Some companies don’t have the budget to sponsor an event financially, but this isn’t the glass-half-empty scenario you may think. Rather, it’s an opportunity to come up with your most creative event sponsorship ideas yet.
Expanding your event sponsorship ideas beyond money can deepen your pool of possible sponsors for events and force you to think outside of the box.
The same essential rules apply as you begin the process of attracting event sponsors, whether you’re looking for a financial or non-monetary collaboration. The best sponsorship ideas arise where your audience, sponsor, and event goals intersect. Spend time thinking about the event, the wants, needs, and pain points of your audience, and the unique profiles of the companies you approach. Then use our 5 non-monetary event sponsorship ideas as a springboard for creative ideas your attendees and sponsors will love.
Explore 5 Out-of-the-Box Event Sponsorship Ideas
1. Sponsored on-site event experiences
Many of today’s events incorporate experiential marketing, and your sponsors can be part of the fun.
Event scavenger hunts
Scavenger hunts are popular at events because they’re intriguing, fun, and encourage attendee interaction. A sponsored scavenger hunt can incorporate clues or challenges related to the sponsor’s product or service. If a sponsor has a store or booth at the event, the scavenger hunt can bring attendees right to them. If not, perhaps a scheduled Q&A session with one of the sponsor’s experts can be a station on the hunt.
The sponsor might provide the time to plan and design the scavenger hunt, printed lists and pencils, and an app for mobile-based hunts. (Mobile apps are great for convenience and data collection, which your sponsor may appreciate. But remember the demographics of your attendees: According to Pew, in 2018, 95 percent of Millennials owned a smartphone, but only 67 percent of adults age 50 and over did.)
Finally, the sponsor can also provide fabulous prizes related to their offerings and your attendees. Skincare products and eco-friendly yoga mats are an excellent match for a wellness conference. A giveaway of patio furniture would be welcome at a homeowners association event, as would kayaks or rugged backpacks for a regional outdoor trail-running club.
“Makery” workshops and wellness breaks
Even at a more traditional, less experiential seminar or conference, attendees enjoy a break. A sponsor could donate a station for an arts and crafts, or a botanical activity to build positive brand awareness in your audience.
At a springtime event likely to draw local seniors, a nursery may sponsor a plant station. Guests can pot a plant into a branded ceramic pot to take home, and the nursery can tout the health benefits of gardening in the golden years. In the fall, you could ask the same nursery to sponsor a terraria or air plant building workshop to remind attendees that indoor plants promote health and can thrive year-round.
Check sites like Pinterest and Etsy for DIY inspiration related to possible sponsors, and event themes and goals. Keep in mind how people will likely dress for the event, as well as post-event travel—nobody wants to juggle a glass terrarium on their flight home.
Wellness breaks are also popular at business meetings and conferences. Depending on the event and its demographics, yoga, Zumba, hula hoops, spin, guided meditation, or individual meditation could refresh and recharge attendees. Yoga studios, gyms, boutique fitness studios, and athletic outfitters might be interested in donating equipment or classes with their most dynamic instructors.
Photo booths and Instagram stations
Sponsors can donate a photo station, whether it’s an actual photo booth, an appealing and memorable backdrop for selfies, or even a mini-studio with glam lighting. The sponsors can also donate branded signage with the preferred event hashtag or fun dress-up items.
For example, a manufacturer of scrubs could donate photo booth ‘costumes’ for a pre-med conference. For an animal welfare event, a local sign printer may provide an animal-themed Instagram frame for the booth plus signage that reminds people to use #WagathonNY when they post. The key, again, is matching sponsor to audience in a thoughtful or clever way, such as when gummy candy brand Swedish Fish provided ‘selfie stations’ as part of its partnership with specific aquariums.
2. Creative and targeted event swag
Swag bags are an eagerly anticipated component of events. The key is selecting giveaways that get people excited about these gifts for grownups and not just passing out branded plastic items sure to get tossed.
A sponsor might create custom temporary tattoos at Tattly. The best tattoos are designs that appeal to the audience: a certain style of art, a short in-group phrase, or a recognizable character, for example. This takeaway appeals to young adults and also to people with children. At a Harry Potter-themed bookstore event, perhaps a lightning protection company can donate tattoos inspired by the series.
More grab-and-go swag ideas tailored to event, sponsor, and guests:
- Music scholarship fundraiser. Branded guitar picks and castanets from a local music school.
- Executive networking event. Bullet journals sponsored by a professional development firm.
- Teachers Convention. Mini dry erase boards with easel sponsored by a school supply company.
- Environmental fundraiser. Stainless steel or bamboo reusable straws sponsored by an outdoor gear company.
VIP swag bags represent two opportunities: Tiered ticket pricing with a unique swag offering, and an opportunity for sponsors to reach high-tier ticket holders.
Keep the focus on quality over quantity. Think S’well stainless steel water bottles, high-end skincare products, and cell phone cases with the sponsor’s logo in Swarovski crystal.
Look for opportunities for niche VIP branding by sponsors. At a fitness-related event, for example, a sports outfitter, gym chain, or equipment supplier may supply a quality organic workout tank or tee. They can put their logo on the tee and include a phrase that brings people together around their shared interests. (Crossfitters: “Maybe burpees hate you too.” Marathoners: “This is a 5k, right?” Yogis: “But first, yoga.”). Get even more event swag ideas here.
3. Event entertainment
Approach artists and performers respectfully and with the understanding that donating a performance free of charge may not be feasible. Clarifying how access to your audience might benefit performers can improve your chances of signing them.
A school of dance, music, or circus arts may sponsor your event as a performance opportunity for its advanced students. After the performance, school administration and performers can participate in a meet-and-greet. If your audience includes kids and parents, or if the school offers classes for adults, they might find some starry-eyed new enrollees.
At an outdoor event focused on family fun or pets, a local dog training club might like to show its stuff. Crowd pleasers include clubs that train obedience, frisbee, flyball, rally, or agility. (Another benefit: these hobby clubs don’t usually expect paying gigs.)
Reach out to popular local musicians. If your event is in their slow season, they may agree to donate their talents to the event in exchange for exposure to a new audience.
4. In-kind donations for fundraisers
There are endless in-kind donation sponsorship opportunities for events ranging from small school fundraisers to high-end museum galas.
Delicious food that attendees remember
At an elementary school fundraiser, the local pizza place might donate a slice per ticket: An audience of busy parents and plenty of take-home menus ensures positive returns on their gift. At a higher end event, a chocolatier might be interested in catching the audience’s eye. At an event for young adults, maybe a sponsor would like to offer eye-catching cakes, with cake and icing in logo colors.
Products and services for a raffle
The raffle basket is a time-honored tradition in fundraising. Local businesses and large companies can donate some of their services and products. From a gift certificate for a free massage to morning coffee for a month to a weekend getaway, these raffle items capture attention beyond the winning ticket holder.
Venue location and event supplies
Your local library could donate their picturesque lawn for a community fundraiser, or an office park could let you use their parking lot for a weekend event. Reach out to tent rental companies, florists, A/V equipment companies, and photographers. They may be willing to donate their event products to raise their brand awareness, or because the fundraising cause matters to them.
Other in-kind donations to request from potential sponsors:
- Transportation services by a limousine service.
- Accomodations for event speakers by a local hotel.
- A nurse practitioner from a regional hospital offering nutrition education.
- Event programs printed by local business.
5. An event app
With a thoughtfully designed event app, event sponsors can gain valuable insights into your audience, their preferences, and their habits.
Sponsors might donate the time and know-how to customize an app template, or they might develop or commission a bespoke event app. The app should enhance the event experience first and foremost, with easy-to-use event guides, schedules, and check-in options. Clearly branding the app will help the audience connect the event with the sponsor.
Prioritize privacy and security, and keep the collection of valuable data transparent yet unobtrusive. A data-breach will undermine any positive associations event attendees made during the conference or festival.
Chances are you noticed none of the above suggestions are truly cost-free. The time, goods, and services of sponsors are all highly valuable. But thinking beyond monetary sponsorships expands the scope of your outreach and gets more sponsors on board for your events.