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14 Steps to Securing Sponsorships for Your Agritourism Venue

Finding local businessess to get involved and sponsor your Agritourism venue can be a “make it or break it” difference in your success, especially when you are starting out. This article will give you 14 practical steps for identifying, securing, & keeping sponsors for your venue. This article will give you 14 practical steps for identifying, securing, & keeping sponsors for your venue.

Step 1: Establish a Timeline

So when should you contact sponsors for your event? We find the earlier the better. Sometimes you are asking for materials or funds that you need in order to build a new structure or event at your venue. We find that setting a goal of getting your sponsor packets to potential sponsors 6 months before the event is that sweet spot for most venues. That means you will need to have steps 2 – 8 below done by the 6 month mark.

Step 2: Consider Involving a Charity

Securing sponsors becomes significantly easier if part of the proceeds of your event goes to a worthy cause. Nearly all of our years in business, we did this and we saw our sponsorship involvement increase significantly. Be sure to pick a charity that has a broad appeal. For our Pennsylvania venue, we partnered with The Ronald McDonald House in our area. We committed to give them 10% of the net proceeds (after all expenses and non-family payroll). That might sound like a lot of money but every year the value of our sponsorships was typically triple the value of the 10% of the net proceeds.

The Ronald McDonald House itself gave us a huge value as our sponsor by leveraging their donors. They provided us with:

  • Thousands of dollars of Coke Products to sell (Coke is one of their sponsors)

  • Access to dozens of the McDonalds locations for posters and coupons given out in every bag or on every tray (HUGE marketing value)

  • Thousands of free cheeseburger coupons for giveaways for contests & field trip groups.

  • A visit by Ronald McDonald for several of our special event days.

Not all charities will be able to provide that much value by just partnering with them. They will however help you secure other sponsors since it carries the added benefit of being for a good cause.

Step 3: Make a List

Write down all those things that you are going to have to purchase to get your event going. This would include items such as lumber, concessions, printing, porta-potties, equipment rental, trash removal, paint, pizza for the staff – well you get the idea. It will vary greatly based on the type of agritourism venue.

Step 4: Estimate a Value

Take that list and everything you wrote down and estimate what it is going to cost you if you were to purchase those things. Sort the list from most expensive to least expensive and now you have a priority list of the types of sponsors you want to go after.

Step 5: Consider Cash Sponsors

In my years of securing sponsorships, I have found that the smaller or newer your venue is, the harder it is to get cash sponsorships. The higher your historical attendance numbers and confirmed value of your marketing, the easier it is to go down that cash sponsorship road. The first couple years in business, we had very little success in cash sponsorships but great success in sponsored products or services. I would recommend focusing your efforts on the products or services sponsorships early on but I do recommend that you go after some cash sponsors every year as the larger your venue grows, the more attractive you become to area businesses as a marketing opportunity.

Step 6: Create Sponsorship Packages

Next you need to create Sponsorship Packages. You want these packages to offer a lot of benefit so that they feel they are getting an equal or greater value compared to what you are asking for. Your highest level sponsors would typically be offered most or all of the following:

  • Their business name on all coupons, posters, tickets, press releases, etc.

  • Free tickets to your venue. Be generous with these and make it appealing. These free tickets cost you very little to provide. I have given as many as 100 tickets to some of our largest sponsors.

  • A sponsor banner somewhere at the venue.

  • Opportunities for them to have flyers, coupons or even displays at your venue. Maybe even a special event day named after their business where they are involved in some manner.

  • Their name prominently on the website as a sponsor.

  • Exclusivity – no other sponsors that are competitors.

You will scale down or eliminate some of these benefits for those companies where the value of what you are asking for is not as high.

Step 7: Match the Need to a Local Business

Now that you have made your “needs list”, estimated the values of those needs, and created your sponsorship packages, it is time to match those needs to a company that can provide it. Try to find 3 potential businesses for each item on my list and send sponsorship requests to all 3 companies. That gives you alternatives if your first choice turns you down. Whether you are looking for a product or service sponsor or a cash sponsor, here are some things to consider:

  • Do any of them seem to already be sponsorship friendly? If you are not sure, usually checking their website and paying a visit to their store will give you an indication.

  • Do any of them seem to spend significant money on marketing.

  • Do you have any personal connections with employees or owners in the stores? Having an “in” even if it is through a relative or friend who knows someone in the store can go a long way.

Step 8: Determine Your Point of Contact

The next step is to figure out who your point of contact is. This is critical if contacting a large business such as a Home Depot or even a large local company. We have found that the best way to do this is to simply place a phone call and ask. Something like “Hi, I am Jamie and we are doing a local event here in {name of town} and I have a sponsorship & marketing proposal that I would like to submit. Can you tell me the best person to send that to?” Be sure to get the correct spelling of the person’s name and a contact phone number and email address for follow-up.

Step 9: Put Together Your Proposals

Now that you have your target businesses and points of contact, it is time to put together a killer proposal. Some things to include:

  • Put together an exciting pitch letter. Even if you are going to be meeting in person, this is good material to leave with the potential sponsor if they need the details in writing. We find that it is best if you keep this letter to 2 pages or less. We like to break it into 4 sections:

  • Exciting details of your event

  • Quick overview of your marketing strategy (50K coupons, Webiste, radio ads, etc.)

  • Your ask (Will be different for each sponsor)

  • What they are going to receive in return (will be different based on sponsorship level.

  • If you have elected to get a charity involved, be sure to mention that prominently in your materials and in all your conversations with potential sponsors.

If this is not your first year you can send them things from previous years.

  • If they are going to be at a sponsorship level that includes mentions on your marketing, send samples of those things if available (tickets, posters, coupons, press kits, etc.)

  • Send them your best pic of your busiest day with the happiest people.

  • Give them your attendance numbers from previous years and what you expect your numbers to be for this event.

If this is your first year, you will not have some of your own marketing materials to show them or attendance numbers to provide them. You will need to do your best to give them details on what your marketing materials will look like and your anticipated attendance numbers.

Step 10: Get Your Proposals to Your Point of Contact

This can be done either by mailing them this packet or by dropping it off in person. We find that dropping it off in person gives you another opportunity for them to put a friendly face to your event and we highly recommend this approach whenever possible. It may not make as much of an impact with large businesses but does matter more than you think with small businesses.

Step 11: Follow-up & Close the Deal

It is extremely rare that someone gets excited enough about your proposal to contact you but it does happen - in my experience, less than 10% of the time. Don’t assume that since they did not call you, they are not interested. I typically place a follow-up call (or visit) within 2 – 3 days of when they have received the package.

Often it takes several calls in order to connect with the person making the decision but when you do make contact, be sure you start off the conversation by thanking them for taking the time to review the proposal and that you are excited about possibly partnering with them on this exciting event. Work through any questions they might have and be sure to highlight all the great benefits you are offering their business. Be positive, excited, and confident in the value you are offering them. You won’t get every business to sponsor you but don’t get discouraged! Move on to the next one on the list. Persistence will pay off!

Step 12: Get it in Writing

Once your sponsor has agreed, make sure you have all the details spelled out so there is no confusion as to what is being provided by you and by the sponsor. You could go as formal as a 1-page contract that you both sign or as informal as an email that you require a response to. Bottom line – make sure you have the specifics in writing to avoid any issues.

Step 13: Keep Them in the Loop

Be sure you check & double check how they want their business name and /or logo to appear anywhere you are putting it. Have them proof your proofs. There is nothing that sours a sponsor more than not having their business name or logo how they expected it.

If they are providing a product or service for your venue, be sure to give them plenty of notice on when you will need it.

I also like to give our sponsors updates on exciting things as the season approaches and progresses such as new things being added to the venue, news coverage, attendance numbers, etc. Keeps them engaged with the event.

Step 14: Treat your Sponsors Like Gold!

Once you have a sponsor sign-on, I have found that they come back year after year as long as you provide the value you promised. In addition we always go the extra mile to make sure they feel special.

One way you can do that is with a Sponsor Day. This can be before you open or on one of your slower weekends where you will have enough staff on hand to make these VIP’s feel special. Have them include their families. This day could include free food, behind the scenes tours, gift bags (free pumpkin, free pie, or whatever your specialty is), family photos or even something crazy like a tethered Hot Air Balloon ride where they can get a birds-eye view of your venue.

At a minimum, you will want to send a thank you package at the end of the season. This should include:

  • A huge thank you. We typically include a thank you card, a framed picture of our venue (for us it was a corn maze) with the year and their name & logo as our sponsor, and typically something like fresh baked goods, a nice piece of apparel with your logo on it, or whatever makes sense for your event.

  • A detailed report to include attendance numbers, how many coupons had their name on it, how many hits on your website where they were also listed as a sponsor, news articles, etc.

  • We also give them an idea of what we are looking forward to in our next season and extend them an invitation to renew.

Wrap Up:

Sponsorships can help “make or break” your year especially when you are just starting out. We have had years where our sponsorships provided tens of thousands of dollars in product & services and that made a huge difference to our bottom line.

We will be posting sample sponsor letters to our site soon and our book on Marketing & Sponsorships will be released sometime in late March 2016 which will have even more detail on how to be successful in securing sponsorships.

#localbusiness #agritourism #sponsor #sponsorships #marketing

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