How to Convince Sponsors to Support Your Event?

How can you convince sponsors to choose for your event? How do you create additional value for your sponsors? What do you offer them and at what price? Tom Bellens and Geert Vanoverschelde have the answers.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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How can you convince sponsors to choose for your event? How do you create additional value for your sponsors? What do you offer them and at what price? Tom Bellens and Geert Vanoverschelde have the answers.  


Hi Tom, hi Geert, welcome to our studio.  




We’re going to talk about sponsoring and why sponsoring is so important. But if we look at sponsoring at events, in the past we had a banner, a flag with a logo on it and that was sponsoring and then you paid a certain price for it. But those things have changed.  


I think sponsoring is a part of a strategy of a company. So it means when we organize events we have to deal with the strategy of the company and see how we can match it with our strategy or our concept or creativity of the event. So for example, with the Tall Ships Race, when we organize it, we see what the main points in the event are. Is there a match with these main points in the event and the strategy of the company? So we mix them and then we try to search a link between them. It means we go to the companies. We propose our event, the main idea of the event, the creativity about the event and certainly, the strategy about it. 




We try to match with it, with each other. And I think that’s very important. And then we start afterwards we start talking about the flag and the logo and that kind of things. 


But it all starts with a meeting where you discuss how there can be a fit between the advertiser, the sponsor and the event or…? 


I think it starts with, as we say, a click. We've sent you a brochure… 


Yes, that’s the reason, by the way, I invited you guys. You were organizing the Tall Ships Race in Antwerp and I got this brochure. And what really struck me was the fact that it told a story: what’s in it for me? Why should I, as a business, have interest in your event? And most of the brochures we get are always, well, see how good we are and you need to be there because we need your money.  




And well, it’s not that kind of inspiring.  


Yes. Well, I think what Tom also already said is, that it’s about telling a story with your event. And that’s something you can offer to someone who can be interested for it. In the end, it is trying to find that match between the one who is interested and we, with our story. So when you tell a story, you don’t do it by saying, we are the best. You just tell your story.


And that’s also something that you unites us in the way we do business. We are in business about telling your story and trying to find people who are interested in it. So also the match for sponsoring, I think, it is the same way to get to a good sponsoring agreement. 


But in the past, we had the traditional sponsor packages. That could be a gold, diamond sponsor and there were prizes beside it. But in these days, if you go and talk with a sponsor: okay, what would you like to do? How can we match it into the event? How can you decide what you can offer and at what price? 


That is the most difficult part. It starts… 


Yes, at one point you need to ask a price for it.  


Yes, of course. I think when dealing with events. An event is a combination between the people who are in the event the media planning, the communication strategy. The whole bunch is the event. So this means, for example, at the Tall Ships Races, we expect 800,000 people, or about. They have their value, they are important, they’re a community on the event and they have their value. Same with the logo, as you say. 


The ships have their value. And so you match them together and you say, when you become a sponsor of this event it has a value, a price as you say, and we try to have the price lower than the expectations that they have. 


Which means you invest 30 or 50k in this event, but at the end, the most important thing is that the company says I invested 50,000 euro for example, but I had a lot more in media planning, in visibility, in awareness in activation, data recognition. That kind of things. 


Because what is it exactly that most sponsors are after for? Is it just the branding on the event or do they want more? 


Well, in fact, the basis is always your media plan, your return, as Tom described, that you can prove that there is something that we really can offer you. But that’s only the base. On top of that, you have to build your story together with the sponsor. The event and the sponsor together. And then trying to find the matches between the two partners and implement them in the event. 


So I think that’s the key thing in sponsoring now. Trying to find that dialogue and to find a common way to tell a common story. Yes. And a dialogue in the event or life can also be offline, in the community, on Facebook and that kind... So it’s a match. That’s why we have the skills for organizing the event. And I think the most important reason is the life factor. 


And then afterwards, you have the community and all kind of online media. But you have a match, you have the story, and the event is the most important thing for us. 


But going in dialogue with a sponsor that also means that you must be willing to adapt or change your event to get a fit. Or is that a step too far? 


No. In a certain way, you are right. I think you have to have the flexibility to change certain things. That’s why it is very important to start very early in the process to contact possible sponsors. And to really see what is possible and have the flexibility to change. Even elements in your event or in the communication about the event. 


In favour of what the sponsor needs. 


Okay. And who is it you need to talk with in a company? Is it still the marketing manager or...? 


These days I think it’s and, and, and. The CEO, the marketing managers, the market communication manager, the HR manager. So I think it’s a mix. 


Why an HR manager for sponsoring? 


Sponsoring something is in different levels in the companies. It has to be driven by everyone. Yes. Just take the element of employer branding. 


That’s an HR issue. So only for that. 


Yes. So we try to have a… In the beginning, when we propose our event or the sponsoring campaign we try to have a match between lots of people. Not only the CEO as in the older days or the… 


His daughter was playing soccer in a certain team and then that team gets sponsored. 


Yes. Those times are over, I think. It still happens that a CEO can be very interested in some kind of sponsoring. But he will always consult his marketing department to see if it is really valuable for the company. 


For the company, yes.  


That’s the most important thing, why we put everyone together. Geert and I, a few months ago, we put the brochure on the table of some companies. We start with having a meeting. Afterwards, a second meeting, third meeting. Because the first time, we have a click with somebody from the HR department of the marketing department and always we tell them afterwards we need to have a second meeting to see because there are different kind of ways to look at the event. For example, the Tall Ships Race, you can see it as one of the largest events. You can see it as a small event with a story. You can see it as a different event with each time a different festival. So there are different kinds of ways of looking to the event. 


And for example, a marketing manager can be interested in the 800,000 people who are visiting our event. But perhaps, someone who wants to have a VIP event for his 40 big customers on a festival, on a ship it’s a completely different way of looking to the event. Or wants to recruit people for his company. Engineers for instance can be a very interesting target group. And an employer branding, you can also activate this on a event. 


That’s, indeed, an interesting angle to look at it.  




Maybe, to conclude with, can events live without sponsoring? 


I don’t think so. No. Perhaps we can turn it around to ask the question: is it possible to have a sponsoring campaign without an event? So we are two different companies working together for the Tall Ships Race. Because we have the main reason why we want to organize this and we have the main interest. But the thing is we love life, as we say. We see it absolutely as the most important value to organizing events. So I think it’s very difficult to organize sponsoring campaigns without the element of life without the element of having people together. Perhaps, it’s 40 people or 800,000 people. We are putting people together, to have the same feeling and the same storytelling. That’s, I think, most important. And it’s an added value for the sponsoring campaign. I think for a sponsor it’s very important to reach his community. To have that real life contact with his people, his target audience. And sometimes we say also in our company, that the more digital the world gets the more need you have to have that life contact. 




I think it’s also a very crucial thing in sponsoring. 


That’s a very nice one to conclude with. Geert, Tom, thank you very much for coming over.  


You’re welcome. 


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.