8 tips from 7 months of local sponsorship marketing

Looking to dive into local sponsorships? Columnist Megan Hannay offers eight lessons learned that will help you plan your strategy.

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selecting sponsorships

This blog post series is not subtle about its advocacy for local sponsorships. But based on current local marketing inventory, it’s clear that sponsorship needs are ready for a “shout it from the rooftops” approach.

Opportunities such as for-profit events, as well as not-for-profit organizations, events and fundraisers have an untapped inventory — we’ve found more than $56,923,823 so far — in potential marketing opportunities.

Ultra-local is a new world for many marketers. These sponsorships are overlooked because they are so numerous and diverse.

But local sponsorships offer benefits you won’t find elsewhere: Local events and sponsorships are becoming synonymous with local marketing, and their links do wonders for local SEO.

The team at ZipSprout, my employer, has spent the past seven months dusting off this forgotten inventory and organizing it in our app, so this post is dedicated to sharing some of the tips we’ve learned along the way. If you’re convinced that local marketing should be part of your company’s strategy, peruse the “lessons learned” below, and you’ll feel months ahead of the game.

(Thanks to ZipSprout Matchmakers and bloggers Claudia Cruz and Munsie Davis for their additions to this post.)

1. Local nonprofits aren’t used to having businesses knock on their door

Nonprofit (and even many for-profit) entities are used to canvassing for sponsorship. Many have a staff member or volunteer whose exclusive role is to find sponsors. So when you come knocking, be prepared.

In a survey of 50 ZipSprout-listed local organizations, more than 62 percent of respondents said they were completely flexible when it came to sponsorship offerings. Another 34 percent said they were open to flexibility, depending on the sponsor. And only four percent said their sponsorship costs and benefits were set in stone.

Know what segment of the organization’s audience you seek. Have a list of marketing benefits you’re looking for, and see what type of partnership can develop.

2. Donations don’t have to be monetary

If you want to try local sponsorships but don’t yet have the budget, what in-kind services or donations can you offer?

In-kind donations can include:

  • Food
  • Apparel
  • Tote bags, water bottles, general “swag” items
  • Free services (Does their website need an update, or does the organization’s Facebook page need sprucing up? Are you an accounting firm who can offer free bookkeeping?)
  • Volunteer hours (Get the team out of the office for a day!)

However, be sure your in-kind offer coincides with the mission of the organization.

3. If you’re after events, focus on summer don’t get hung up on summer and the holidays

Writing this post based on anecdotal experience, I assumed that summertime was the best time for events. But the numbers proved me wrong. Of the 4,000+ events currently listed in the ZipSprout database, only 22 percent take place during the 25 percent of the year between June 1 and September 1. And only 3.9 percent of events take place during the 10 percent of the year between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

Year-round opportunities are often available for you to pursue — for example, museums, aquariums and zoos often offer “general” sponsorship opportunities to corporate partners. Educational attractions get plenty of traffic throughout the school months as well.

4. If you’re targeting B2B, consider events that offer speaking opportunities

Booths are great, as long as you’re in a high-traffic area, but another way to build a growing brand is to secure speaking opportunities with sponsorship dollars.

Speaking sessions should be more educational than sales-oriented, but they’re a great way to introduce yourself to a few dozen, or a few hundred, attendees all at once. Just wait until the post-event happy hour, and you’ll see how beneficial it can be.

Want to find events that offer speaker opportunities for sponsors? Try this Google search.

5. Say “hello” to your fellow sponsors

B2B sponsorships are equally branding and networking opportunities. Look up your fellow sponsors’ websites and social media profiles. Find out if any are potential customers, and take the opportunity to make an introduction.

6. Ask for links to the right page

Often, organizations will default email newsletter, website or social media links to the sponsor’s home page. But for businesses with city-specific pages, this is a big missed opportunity for building reputation and reach to a local page, in front of a local audience. Don’t be afraid to politely request specific links.

7. Consider reach

There are homeless shelters that have the First Lady on speed dial, but there are also big-name events and organizations that don’t garner the audience their title would suggest. Local organizations differ widely from chapter to chapter, depending on leadership, history and even just luck in finding great partners. Use social media, Moz’s Domain Authority or CharityNavigator.org to learn about potential opportunities.

8. Don’t forget mission

Mission is the heart of sponsorship development. Your outreach campaign will fit in better with other marketing initiatives if you target organizations whose missions match your own.

The connection between your business and your beneficiary doesn’t have to be an obvious one, as long as the sponsorship can work its way into your brand’s story. If a sugary beverage company like Coca-Cola can claim physical fitness as a mission, there’s room for creativity with the “why” of sponsorship marketing.

Bonus: Be human

Local sponsorships are like a handshake with a targeted community. Adopting a “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality won’t get a brand far in a relationship with an event or organization.

Be on time with deliverables, come prepared to events, and treat organizers like colleagues, not employees. In other words, if you can’t be nice, don’t go to the block party.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Megan Hannay
Megan is the CoFounder of ZipSprout, a startup agency and tool service that helps brands find grassroots local marketing opportunities. Megan also works on product management for Citation Labs, ZipSprout's parent and founding company.

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