Chamber sponsorships… we all want them, we need them, and yet we don’t want to offer the “same old same old.”
This guide – developed directly from experienced and successful chamber pros advice – will show you how to develop creative ideas to build great chamber sponsorship packages, how to land sponsors and how to keep them coming back for event after event. (Reading this “post-COVID” and wondering how to develop creative virtual sponsorship ideas? Click here.)
12 Success Tips for Chamber Sponsorships
First things first. When trying to create valuable sponsorships, you want to follow best practices. These include:
- Don’t just pay for the tablecloth. Chambers often pick out objects at events and ask for companies to pay for them, things like tablecloths and napkins. If someone wants to put their logo on your event item, you need to charge them for the cost of covering the item and also the privilege of doing so. For instance, if your napkins cost $250, the sponsorship is not a $250 one. It’s a $400 or $500 position. This allows you to cover cost and a little extra.
- Find out what they like or what’s important to them. Offering the same branding opportunities that everyone else does won’t help you stand out (unless you are incredibly fortunate and your event is the talk of the town). You need to find out what’s important to your sponsor. One company laid off a lot of people right before selling their operation. The new owners were looking for a way to make the town like the brand again. The event planner offered them naming rights to a popular event and they jumped on it. The event had never carried a business’ name before. But that company needed something extraordinary to turn around a smudged reputation. Allowing their name to attached to a favorite community event was just what they needed. And they paid well for that right.
- Make them question. If you have a unique event, you want several sponsorships priced at a level that will make your sponsors question how much you’re asking. You should have sponsorships for all budgets, but don’t forget the really large opportunities for those who believe they get what they pay for. Sponsorships have increased in value, particularly the ones that become creative photo ops for businesses and are easily spread on social media. Don’t undervalue your opportunities.
- Ask once. The Pikesville Chamber of Commerce puts together sponsorships packages that cover more than one event. Executive Director Jessica Normington says, ” I went through the list and started asking companies once. So for the companies that support all 3 of our big events I put together a proposal including all 3. So far, my members who I have approached this with love it. They don’t like writing 3 checks and the paperwork is much easier. So once we receive the sponsor check we allocate each dollar to the appropriate budget line. Definitely saves some time in streamlining the process.”
- Ask when it’s on their mind. When’s the best time to ask someone for money? When they have it, of course. That’s why many chamber execs ensure they have their sponsorship packets assembled by September prior to the year of the event. Many businesses are doing their next year’s budget in early Q4 and this helps them allocate their marketing budget at the time they’re crunching the numbers. It’s easier on the chamber and tends to bring in more money. Best of all, it’s easier on the business, which generally means they are more apt to participate.
- Ask early. In keeping with the advice above of asking when it’s on their minds, it’s also valuable to ask shortly after the event ends for the following year. When you share results with them is an ideal time (assuming results are good and attendance was high). This way, they’re still riding the momentum of the event; still feeling good about it, and it’s in their recent memory. As Theresa Pinto the Executive Director of the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce advises, “I would secure lead sponsors on events within 30 days after the event. All high-level investment members make their annual investment decisions once a year, which includes all sponsorships. Then at the beginning of the calendar year, we let members know what opportunities are available. This method has resulted in our events being sold out in sponsors for the past few years.”
- Ensure you have the details about your demographic. Who attends (demographic information) and what they do (activities and buying history) are incredibly important to today’s marketers. Have that info available in an easy to understand format.
- Master reporting. Make sure you’re clear to possible sponsors how you will show that their investment paid off. Don’t leave it up to them to figure out their sales. Be in a position to track website referrals, visits to their booth, etc.
- Make an emotional connection. Sponsors want a good investment but there are a lot of those out there. Tell your story and help them know, like, and trust you.
- Ask a mutual friend to introduce you or put in a good word. Again, there are a lot of options. Anything you can do to stand out in your sponsor’s eyes, including a warm introduction is a good idea.
- Be flexible, creative and quick. Be flexible in your offering and creative in your approach. A sponsorship pitch should never take a long time. It’s better to have many quick conversations than one long one that causes the exec to wonder if their watch is broken.
- Make your current sponsors look amazing. One of the best ways to win a new sponsor is to use fear of missing out. If they see you doing fantastic promotional work for your current sponsors, they’ll want to be a part of it.
Ideally, you would speak with every potential sponsor in-person, but we realize this is not always possible. But when you are fortunate enough to have that opportunity, here’s how to use three methods for success.
(NOTE: Want more attendees at your events? Get your free Chamber Event Marketing Checklist.)
How to Ask for Chamber Sponsorships
The person you’re asking will appreciate you being respectful of their time when you keep it short and to the point. Look them straight in the eye and ask them for their help in making the event a success, suggests Skip Alford, CEO of the South Dade Chamber of Commerce. It’s often easier to ask for “help” than it is to ask for the money, and there’s an obligation the person feels to help out when directly asked.
Be Prepared to Show ROI
As mentioned earlier, these days ROI is a necessity. People are looking at data more than ever and you need to be prepared to show it. Use graphical depictions whenever possible.
Don’t minimize the ask or feel bad doing it. Your chamber sponsorships give them the opportunity to get in front of your audience while supporting the business community and the chamber’s efforts.
Make It a Conversation Around Their Needs
It’s possible the ideal sponsorship for the company you’re talking to hasn’t been invented yet. You may need to create one that fits them and their needs. Listen to what they’re looking for and be creative in finding a solution that gives you both what you want. Don’t place the onus on them to name their ideal sponsorship. If you come up with the suggestion, you’re adding the value.
But what if you can’t get into see them? Or what about people who ask you to “send something?” Then you have to master the chamber sponsorships ask in letter form. If you’re not meeting in person or calling, here’s what you need to put in your letter or email:
7 Must-Haves for Awesome Chamber Sponsorships Ask Letters
- Personalization. “Dear Big Money Maker” is never an appropriate opening but neither is the generic “Dear member.” Whenever possible personalize not only the salutation (come on, that’s an easy mail merge) but other parts as well. Those who have sponsored before deserve a different approach than those who have never inquired or shown interest.
- Bolded phrases. If something is important bold it. Save this for the essential information and no, your entire letter isn’t essential. Bolding allows them to see important details as they scan.
- Whitespace. White space helps people skim easily without missing the important things. Give those their own line or place them in the first sentence of a paragraph.
- A request. Don’t simply tell them you’re taking sponsorships. Explain which ones are available. Create opportunities to fit all budgets. Invite them to speak with you for personalized opportunities and let them know you’ll be following up.
- Explain past success. Everyone wants to know that their chamber sponsorships investment is making a difference. Share exactly how they are.
- Tell a story. While you’re weaving in how past sponsorships have helped, don’t forget to tell the story of the people they’ve helped.
- Get creative. If you have a specific idea for one of your sponsors, handwrite your suggestion on the letter. You can also do this on an email with a PS in a “handwritten-style” font and a different color ink. It’s not the exact same but it will stand out. Explain to them why you thought about that opportunity for them.
Creative Chamber Sponsorship Package Ideas
Creativity and exposure are the most important concepts behind creating enticing chamber sponsorship packages. Here how to use a few ideas to offer something out of the ordinary.
You need to be able to offer educational resources to members. Sponsors are often in a good position to offer information (make sure they understand this is not a direct sales opportunity) on trends or they can sponsor a speaker. If they sponsor the speaker, you can give them emcee rights, a private audience with the speaker, or the ability to include collateral in the bag with every book sale.
Bring Out the Child in Someone
Sponsors want something that gives them high visibility. It also helps when you can add frivolity or a touch of fun. When attendees are enjoying themselves, that positive feeling is often transferred to the sponsor. Suggest creative ways that sponsors can bring out the inner child in guests by sponsoring a game, photo booth, or contest.
Kate Spade’s roll-out party for her Crane & Co. stationery line used a wall of tiny gift card-sized envelopes with a surprise inside each. As guests arrived they were invited to “take a chance.” They selected a tiny envelope and got a surprise! Creating an opportunity for interaction and building the excitement behind what could be, is an excellent way to get exposure for your sponsor and liven up the event.
Sponsored Live Streaming
You need more video content. Your sponsors and vendors need more exposure. Allowing them to sponsor your event’s live streaming is a good way to fill both needs.
Free Services and Samples
If you have chamber vendors or sponsors who provide services that could be performed on a very small scale or in miniature, like a sample massage or ones who create things that could be sampled (like food), allow them to set up these hands-on examples of what their business has to offer. Unusual activities liven up any networking event.
You can have a sponsor or vendor create an event-specific geofiler for a fun spin on event branding.