What do most charity events, art fairs, business conferences and internet cat video festivals have in common? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t Lil Bub. These drastically different types of events have one major thing in common – the support of corporate sponsors. An event doesn’t have to be huge in order to benefit from a sponsor collaboration, even small local events often have at least one sponsor.

If your company has ever hosted an event, you already know the importance of a good sponsorship plan. The bottom line is, these sponsorships bring in money for your event. A good collaboration helps alleviate the financial burden of the event, and in return the sponsor company gains valuable exposure.

It sounds like a no-brainer, right? A real win-win situation.

Well it can get much more complicated than that, and like any major business decision, it should be carefully planned from the start. Here are some tips for seamlessly incorporating corporate sponsors into your event without damaging your brand or turning off guests.

DO: Find sponsors who are a good fit with your brand or event

A successful sponsorship needs to be mutually beneficial on both ends. An easy way to do this is to find a company that shares a common interest or goal. Let’s use the internet cat video festival example again, (because these are real, and it’s a great time to be alive, people!) It would make sense for an event of this type to be sponsored by an animal shelter or brand of pet food.

Not every sponsor/event pairing will be quite as obvious, but even two unrelated brands can find common ground and put on a great event. One thing to steer clear of is a company that has drastically different values. You run a serious risk of offending and confusing attendees if your health fair is sponsored by McDonalds. Having sponsors who closely align with your values will strengthen the look and overall feel of your event.

DON’T: Let poorly designed sponsor logos bring down your aesthetic

There are some wonderful companies out there with terrible branding. There’s no way to avoid this, because bad logos are all around us. Integrating these designs with your own can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker.

Most companies have more than one brand color, so if the sponsor company’s logo is usually a dull shade of blue, consider using one of the brand’s secondary colors or a neutral version that will integrate better with the event color palette. If their branding guidelines forbid any type of manipulation, color or otherwise, consider meeting somewhere in the middle. Spend a little extra time finding versatile colors and fonts that can bridge the gap between the two aesthetics.

DO: Have a plan and specific expectations

Since the event/sponsor relationship brings different value to each side, it’s important to agree on any and all terms right off the bat. If your event involves multiple sponsorships, consider creating sponsorship levels and packages that vary by price. Packages could range from the inclusion of an ad in a program book or a logo on a t-shirt, all the way up to a title sponsorship where the branding will appear on all materials for maximum publicity.

What the sponsorship entails will vary drastically depending on the event, but the important thing is to agree on everything early, to avoid any confusion. You may be thinking “tasteful gala” and your sponsor could be sending over a van full of creepy company mascots.

DON’T: Dilute your event’s recognizability by changing the name every year

Speaking of varying levels of sponsorship, have you ever found yourself confused by an annual event that seems to be renamed every year? A title sponsor can be a great thing. This sponsor has contributed the most financially, so they naturally deserve the most publicity. However, if your event doesn’t have an ongoing relationship with a sponsor, it may not be the best idea to include them in the title.

A way to include your largest (or only) sponsor without damaging your event, is to add “brought to you by ________” after the name of the event. This allows a new sponsor every year, without a full blown name change, which would be confusing to potential guests.

Another thing to consider when adding sponsor names to event titles is the word count. Do you really expect people to say they are on their way to the “2016 Third Bank of the United States Springfield Jazz & Heritage Festival”? Think of all the wasted Twitter characters!

DO: Find a good balance between audience and sponsor benefits

One of the worst things you can do as a host is oversaturate your event with advertising and sponsor logos. It’s important to find a good balance, so attendees feel they are getting a good value and not being thrown into an advertising nightmare.

Having a financial sponsor host a giveaway or raffle allows the sponsor to shine, and provides a benefit to the guest. Consider a photobooth or “red carpet” area with a backdrop that displays sponsor logos. Finding subtle and smart ways to integrate your sponsors can be a challenge, but if done well it’s much more beneficial than just haphazardly sticking logos on everything in sight.

DON’T: Forget to thank your sponsors

Without sponsorships, your event most likely couldn’t have happened. Showing gratitude is a great way to end a successful event, and make sponsors want to collaborate with you again someday.

There are countless ways to make an event successful, even if you can’t get famous internet cats to attend. Keep this list in mind when planning your next big event, and you’ll have no trouble satisfying those valuable sponsors and creating a memorable experience for your guests.


Roundpeg is an Indianapolis marketing strategy firm.