Planning a tournament takes time, energy and patience but without financing, none of these matter. That’s where sponsors come in. Finding sponsors for your event can make or break a first year event.
Established events and event producers have ready access to sponsors. They have created relationships and fostered a sense of community. Because of these relationships it can feel like an uphill battle for a new tournament producer to get their foot in the door. But it doesn’t have to be.
Do Your Homework
Before you send one email or make one phone call, do your research. Learn about the new companies in your market, find out who the decision makers are, and ask your network for introductions before trying to connect.
When you really get to know a potential sponsor, you are better prepared to sell them on your product. If you know that the owner of the sponsoring company is a woman, and you have a team of tournament producers comprised 75% of women, you already have an easy way to connect. If you learn that the decision maker is a graduate of your alma mater, you already have a bond. Learning as much about a sponsor ahead of time as possible not only helps you look better but it gives you the opportunity to prepare for any question they throw your way.
Leverage Your Assets
Make a list of your connections in the sports world. These connects are all possible assets. Who on that list stands out? Who is the person who knows everybody and is always willing to make an introduction? While leveraging this person for an introduction sounds good, it may be even better to recruit this person to be a part of your team. Building a team of like-minded people is a great second step towards creating a book of sponsorships that will grow with you.
Think Outside the Box
At a lacrosse tournament everyone wants to land Warrior Sports or EZ Goal. Thinking outside the box, finding the latest lacrosse startup, or even a company that is catering to parents as opposed to the athlete might be just the trick to starting and building your own relationships with sponsors. A national snack company that is trying to sell healthy snacks to athletes or a beverage company that is aiming to compete for a piece of the sports performance drink market may be willing to take a chance on a new tournament. Afterall, they are competing with established companies as well.
If you are the new kid on the block, you have to self promote. Show people why your tournament is going to be the next big thing. Show them where you have been, what you have done and the vision you have for your tournament, not just this year but for the future. Many companies are willing to take a risk on a new tournament if they can see potential. Be shameless in your self-promotion so potential sponsor don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime. You believe in your tournament, make sure they do too.
Show Them The Money
Before you approach your first sponsor look at what your competitors are offering. Find out what their sponsors receive for every level of sponsorship and whether you can meet or better yet, exceed their incentives. Keep in mind that different markets, different age groups and different levels of competition may alter your comparison. Be sure to create incentives that are based on an apples to apple comparison.
Some incentives may include:
- Presence at your event – Will they have a booth, a table at registration or an opportunity to announce the bigger games?
- Logo Placement – Will they be on the t-shirt, bag or signage? Will they have the opportunity to put items in the swag bag at registration?
- Placement on your website – Will they have a logo linking back to their website? Will they have the opportunity to guest post on your blog?
- Digital marketing – How many times will they be mentioned on your social media platforms before your tournament? Will they be included in your emails sent to participants?
- Early adopter incentives – Is there an incentive to sign as a sponsor early? Will they receive more publicity by signing as a sponsor a year ahead of time?
How Do You Eat An Elephant?
Getting enough sponsors for your event can be daunting when you look at all that it comprises. Don’t let that overwhelm you. Take it one step at a time, one sponsor at a time. Just like eating an elephant one bite at a time, these steps will add up to big results.