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Where to Find Sponsorship Dollars

by Sylvia Allen

Editor's note: This is the sixth article in a 10-part article series on SPONSORSHIP DEVELOPMENT, contributed by Sylvia Allen, President of Allen Consulting, Inc., Holmdel, NJ.

If you are involved in sponsorship sales, you often feel like you are looking for a needle in a haystack. Many times you don't have a contact name nor do you know what department has responsibility for sponsorship, so you start cold calling. Don't despair. You can find sponsorship dollars if you are persistent and consistent.

Sponsorship dollars can be found in a variety of departments within a company and under a range of corporate titles. Of course, when you initially contact a company, the first person you will ask to speak to is the person in charge of sponsorship for that organization. And, if they have a sponsorship department (and more companies are adding them daily), you are quickly and easily connected to the right department. Now, do you talk to the Director, Vice President, or Manager of that department? It depends upon the corporate culture and how responsibilities are assigned to different titles. Hopefully, before calling, you will have done your homework and determined the culture and know the appropriate person to talk to.

Other calls you make won't be that easy. Sometimes sponsorship dollars reside in the marketing budget; other times in public relations. With consumer goods, you will often find sponsorship money in brand or product management; other companies may have funds available through human relations or sales. In today's world of highly automated telephone systems, you may have to make several calls to any specific organization before you are able to find the appropriate person.

To make your initial calling easier, read the various trade publications addressed to event marketers. You should really keep back issues of these publications and use them as resource material when researching who is spending sponsorship dollars on what. Of course, with the internet, data retrieval has become much easier. At least you now have a name for your initial contact and, even if they are no longer involved, they can refer you to the proper contact person.

Also keep in mind that more than one person can be involved in sponsorships and that more than one department participates in sponsorship. If you have approached the marketing department and, in spite of the quality of your presentation and appropriateness of the event, they have still turned you down, that doesn't mean you can't go back to that very same company. Just select another department. If the match of sponsor and event is right, you may be successful going through other channels.

If you are a non-profit organization or have a cause-related affiliation with your event, you can go to the grant administration or charitable contributions department. Keep in mind that these decisions are always made a year in advance, so don't expect short-term moneys from these departments. Also, considering that major corporations are bombarded with requests for funding, sponsorship and otherwise, you may not get the sponsorship dollars you want. However, some money is better than none!

In addition to reading the trade publications to find out who is spending what and where, use your professional trade association affiliations as a resource too. Organizations that could help you in your networking to determine which companies are doing sponsorship are local advertising clubs, International Special Events Society (ISES) chapters, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and Product Marketing Association of America (PMAA), local broadcaster associations, to name just a few. Attend the meetings, take advantage of networking opportunities and you will be surprised at how much information you can get.

There are also directories that list the various people involved in sponsorship including IEG Directory of Sponsorship Marketing, Franklin Covey's Sports Market Place, Alan Friedman's Team Marketing Sourcebook, ADWEEK'S Agency Directory and Consumer Products Directory, the advertising agency's Bible -- The Red Book, and EPM's Licensing Business Sourcebook (Note: The Licensing Business Sourcebook contains the names of people who are responsible for the licensing activities at particular companies and properties. In many instances they are also involved in sponsorship.) These publications average $200-300 each, but are well worth the investment compared against five-, six- and seven-figure sponsorship sales.

In many instances, the size and type of event determines where you might find sponsorship dollars. For example, if you have a local event that only impacts your local area, you can go to the local distributors or field offices. Often they have discretionary dollars that can be allocated to local sponsorships. So, too, with regional events. Within the last couple of years, Miller Brewing has gone to regional offices where each office can make sponsorship decisions themselves for events within their region. Of course, if your event is national or international, you will still have to go through corporate headquarters for your solicitation.

Whatever channels you go through -- local, regional, national -- start your sponsorship sales process early. Budgets are planned annually; the more lead time you have, the better chance you have of getting your event considered for sponsorship. Don't wait until three months or, worse, three weeks, before the event to start soliciting sponsors. Remember, the greater the lead time, the greater the success rate. Good luck!

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About the Author:

Sylvia Allen offers a wealth of public relations, event marketing, and sponsorship experience to her clients.

She has published several books and is the author of HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT SPONSORSHIP SALES, publishes The Sponsorship Newsletter, has just finished a 60 minute video on sponsorship, and lectures all over the country on sponsorship (IFEA, National Main Street, etc.) as well as teaching at New York University.

She has sold everything from $25 to $4,000,000 sponsorships; she can be reached at 732-946-2711 or at

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