We were all blithely going along our sponsorship sales paths when – whack! – we ran into a stone wall. At the moment, with the rules of the COVID-19 Virus outbreak — no gathering in groups, don’t go into the office (work from home), no traveling on public transportation where it might be crowded, the restaurants and bars are offering take-out only (no meeting for happy hour!), wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds each time and wear a face mask if you are going out.  You can’t rely on your previous sales strategies and techniques! So, what do you do?

First, if your event is postponed, reach out to current sponsors. Assure them their benefits and values from the event are still in place and then say, “What more can I do for you?” Listen to their answers … maybe you can come up with a creative way to give them exposure leading up to the event … a virtual tour on your website, a contest that could be run on the internet, a unique story that would generate PR … open your mind to new (even crazy!) ideas.

I recently had to postpone two spring wine festivals and had an automobile company as a sponsor. In order to keep them happy until the fall we developed a web presence during the quarantine, designed a hang tag for all wine bottles which encouraged customers to come to any showroom and register to take a test drive, as well as getting your name entered into a drawing for four free tickets to either of the wine festivals.   This gives the sponsor exposure, enhances their sponsorship, and keeps both the wineries and BMW happy.

Second, if your event is cancelled, find ways to incorporate your sponsors into your other activities … a future event, on-line activities, direct marketing efforts, etc. … again you are creative – tap into that creativity. Also, ask them what they would like. Offer to put them into future events that meet their needs. They will tell you what they want to accomplish and you can figure out how your events help them do that!

Third, new sponsors. That’s a toughie because people are working from home, most business phone lines go directly to voice mail which leaves you with email for correspondence. I usually send a short note that says “I need to talk with you about ______ to see if what we have is of value to you. Just text me a _________________ with your number and give me a good time to reach out to you.” If you don’t hear back in a week, give another call and say “Really only need two minutes of you time to discuss (name of event or activity) so we can determine if you can get value from partnering with us.” Wait one more week and then leave a final message: “Sorry we haven’t had a chance to talk. I will keep you ‘in the loop’ as we progress with this event. Feel free to contact me if you wish to be involved.” DO NOT send an e-mail that says “I’ve been trying to reach you.”  Of course you have because you left messages! Move on to the next prospect. Remember the Brian Tracy statistic: 100 calls gets you 10 appointments that get you one sale. You have to get to 89 before you get discouraged!

Fourth, reach out to former sponsors. They worked with you in the past, you have kept in touch with them over the years. Maybe they have new management, maybe they have new products or product re-introductions, maybe they need an affiliation with an organization or event like yours …you won’t know until you contact them. (Just a word to the wise: even if sponsors have cancelled in the past always keep in touch … a brief handwritten note, an article that they would be interested in, a short email … and always share with them the opportunities that you have available. It’s an investment in time that will have a payback.)

The important thing about sponsorship sales is you want to match the company to the event …you certainly wouldn’t go after AARP for a children’s festival nor would you go after Mountain Dew for a Senior Expo! Study your potential sponsors before you contact them. Look at their websites, annual reports, read their press releases (under news room), look at their team (what are some of the titles/shows that are important to them), do they already sponsor events … in other words do your homework. You want to be knowledgeable when you contact them to demonstrate your interest in their organization and to helping them through a partnership with you.

Are sponsorship sales tough right now? You bet but … once again … be creative in reaching out to them … understand who they are and what they want to achieve and how partnering with you makes that possible! Then it will be easy.