENTIRE event a success
  • Focus on the creation and execution of the marketing plan for your event. Event marketing is not easy. Consider paid Facebook ads, lots of email marketing, organic social media marketing. Work with marketing partners who can spread the word about your event to their own networks.
  • You can create a great landing page and start to marke the event way before you have everything ready for the actual event itself
  • Have at least one speaker who can be a DRAW for the event and attract people to want to attend
  • Food. Think about it. What kind? What type?
  • Photography and video. Make sure you “capture” the event so you can share it with future sponsors and attendees. Not just for memories but for marketing material.
  • Stage and lighting. A good stage and lighting can make the event LOOK great. Not just stage lighting for the speaker but also “uplighting” to bring some color on the stage and around the event room
  • For many of my events I’ve never used legally binding contracts with speakers or sponsors. But a clear email and follow up and phone calls have been quite fine for me and I’ve never had a problem. However, it never hurts and in fact when things go wrong can HELP to have a legal contract or memorandum of understanding just to be sure.
  • Your event budget. Make sure you don’t lose money in doing your event.

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Was This Guide Useful?

Was this guide useful for you? I hope it was. Please email me and let me know – ramon@ramonray.com

I’d love your feedback on how the guide was useful for you and how it can be improved. Contact me.

Want Ramon to help you at your next event?

If I can be of service to you as an event host or motivational speaker at your next event, let me know

If you know of other events where I can serve, let me know. I’d be happy to share my speaker fees and how I’ve helped hundreds of events come to life, filled with energy and not be boring.

My talks are perfect for small business owners, entrepreneurs and working professionals. Some of my most in demand performances include:

  • Human Connections in a Digital World – remind attendees that technology is great and we can be more human.
  • Date Your Leads Marry Your Customers with Attract, Sell Wow – how can business owners get better at making the trust sale.
  • Be the Celebrity CEO and Build Your Personal Brand – how every business owner deserves to build their personal brand through building attention and trust which lead to sales.