When It Comes To Sponsorships For Events, It’s Not About You!

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I don’t often turn my blog over to others, but event sponsorships are an important part of monetizing your event. Although I have sold many sponsorships in my event planning career, Shannon Cherry is the go-to person when it comes to sponsorships for small business owners.

I love how she has found creative uses for sponsorships and I am thrilled she is sharing some of her tips with you here.

When it comes to sponsorships for events, it’s not about you!

Guest blog post by Shannon Cherry

Each year, companies spend millions of dollars on sponsorship marketing and event sponsorships. Unfortunately, most small business owners don’t even realize they could be getting some of this corporate sponsorship money. And even if they are aware of the possibility of sponsorships, they don’t have a clue about how to make contact with a probable funder, organize the information wanted, and influence a sponsor to join them in a mutually beneficial project.

If you aspire to become a high-quality sponsee –that is, someone who gets corporations to compensate them time and time again via corporate sponsorships—then  you need to understand that sponsorship is a business deal, not a donation or hand-out.

Corporate sponsorships won’t work if you are just saying, ‘Gimme!  Gimme!’  like one of my 7-year old twins. (At least my girls have learned to say please after the ‘gimme’!)

It’s about finding value for both parties: you and the potential sponsor.Walk in a sponsor's shoes

The key to high sponsorship payoffs is that you need to be offering a good event marketing and promotions investment to the corporate funder. Sponsors want to exploit the profitable opportunities associated with your event.

It is as simple as that but perhaps the hardest to grasp.

Let me show you an example to illustrate. My event last year, Business Charm School, had several sponsors including Saratoga Spring Water, Starbucks, Dell, Ba6 Botanicals and more.  How did I get all this interest, which essential underwrote the entire event, including snacks, the facility, my room, my clothing and more?

It’s all about showing them why my event was a good value for their marketing dollars: They get media coverage from the Associated Press (as well as several other business related media outlets), increased exposure through the emails and blog posts, direct influence with attendees, promotions on social media, and much more.

Basically, I made it easy for them to say ‘yes’ by presenting them the value.

And that’s what you must do.  It’s not about you as a potential sponsee, but about them, the potential sponsor. Start walking in the company’s shoes in order to make that sponsorship a beneficial and profitable one.


About the author:

Shannon Cherry on Sponsorship for EventsShannon Cherry, a business and marketing pro with more than two decades of experience, helps you to make more money in your business without adding more time.

She founded her business, ShannonCherry.com, in 2002 to help helped experienced and ambitious entrepreneurs grow the business they desire– without compromising on their principles. Her focus is to provide laser-targeted solutions to get fast results, including her program Sponsorship Made Simple, which helps entrepreneurs get sponsors for events and other marketing activities.

Shannon’s business has been debt-free since its inception – partly due to sponsorships – and she consistently works only 25 hours per week to spend more time with her family in the capital of New York.

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  1. Shannon, I’m curious as to whether it helps to have some basic demographics about the event attendees to present when you first approach the potential sponsor? I assume the more detailed info, the better…

    • Shannon says:

      Absolutely, understand the demographics is an absolute must! If you do not know who the audience is, how can you make it work with a sponsor?

  2. Thanks. Do you approach them with a phone call, email, tweet, facebook query, or do you put up a sponsorship button on your website (like bloggers do for blog conferences)? Or, do you write a post about it?

    I guess I’m asking what method(s) you use to get on their radar AND do you have levels of sponsorship? Platinum gets you this, Gold gets you that, and Silver gets you the other type of thing?
    Monique recently posted..Have you tried kombucha?

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Monique,

      Stay tuned for your answers, as I discuss this really soon on another stop on the tour.

      I do not believe in levels for sponsorship, as it isn’t thinking about the potential sponsor much. (Levels focus on what YOU want, not them.)

  3. First of all, let me say that I did NOT know that you were an opera singer and frankly, I’m SHOCKED (in a good way).

    My question is this: how do know which people in a corporation to present an offer to (for instance, you had Starbucks as a sponsor – did you approach a local business or go higher up in the company)?



    • Shannon says:

      I wish there was a ‘pat’ answer for this one, Shelley, but there is not. Every company has a different hierarchy so usually it takes a few phone calls and some research (in social media usually) to find the right person who has money and authority to act.

    • Daphne Bousquet, CMP says:

      I am with you Shelley! I had no idea Shannon was an opera singer. Of course I knew she was talented! Hiding secrets, she is…

  4. Ilene says:

    I really appreciate you sharing your ideas on this topic. It strikes me that you have to have a LOT of confidence in your own marketing and business ability. I hope you’ll be sharing how you target the business areas dealt with by the corporations you approach for sponsorship. And, do you feel you have to change your message in any way in order to “fit” with those sponsors?

    • Shannon says:

      I can tell you that if you are trying to change your message to accommodate a sponsor, that’s not a good sponsor for you.

  5. I have an event that we have tried to get sponsorships in the past. I would like to try again. We don’t seem to have much success – our event is focused on administrative professionals and we target local companies.

    I did manage to have a local office furniture company donate a chair to the event for the last 7 years or so – I know it can be done.

    Do you have any suggestions that may be of help? Maybe try non-local companies?

    • Daphne Bousquet, CMP says:

      Kyle, think about what admins make decisions on. What do they order/buy for the office and who would want to get in front of them? I am thinking office supplies, quick print shops, companies like Xerox, local restaurants/caterers for when they host in-house meetings, hotels/conference centers for off-site meetings. Who do you already do business with? Hope this helps, and I am sure Shannon will have more ideas.

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Kyle,

      If this is a national conference, thinking local is just too close. There are plenty of national companies who would love to tap your market.

      And frankly, national companies want in on local events too!It’s a great way to reach a niche market.

      • It is not really a national event. However, the national organization sponsors it – Administrative Professionals Day (International Association of Administrative Professionals).

        Each local chapter usually does a day event – workshop, lunch or breakfast, speakers, vendors, etc.

        • Shannon says:

          I think you could still get national sponsors, Kyle. What do these people need? What companies do the already buy from for those needs?

          And then stop thinking ‘signage’ at the event. Most sponsors think signage, banner ads and the like are not good value.

  6. Sheila says:

    Is it best to ask for a monetary sponsorship or is it appropriate to ask for a product or service donation, i.e. asking a restaurant to provide food as a food sponsor, or something similar?

    • Daphne Bousquet, CMP says:

      Sheila, I am sure Shannon will weigh in on this, but I am a big fan of asking for what you need. If you need a product or service donation ask for it. I once planned an Easter event and asked JellyBelly to sponsor my event by donating a box of JellyBellies. They said, no we can’t sponsor your event, but here is a huge case of JellyBellies. And it was super easy! (Starting to crave some Jellybellies now…)

    • Products, services or cash are all good in my book. As a matter of fact, I have a clothing sponsor.
      Shannon recently posted..Can you be sponsored as a small business owner?

  7. This is so timely. I have been trying to figure out how to get a sponsor, to help with the costs of a conference I would like to attend. So far, I have had many no’s, but I’m still holding on to that one ‘yes.’

    How do you suggest I go about asking new companys/businesses that I’d like to work with?

    Should I email them asking them if they’d be interested in sponsoring me, or just flat out tell them what I’d do for them and ask for sponsorship?

    What do you conscider unique in a sponsorship pitch?

    Thank you for this info! (Oh, and I had NO IDEA YOU WERE AN OPERA SINGER!!!!! :O)
    Casondra recently posted..Activities for St. Patrick’s Day

  8. Shannon,
    Thanks for letting all of us know about your singing talents and how you tied that in with your PR background. With the different sponsors how did you make it a good fit, and a win/win for them all, you, and the perfect clients.
    I know the answers are your secret cherry bomb tips and strategies.?

    • Shannon says:

      Well the answer is my secret… a bit.

      It is a bit about the win-win-win (win for the sponsor, win for the audience and win for you as the sponsee.)

      Part of this is knowing how to identify the right sponsors for your audience. I cover that a lot in Sponsorship Made Simple. (click on any link in the post to be directed there). I have some old school PR techniques that work very well to do this which I share there.

      The other part is not assuming anything about what the potential sponsors want. (After all assuming a banner ad on your website is an assumption, right? Most sponsor don’t want that to be honest!)

  9. I love this concept, but since I have always steered clear of promoting specific products, does getting sponsorship by companies who provide products indicate that I personally endorse that product?
    Being in the health industry, I am inundated with companies that want me to endorse their products, not necessarily sponsor me though.
    Jan Hempstead recently posted..Are You a Foodie?

    • Shannon says:

      Yes, Jan. If you are sponsored, you have to feel confident about the product/service/ business.

  10. Ok, Shannon, now that you’ve spilled the beans about opera singing, you know you’re going to have to share a video at some point – LOL!

    My question is how do you promise sponsors value/ROI for a first-time event with no track record? Even if you know who your audience is, you may not know how much response or attendance you’ll have.

    • Shannon says:

      Great question Marlys. Most people think that sponsorship is about a numbers game. As I share in Sponsorship Made Simple, it’s not numbers but influence. For example, I prefer to go to smaller, events (100 people or less) partly because I know I can use my influence more on a smaller group (as I get to meet more of them personally) than a big event.

  11. This is really interesting information, Shannon. I would never have thought about asking for sponsorship–the whole concept is a new paradigm for me. Thank you!
    I am curious about how you would go about getting a clothing sponsor. Are you required to let the attendees know who dresses you or how does the sponsor in that situation get a ROI? I can see how a water bottling company supplies their product for free for example, and that creates top of mind awareness as well as good will, but the clothing??? Could you say a little more about that please?

    • Shannon says:


      Every sponsor – and every clothing sponsor – wants a different ROI. So the key is to find out in advance what the sponsor considers the best ROI before actually proposing something to it. In Sponsorship Made Simple, I have scripts and emails that show you exactly how to do this.

      As for the clothing, think about it for a moment. How many women come up and say, “Wow! The top looks great on you.” Or “I love those shoes!” And you reply where you got them and hand them a coupon for a discount on their first shopping purchase. That’s how I am doing it. However, remember – that is what the sponsor wants. It doesn’t mean every sponsor wants that.

  12. Worthy says:

    Hi Shannon,
    I’m thinking of getting sponsors to help me start a non-profit organization in my town. When you say you draft a proposal, do you type it all up into a presentable product, make a powerpoint, verbally suggest/fine tune upon discussion, or your own kind of proposal? If it’s written about how long is it?

    • Shannon says:

      No power points, just a typed proposal, only after a ROI conversation and a keen understanding of what the sponsor wants. Every proposal is different because it’s personalized for the ROI for the sponsor, which means there is no exact length. My program offers many examples, however, that you can emulate.

  13. Hi, Shannon –

    Like Daphne, I’ve solicited MANY sponsors in my day – for OTHER people’s events! ~ But this will be a first – to ask for sponsorship for MY event.

    My initial question was related to in-kind donations versus cash donations, but I see someone else on this thread asked the question.

    I can easily see all the promotion I could offer to an event sponsor, exposing them to my event audience as well as my subscriber list and my social media networks – which leads me to think about sponsorship packages and various levels of exposure.

    Thinking out loud here, I’d love to have a breakfast sponsor, a lunch sponsor, a materials sponsor, a venue sponsor, etc.

    But I see in another response you made on this discussion thread – you don’t recommend that because it’s not thinking about the sponsor’s needs. You mention that you’ll be explaining why in another blog post.

    I’ll be eager to see what you have to say about sponsorship packages! You’ve piqued my curiosity!

    ~ Tina

  14. I have been throwing around the idea of a teaching event for couple years now (I know!?!). I have had several people tell me to start small and build it up to create a name for myself along with a following.

    So far I have done nothing but think, create a bit and then think some more. I am stuck as to how to get it going… or is it just me that needs to get out there.

    • Daphne Bousquet, CMP says:

      Rebekah, you are on the right blog. The first thing to think about is what your objective is with your event? Do you want to generate leads and turn them into clients? Do you want to uplevel your clients? Do you want to leverage your time? What is it that you want to accomplish. Then you can start figuring out what kind of format you want your event to be. 1/2 day, full day, multi-day. Then, set a date! You can find a ton of info on this blog and I would get started with the free report you see on this page.

    • Rebekah,

      I highly suggest consulting with Daphne on this. She helped me for my event (and I used to plan events for part of my job) and she gave me a wealthy of resources and ideas.

  15. Tina,

    The old approach of a spray and pray with a laundry list options doesn’t work as well, and in sponsorship marketing.

    Take a moment and think about it, as a business owner who would be approached. Do the options meet your business needs? Usually not.

    If you want sponsors long-term, it’s time to revise that approach.
    Shannon recently posted..Can you be sponsored as a small business owner?

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