Original Author: JP Moery
One of the most effective ways for associations to generate non-dues revenue is through sponsorships, but success begins with your sponsorship strategy. Without a strong strategy in place, procuring and retaining sponsors can be an uphill battle. But with the right strategy, associations can drive a steady stream of non-dues revenue, improve member experience, and build mutually beneficial relationships with sponsors. In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know to craft your Association’s sponsorship strategy. But first, let’s take a look at the various types of sponsorships and their value.
Association sponsorship can take many forms, from logo placement on promotional products to exclusive sponsorship of an event. It’s a win-win situation for both the association and the sponsor. The association gets the funds it needs to operate, and the sponsor gets exposure to a targeted audience that is interested in its products or services.
Sponsorship has become an essential part of the business model for associations, and for a good reason. According to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), 64% of associations rely on non-dues revenue to support their operations. Of those, 45% say that sponsorships are their most significant source of non-dues revenue. Moreover, ASAE notes that associations that generate higher levels of non-dues revenue tend to have more robust financials and are better equipped to invest in new programs and services that benefit their members.
However, not all sponsorships are created equal, and not all sponsorships are suitable for every association. Associations need to develop a sponsorship strategy that aligns with their mission, values, and member needs. A well-crafted sponsorship strategy can help associations maximize revenue while providing meaningful value to sponsors and members.
Here are some tips for creating a sponsorship strategy that works for your association:
1. Define your objectives
Before you start seeking sponsorships, you need to define your objectives. What are you trying to achieve? Is it to fund a particular event, program, or activity? Do you want to raise awareness of your association or promote a particular initiative? Once you know your objectives, you can create a sponsorship package that aligns with those goals. Many organizations make the unfortunate mistake of selecting arbitrary or inadequate sponsorship pricing levels, based on a legacy prospectus. Instead, price the program based on the market opportunity presented, exclusivity provided, and access sought by the sponsor. If you have an old prospectus, take the lowest-priced 10% sponsor packages and eliminate them. Research and experience show these programs have minimal impact and are not valued by the audience. Instead, price accordingly with benefits that are distinct and progressive, and feature a diverse mix of electronic and print media exposure. Some sponsors will be more enticed by naming rights opportunities, while others will value guaranteed industry exclusivity. Use your prospectus as a starting point, then customize based on your prospect’s goals.
2. Identify your target audience
Sponsors are looking for exposure to a targeted audience that is interested in their products or services. As an association, you need to identify your target audience and develop sponsorship packages that appeal to them. A great example would be a hospitality industry association holding a convention for all of their hotel owner members, and sponsors would be companies that supply hotel worker uniforms, furnishings, cleaning supplies, or companies that provide guest registration software.
3. Create sponsorship packages
Sponsorship packages should be designed to meet the needs of both the association and the sponsor. They should also offer different levels of exposure. In most situations, the buyer wants to accomplish specific goals by collaborating with your association. Develop every proposal with a recommended methodology to address these objectives. Keep your approach personal, and make all benefits clear and visible. A colorful chart or brochure featuring giving levels and benefits can offer eye-catching appeal.
Some examples of sponsorship opportunities include:
- Logo placement on event materials such as banners, signage, and promotional items
- Sponsorship of specific sessions or activities at an event
- Sponsored content such as blog posts, webinars, or white papers
- Recognition on the association’s website or social media channels
- In-kind contributions such as technology, food and beverage, or transportation services
4. Price and sell your sponsorships
Sponsorship fees should be set based on the value of the exposure provided. You can use industry benchmarks or market research to determine the appropriate fees. Be sure to offer different sponsorship levels to accommodate different budgets.
When it comes to selling, there’s no way around it – direct sales, either face-to-face or by phone, is often the most productive way to identify potential sponsors. Aim to focus your sales efforts before or during the budget cycle and planning phase of your sponsors so new opportunities can be presented before budgets are finalized for the year. Remember: “it’s not in the budget” has become an increasingly legitimate objection these days with leaner budgets and less discretionary funds.
5. Create boutique sponsorship opportunities
A trend we’ve seen developing (slowly) is presenting prospects and long-time sponsors with customized or ‘boutique’ sponsorship opportunities. Sales needs to be proactive in facilitating these discussions early on.
Yes, there is typically a line or two at the bottom of your prospectus indicating the association is open to customizing a sponsorship program, but that’s a passive approach and often overlooked. It’s also frankly a missed opportunity for the sponsor, the association, and the attendee to have a great experience. Boutique opportunities are the next level of customization. Take the all-important initiative to reach out and say, “Hey, thanks for supporting us and being a part of the program in the past. We’d like to take your participation to the next level by creating a customized sponsorship opportunity that is valuable to you and meets your business objectives.”
Many sponsors are in the same situation we are in – too tight on time and bandwidth to think strategically. Your sales team can pick up the phone and bring the strategic conversation to them.
A successful sponsorship strategy can benefit both associations and sponsors. The keys to success are focusing on understanding both your member and sponsors’ needs and creating various sponsorship packages that cater to different sponsor objectives and budgets. Providing value to sponsors through access to networks, data insights, and branding opportunities can create a win-win situation for both parties. Such a strategy can provide a new revenue stream for associations, enhance members’ experience, and establish long-term relationships with valuable sponsors.
Need sponsorship help? Contact us, and we’ll be in touch promptly.