What Is a Sponsorship Program?

Terry Masters

A sponsorship program in the corporate context is a financial paradigm for engaging sponsors of marketing opportunities, particularly for a special event. It can also specifically refer to the practice of matching benefactors to children in need in other countries as part of a child sponsorship program. In either case, the theory behind the development of the program is the same, although the context is radically different.

Sports teams have corporate sponsors that pay for many of the teams' expenses.
Sports teams have corporate sponsors that pay for many of the teams' expenses.

Sponsorship is a crucial part of the budget of any special event that has the ability to engage a large number of people. Corporations are often willing to foot the bill for parts of an event if the organizers can demonstrate the value of the investment. The value proposition requires substantiation, in the form of proof of the number of people expected to attend and their associated demographics. This estimation of impact drives the amount of money event organizers can charge for each marketing opportunity.

Local businesses might sponsor youth leagues.
Local businesses might sponsor youth leagues.

An event will likely want to engage as many corporate sponsors as it can. Figuring out what can be sold to a corporation as a marketing opportunity is the first step in engagement. A sponsorship program is the event organizer’s way of segmenting the event into marketing opportunities that allow engagement at a variety of levels. Identified opportunities often accommodate a range of activities and investment costs, so a corporation that just wanted to invest a modest amount of money in the event can find an appropriate opportunity, as well as the corporation that is ready to make a major investment.

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A sponsorship program will typically be outlined in a written proposal that is sent out to prospects. The proposal should detail the value proposition, expounding on the unique aspects of the event and how sponsorship will benefit those companies that decide to invest. It will include various sponsorship levels that allow engagement at a variety of price points. Contact information for the event organizers and a returnable interest sheet often complete the presentation.

The written proposal is only one aspect of a sponsorship program. Many sponsorship opportunities are renewable on an annual basis, and the crux of a program is the management of the relationship over time to ensure the sponsor renews its commitment to the event year after year. Sponsorship relationship management is basically the same as in any client-type interaction, and is dependent on communication and delivering value in exchange for the investment of interest, time, and money.

Sponsorship programs are not limited to events. Child sponsorship is a particular program that matches individuals with children in need. Certain famous individuals, such as entertainers and athletes, might be the subjects of a sponsorship program designed by their agents to demonstrate to corporations why affiliation with the individual would be beneficial. In either instance, the identification of marketable opportunities at multiple price points in support of a value proposition remains the same.

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