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Why events are a powerful marketing and business development tool for sponsors

By Richard Woodward

Events are a powerful marketing and business development tool for engaging audiences, building brand awareness, communicating brand messages, engaging employees, building relationships, differentiating from your competition and driving sales. However you must ensure that your prospect fully understands the power of events as a medium —compared to other opportunities such as television, magazines, radio and direct mail— before selling them on how your specific event can address their needs. If you don’t sell the medium first, you leave yourself open to the objection later on in the sales process that your prospect doesn’t see value in events at all, let alone your opportunity.

Here are seven reasons why events are a powerful marketing and business development tool for sponsors. Have these top of mind when engaging prospects.

  1. Time

Events provide the time and opportunity for an audience to associate a brand with an event and assimilate (take on board) the desired brand messages.

In the same way that conferences give delegates multiple opportunities over the course of three days to associate a key sponsor with an industry sector, spending a day at a prestigious tennis tournament provides time for the audience to associate the tradition and prestige of the event with the sponsor.

  1. Passion and interest

Events provide the opportunity to engage an audience in a mindset (leisure or business mode) where the audience has a high degree of passion and interest invested in the event.

People attend conferences and exhibitions to discover the latest products and ideas, therefore brands or products being launched at the time of an event make good potential sponsors. Similarly, audiences at sports and music events will associate the sponsor of the event with their passion and positive experience (assuming the sponsor plays a constructive role, adding value to their experience and not detracting).

  1. Interaction

Events connect brands with people and people with people.

Sponsoring an art exhibition provides the opportunity to put a new wine in the hands of your audience, while conferences and exhibitions provide powerful opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors to build face to face relationships with their clients and prospects; a crucial part of the sales process for many organisations. Unfortunately, few take this opportunity, preferring to hide behind their laptop on their exhibition stand!

  1. Senses

Events enable brands to engage audiences through the five senses.

The opportunity to experience a brand through the five senses (see, touch, hear, taste and smell) is a key advantage of events over other marketing communication vehicles. It allows the audience to experience the brand in a deeper way. Consider brands that lend themselves to the five senses as potential event sponsors.

  1. Desired context

Events allow brands to be experienced in their desired context.

If you want your champagne to be seen as prestigious, classic and French, having your champagne ‘experienced’ at a French impressionist exhibition at a prestigious art gallery will be more beneficial than having it sampled at a bottle shop, liquor store or off-license. Consider what context your event provides and brands that desire that context.

  1. Campaign

Events provide the opportunity to build a long-term campaign.

Whereas events start and finish, the needs of companies and brands are ongoing. The mistake people make is to sell their event rather than the ongoing opportunity to engage the audience who attend the event (which is what a sponsor really wants). Present a marketing campaign or marketing platform; a timetable of engagement, before, during and after the event that provides multiple audience engagement opportunities and creates real value for the sponsor.

  1. Proof

Events provide proof.

Rather than a company telling people that it is community-minded, by sponsoring and participating in a community event it allows people to experience the company being community-minded. This is important as experience overrides testimony, which in turn overrides claim.

A company can claim that it cares about the environment, but when a person experiences the company caring for the environment by encouraging their own participation in a clean up a city program and they experience the company’s employees also participating, this will leave a stronger and more lasting impression on the person.

Likewise, a company can say that it helps people achieve their goals, but when a person participates in a program funded by the company that helps them to achieve their own personal goals, the brand message has been experienced and internalised. The challenge is to convey to your potential sponsors how your opportunity will allow their audiences to experience their brand in a deeper way.


Make sure your prospect is fully aware of and understands the seven reasons events make a powerful marketing and business development tool before selling your event.

This is an edited extract from Richard Woodward’s book How to Attract and Retain Sponsors and Partners which is available at, ITunes, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo.