By Mitra Sorrells Posted October 11, 2012, 7:16 PM EDT
Sponsorship is a critical issue for planners and brands. Whether the event is a community festival or a global technology conference, sponsors add dollars to the bottom line for the organizer. For the brands, event sponsorship can create strategic marketing opportunities to reach a target demographic. Here’s a look at five services working to simplify and improve the business of sponsorship sales.
1. Planana launched in September, making it one of the newest services to connect planners and sponsors. It’s based on the concept of offering attendees rewards, known as Planana Perks, for doing simple tasks such as promoting the event on their social networks. Planana works to identify sponsors to cover the cost of those rewards, and planners can use the system on their own as a selling point with sponsors. For example, at the recent DEMO conference in California, Square 1 Bank sponsored a $700 discount for attendees who shared their registration on LinkedIn.
“We went to TechCrunch Disrupt to launch our company, and we talked to about 300 attendees. We asked them to name one of TechCrunch’s sponsors. TechCrunch had about 80 sponsors that spent a total of a million dollars to be there. Almost 95 percent of the attendees could not name a single sponsor, because the sponsor did not really enhance the event for them, did not give them any tangible benefit. But in our model, the sponsors get to directly interact with the attendees, provide them with a tangible benefit, and that’s huge for both sides,” said Anna Sergeeva, who began developing Planana in January along with co-founder Fei Xiao, while both were seniors in college.
Planana can also serve as an event’s Web site to handle registration and program information. It’s free to create the first event and $10 per additional event. Planana also charges 99 cents per ticket sold through the site. Future updates will include the ability for sponsors to hyper-target attendees. “Based on your demographic profile as an attendee, you’ll see a reward from a like-minded sponsor rather than a random sponsor that doesn’t really match your interests or want to connect with you,” Sergeeva said.
2. SponsorHub launched in March and has listed more than 10,000 events seeking sponsorship. The events are worldwide and include those “as small as local meetups and as large as concerts for 60,000 in Central Park. Everything that’s not the Super Bowl and the Olympics,” said Sponsorhub co-founder Andrew Reid.
Planners use an online wizard that walks them through questions about the event’s purpose, location, demographics, potential media reach, and social media activity. Sponsorhub reviews each entry before making it live in the online marketplace and creates a “SponsorHub Score” based on social media data and other analytics. Sponsors can search for events that meet their needs, and Sponsorhub also pushes out suggested bundles of events. “We have two types of curators. One type is algorithmic; it’s software, that matches a series of events to a given sponsor. The second is through human curation—people who look at the preferences and look at the automated bundles and either add to those bundles or create completely new bundles for sponsors to take a look at,” Reid said. The system alerts sponsors to new opportunities through an online dashboard, and they can choose whether to buy the sponsorship or to submit a counter offer.
After the event, SponsorHub scores the event so sponsors “can see the delta between what they thought they were getting and what they actually got,” Reid said. Users get one free listing on SponsorHub (that will soon increase to two); beyond that there are pricing plans for five, 20, or unlimited listings per month. In addition, SponsorHub takes a fee of 15-20 percent of all successful sponsorships. In the coming months, Sponsorhub “will be making a deeper push into athletes and celebrities and the scoring around them,” Reid said.
3. Founder Rosston Meyer describes Sponsorist as being similar to Kickstarter: The platform makes it easy for anyone—individuals or businesses of any size—to sponsor events, nonprofits, schools, and sports teams. He launched the site in November 2011 and currently has more than 100 listings of events and groups looking for funding. Planners can create a listing for free, which includes the event’s date, location, description, and sponsorship opportunities. Meyer reviews each one before making it live.
Sponsors can browse categories such as tech events, sports, or charity sponsorships. By the end of the year, potential sponsors will be able to search events by location. There will also be an embeddable widget so planners can add Sponsorist to their event’s Web site. Sponsorist collects a fee of 10 percent from every sponsorship sold, and Meyer said so far there has been more than $10,000 in sponsorships sold. In the coming months, he plans to focus on reaching out to potential sponsors to make them aware of the site. “Right now it’s primarily a tool for organizers to help them manage their sponsorship sales in one place,” he said.
4. Kris Mathis created SponsorPitch as “a network for buyers and sellers to research qualified leads and connect with each other faster and more effectively.” The site launched in 2009 and now has more than 13,000 members. “Once you’ve created a free member profile, whether you are a buyer, a seller, or an agency, then you can attach yourself to a brand or property, similar to LinkedIn,” Mathis said. Planners list their events in the system, and brands can search by keyword, date, location, age demographic, genre, and more.
“What really makes us different is we also have a proactive mechanism which allows you to search through all the brands within the network and find the brands that make the most sense for your opportunity. Rather than starting with 100 brands you think might make sense for your event, through three or four clicks we can give you a list of, say, 25 really solid brands based on historical deal patterns,” Mathis said. Planners can then click through to each brand to see contact information, suggestions on when to contact them, and sample budgets.
SponsorPitch has a new feature in beta called Proposal Requests. Brands create these requests based on their preferences in order to reach people in a certain demographic or part of the country. SponsorPitch identifies events that might fulfill these preferences and distributes the brief to those planners who can then respond to brands through the system. “In beta testing it has shown to save both sides time because brands, and, in particular, agencies, for the first time have a way to crowd-source ideas on deadline that are uniquely tailored to their expressed objectives, while events get the inside scoop on what a brand is looking to accomplish prior to making their proposal. Traditionally, events have to guess on sponsor objectives in their sponsorship proposal, which quite often leaves sponsors disappointed with the cookie-cutter ideas they receive,” Mathis said. Members can browse listing of brands and events for free; additional functions such as responding to proposal requests, viewing deal history, and accessing contact information requires a subscription, which costs $25 to $35 per month.
5. SponsorPark is a free listing service for sponsorship opportunities. The product launched in beta in March 2009, and in February it merged with Pinpoint, a sponsorship marketing evaluation firm. “We are able to introduce the SponsorPark idea to the companies Pinpoint was already working with. We have a knowledge base of knowing what brands are looking for as well as what are events doing and offering to make it viable for brands to integrate into those activities,” said David Rachell, president of SponsorPark.
The system has about 5,000 sponsorship opportunities, and more than 500 brands, from regional to international companies. The directory is free for sponsors. For planners, a basic event listing is free and includes a brief description, date, and demographic information. For a fee of $15 the first month and $30 each month thereafter, planners can have a premium membership that lets them add more detailed information, such as levels of sponsorship. SponsorPark currently has a total of about 13,000 basic and premium members.
Planners can push their event listings to potential sponsors by sending an email link, but the site’s search function is driven by the brands, which are kept anonymous. “Sponsors input preferences regarding demographics and location. And they can actually save that search so when a new opportunity arises that matches that criteria, they get an email notification and they can reach out to those events and organizations that have those listings,” Rachell said.
In August, SponsorPark added a new benefit for premium members. “We will ask the event planner to give us five brands that you feel would be a good fit for your opportunity, that you may not have access to. We will actually push your proposal to decision makers at those brands, whether they are SponsorPark users or not,” Rachell said. Early next year SponsorPark will add another membership benefit: webinars hosted by brand managers to help planners understand how to be successful in sponsorship acquisitions.