Wherever your small business is located, it’s part of the fabric of the local community. Since most communities host events for the residents—everything from renaissance fairs and folk festivals to softball tournaments and theater in the park—what better way to boost brand awareness than by sponsoring a community event?
Being a small business sponsor generally means donating money, products, or time to the group or organization hosting an event. In return, your business is affiliated with this event and, depending on the level of your involvement, prominently featured in publicity about the upcoming event. Other significant benefits of sponsorship include:
- Gaining access and visibility to a large number of potential customers
- Developing stronger relationships with existing customers
- Increased awareness of your business as a genuine partner of the community
- The opportunity to promote new products, sell retail products beyond the store setting (and even unload outdated inventory)
- Differentiating your business from the competition, particularly those businesses which do not sponsor community events
Information about upcoming events is usually available online, in a local newspaper and through the chamber of commerce. When you’ve determined which event makes sense for your business, it’s time to reach out to the event organizers and get answers to specific sponsorship-related questions:
- Based on past events, how many people do you expect to attend? What are the demographics of attendees?
- Are sponsorships structured in tiered options and what’s the cost difference between those options? How many sponsors do you hope to get for each tier and what’s the difference in the amount of exposure?
- Who else has signed on as a sponsor? Are any of my competitors participating?
- How much publicity is planned and in what form? How will my business sponsorship be included, i.e., adding my company logo to your event marketing materials?
- On the day of the event, am I permitted to put up displays or banners? Will samples of my products be included in an attendee event bag? Can I distribute free samples at my booth?
- After the event is over, how can I follow up with attendees?
In addition, ask organizers for a list of businesses that have served as sponsors of past events. Get in touch with at least two or three of these prior sponsors to determine how well the event was run and whether they felt it was worth their time, expense and effort.
After you decide to sign on, it’s time to promote the event yourself. Don’t be shy about your sponsorship (remember, the more people are aware of the event, the more are likely to attend). Promote it on your website and all of your social media channels, as well as in your email newsletter and in-store signage. Issue a press release to local media, highlighting both your sponsorship and the value of the event to your community.
The day of the event is your opportunity to connect with as many people as possible. In addition to having free samples of your product to hand out, stock your booth with fliers, brochures and other marketing materials. Be sure to have enough employees on hand to greet the public and/or mingle with the crowd. Have a drawing or place a fishbowl on the booth table where people can write their name and email address (or drop in their business cards) to win a great prize. It’s all about capturing as much new customer information as possible for follow-up contacts later on.
Sponsoring a local event is a cost-effective way to build positive brand awareness and gain new customers. It’s also a great way to give back to the community in which you live and work.