Think back to the last time you received a birthday card in the mail. What were some of the defining features? Well, it likely came personally addressed, so that you were certain this was a piece of mail sent with the specific intention of being read by you. When you opened the envelope, you were probably greeted with a bright, bold, visually pleasing card – one that you were excited to open. On the inside, it probably had your name written in by the sender, some sort of mention of “Happy Birthday”, and possibly a few written lines of text celebrating you and wishing you well. And if I could picture your face after reading this card, I imagine it had a nice, big smile. All from reading a short $1.99 piece of card stock…
But now imagine for a second if instead of being addressed to you personally, that envelop read “Current Resident”. Instead of bright, bold visuals, the card was a solid drab gray on the outside. And if you even chose to open the card, what if it read “To Whom It May Concern: Congratulations on your [Birthday/Anniversary/Graduation/New Job]?” Do you think you’d have the same smile or joy from receiving this card as you would the original one? Would you get the same value out of these two cards?
Sponsorship Proposals in the 21st century are a lot like birthday cards. The ones that leave a pleasant, lasting impression on your leads – an impression that will be much more likely to convert into a sponsorship sale – are the ones that are personalized, visual, and crafted with that specific sponsor lead in mind. This cannot be emphasized enough: the generic “Dear Sir or Madam”, “Pick one of these Gold/Silver/Bronze Packages” sponsorship proposals are dead. There is too much noise and not enough time, and marketers do not have the attention span to page through another drab, generic sponsorship proposal. If you looking to find sponsors for your event, small business, charity, blog, website, podcast, or more, you have to do better!
Thankfully, having written thousands of successful sponsorship proposals over the last 15 years, we have developed proven blueprint for writing ones that convert. And while it will take you a little time to get the basic blueprint in place, once you’ve got your first proposal built using our sponsorship template, you’ll be able to customize and individualize for your leads in a matter of minutes, not days.
Before we begin, we’ve got to go back to basics…
What is the Purpose of a Sponsorship Proposal?
Before you begin writing your sponsorship proposal, it’s important to think through the real reason you even have one. Sponsorship proposals are usually delivered in a few different ways, most commonly:
Attached to a cold email sent to a prospect
Hosted on an organization’s official website
Sent as a follow-up to a lead after already having conversed with them via phone or in-person
Sent by a lead to other members of their organization, usually for the purpose of gaining the internal buy-in they need to sign off on a sponsorship opportunity
While situations will of course vary, and sometimes it will be outside of your control, the absolute preferred scenario is when sponsorship proposals are sent to a lead after you’ve already had a conversation on the phone or in-person. Sponsorship proposals work best when they are supplemental to the conversations you are already having with your lead, not when they are the first and last form of communication you have with a prospect.
Why do sponsorship proposals work best when they are part of a larger conversation with your lead? Because until you have a direct conversation with your prospect, it is extremely difficult to understand exactly which goals and objectives matter most to them. What are they interested in? Where are they guiding their brand? What problems can sponsorships solve for them? Until you know the answers to these questions, you will be unable to create a personalized proposal that accurately addresses their needs, and conveys the right type of value that gets them to convert.
Sponsorship proposals, when built correctly, take into consideration all that you have already learned from your prospect, and shows them exactly what they need to see: How you’ll solve their problems and provide them with benefits and value. How your sponsorship opportunity is an investment with positive ROI, not another added marketing expense.
So without further ado, let’s talk about how to create a sponsorship proposal that converts.
The Importance of Value Propositions and Market Research
First and foremost, you need to truly understand the value your sponsorship program can bring a perspective lead. Sponsorships are nothing more than leveraged value, providing companies and brands with something they cannot find anywhere else: you!
Whether it’s your event, blog, business, website, podcast, or any other number of things, you need to discover and articulate the unique differentiators you bring your sponsors. Why? Because marketers and brand managers love to align themselves with something unique, as it gives them a leg up on their competition.
Any brand can go out and buy a billboard, a Google ad, a TV spot. Coke buys a billboard on Route 66, Pepsi can buy the very next one. There’s no differentiation.
But if a brand like Coke is able to leverage something unique through a sponsorship program - if they can be the exclusive soft drink associated with a unique event, blog, or podcast - they are able to get their brand to stand out in a sea of noise.
So what unique value does your business provide?
The easiest way to answer this question is by building a Value Proposition. A value proposition is a statement that summarizes why a customer/user should use you over the competition. These statements are very specific, and focus on the most important piece of value you provide to the most important customer segment. They are bold and memorable. Someone should read your value proposition once and have a very clear understanding of the value you provide, who you’re providing it for, and why it’s the best option as compared to the competition.
Below is a Value Proposition Breakdown from the always-great Seth Godin and his colleagues. This should give you a good understanding of what goes into a quality value proposition.
In addition to identifying your value proposition, you’ll also want to be sure you have effectively identified your target market. And no, your target market is not “all parents”, or “all millennials”. You need to dig deeper, niche it down, and get more specific. Sponsor leads want to know who they’re going to reach through a partnership with you.
If your lead’s target market is business owners over the age of 50, and your event targets EDM fans between the ages of 15-22, there is not a lot of upside for the brand to sign on as a sponsor. Even if the activation goes incredibly well, the message is going to be received by an audience of little to no value for that brand. Conversely, if your event does indeed target business owners over the age of 50, and you can do a quality job in articulating this fact to your leads via your sponsorship proposal, your prospect will be much more likely to convert, as they’ll be able to see the opportunity to reach their core audience by partnering with you on this event.
Tools You’ll Need to Build a Sponsorship Proposal
Now that you understand why you’re building a sponsorship proposal, and have identified your target market and value proposition, it’s time to start building. First things first, you need to have the tools to get the job done right.
Some of the things you’ll need in order to build a wining sponsorship proposal include:
In addition to your own photos, it’s a good idea to round out your proposal with quality stock images to help the sponsor visualize your ideas.
Pexels is a great option we use often. Selection is limited, but the images are free! Adobe and Shutterstock are both good paid options if you want a deeper selection.
In addition to images, you’ll want to include a well-designed coverpage, graphs, banners, and more in your proposal.
If you own and are trained in Photoshop, that’s wonderful! If not, I highly recommend a web-based tool called Canva, which offers pre-designed drag-and-drop templates to use. Just input you image and text, and Canva will help you easily create a beautiful designs in a matter of minutes
Many of our clients will ask us at this point if they can just use Microsoft Word to create their sponsorship proposal. The short answer: yes, but we highly recommend against it. Of course, if Microsoft Word is your only option, this is better than no proposal at all, but Word is incredibly limited when it comes to formatting and visuals. Why does this matter? Because sponsorship proposals convert significantly higher when they are visual. According to research by Marketing Design Agency Ethos3, 90% of information sent to the brain is visual. In fact, visuals are processed 600,000 times faster than text!
With visuals playing such an important role on how humans receive information, wouldn’t you want to leverage that to your advantage in your sponsorship proposal? We’ll go into more details about the types of visuals you want to include in your proposals later, but in general you should always be looking for opportunities to accentuate your point with images and designs. When courting a new sponsorship lead, your proposal is asking them to take a leap of faith. To trust that the opportunity you are presenting is what you say it is. Visuals go a long way in gaining this trust. If it’s an event sponsorship proposal, use photos, maps, and other visuals to show the sponsor what the event will look like, where their brand will be featured, and the excitement seen in your audience. Get them thinking about the exact ways in which they’ll be able to integrate themselves into this event, and leverage the opportunity through their activation. Most importantly, get them excited!
Same thing goes for retail stores, blogs, ecommerce, podcasts, etc. Use photos, screen shots, and more to give your lead a visual representation of what they can expect when they take that leap of faith, and sign on as a sponsor.
All right, now that you’ve got the background knowledge and the tools you need, it’s time to start building your sponsorship proposal!
Our Proven Sponsorship Proposal Outline
More than just a collection of information, your sponsorship proposal should read like your favorite novel. Again, you’re trying to create a picture in the mind of the reader. To do this, you need your sponsorship proposal to read like a story. To create intrigue. To follow a natural flow and rhythm.
The following sponsorship proposal template outline is one we’ve developed over years of building proposals on behalf of our clients. While it may vary based on the specific type of sponsorship opportunity you’re offering, in general you should strive to include everything you see here in order to maximize the conversion rate of your proposal.
Whoever said “you can’t judge a book by its cover” has obviously never written a sponsorship proposal. Chances are, your sponsorship lead receives multiple (if not hundreds) of sponsorship proposals each week. Do you honestly think they have the time to read each one? Of course not! It takes the perfect combination of a well-crafted sponsorship proposal, as well as a strong sponsorship email/letter to get noticed (speaking of which, be sure to check out our Sponsor Cold Email Workbook). All good sponsorship proposals start with a strong cover. It should be relevant to your opportunity, bold, and well designed. Don’t rely on a generic PowerPoint title page. Use a service like Canva to create something that really sticks out.
Remember those birthday cards we were talking about earlier, and how lackluster it would be to receive a card addressed as “To Whom it May Concern”? Sponsorship proposals are they same way! Your leads do NOT want to be handed another generic, one-size-fits-all proposal. Show them that you’ve built this proposal specifically with them and their brand in mind by including some sort of “Prepared For” section/page. Include their name, title, contact info, brand logo, and any other personal identifiers that lets them know “this is for you, and as such, you are going to want to keep reading.”
Opportunity Overview/Value Proposition
Once your lead knows that your sponsorship proposal was created specifically for them, it’s time to provide a 30,000ft. view of the opportunity you’re offering., and the value it provides. This can be done a variety of ways, but we generally keep this page of our proposal very visual. For events, we’ll include a collage of photos showcasing our space, the crowds, and previous sponsor integrations. Then we’ll include 4-6 brief sentences that touch on the following:
What is this proposal for (blog, event, charity, etc.)?
What are you offering?
Why should the lead care?
What is your value proposition?
Here’s an example of an Opportunity Overview we’ve written in the past for one of our clients:
The 2017 Taco Truck Fest is a cure for the common Chicago street festival. This two-day extravaganza will completely transform the Lakeview parking lot into a bustling food oasis, bringing together folks from all walks of life in the name of the world’s most glorious street food: the taco.
For Chicago-dwelling millenials under 30 struggling to find wallet-friendly social activity options, the 2017 Taco Truck Fest will create an environment unlike any other local street festival, with vast food and entertainment offerings at a fraction of the cost of local large-scale events.
Our organization is seeking partnerships with a small, curated list of brands to serve as sponsors for this event, and leverage our unique platform to engage our valuable audience.
Now is the time to get more specific. If you’re an event, what are the dates, times, ticket info, location, etc. Looking for sponsors for your blog? Talk about the frequency of posting, number of writers, content sections, etc. Charity? How long have you been around, are you 501(c)(3), what are your fundraising goals? Take the high-level view you provided on the previous page and start to drill it down in more detail. You want your sponsor lead to leave this section more educated about what you have to offer.
Remember the audience you worked so hard to identify? Now is the time to share that information with your sponsor lead.
As mentioned earlier, even the coolest, most innovative and effective sponsorship activations will fail if they’re reaching the wrong audience. Show your sponsor lead that you have a very clear understanding of who your audience is by sharing key demographic and psychographic details. If you’ve done quality research on your sponsor leads, this market data should align well with who they are trying to target, and reinforce why partnering with you on a sponsorship is such a great opportunity.
If you're struggling to identify your audience, be sure to check out our online course How to Write a Sponsorship Proposal that Earns, which features in-depth instructions on finding audience data.
Like most entrepreneurs, content creators, and event producers, you’re probably working like crazy to build your business, generate new content, grow your audience, and sell tickets. Let your sponsor lead know how hard you're working! Sponsors want to join winning team. They want to know that if they are going to partner with you, you are going to be working day and night to make your business (or event, charity, blog – whatever it may be) the best it can possibly be. Because the better you make your platform, and the more value you create for your own customers/users/audience, the more value your sponsors will get out of their partnership with you.
Use this section to talk about your various marketing and advertising efforts. Are you currently running successful marketing campaigns? Have you seen traffic to your blog double over the last year? Are tickets to your events selling like crazy? Share the highlights and successes here so that your sponsor leads recognize the upside potential of a partnership.
Now is the time to bring it home, and show your lead exactly what opportunities you have in mind for them. The Activations section of your sponsorship proposal is where you get specific; talking about some of the assets you believe would be most effective for this lead and their brand. Why do we refer to these as “activations” and not “sponsorship packages”? Because sponsorship packages are outdated, and scream “give us some money and we’ll slap your logo on a t-shirt”. They’re not part of the 21st century marketing ethos. Activations on the other hand symbolize an active partnership between you and the brand. You’re working together to build a custom program that best leverages your sponsorship opportunity for the brand’s needs, not offering up some one-size-fits-all generic package.
Instead of offering up a handful of generic “Gold, Silver, Bronze” packages and asking your sponsor to pick one, you’ll want to create a handful of “Activation Concepts” specific for you lead. It’s dependent on your opportunity and the lead you’re pitching, but in general we recommend putting together 2-4 Activation Concepts to include in your proposal, each with a varying range of assets and investment needs. Again, these are just suggestions, and it should be made very clear to your leads that these concepts are just a starting point, and that you fully encourage further customization based on their specific wants and needs.
So, how do you know what types of activations to build and which assets to choose? Well remember, in the ideal scenario you have already spoken with your sponsor lead on the phone or in person. By asking the right kinds of questions, you should have left this talk with a clear idea as to what your lead’s objectives are, and what they value most in sponsorships. Based on this information, you will be able to put together the exact sponsorship assets in your portfolio that will maximize your lead’s return on these objectives.
Note: If you find yourself in a scenario where you think it is impossible to have a conversation with your lead before sending your sponsorship proposal, try again! A pre-proposal conversation will significantly increase your chances of conversion v. sending one before you’ve had a chance. However if it really can’t be done, and you have no option but to send a pre-meeting proposal, do your best to research previous sponsorship activations your lead has participated in. What types of events, charities, websites, and businesses have they partnered with? What were the components of these activations? Do you see any sort of pattern that indicates what their objectives might be, and what assets of yours correspond well to these objectives? Educate yourself as much as you can to increase the likelihood that you are presenting your lead with options they are actually interested in seeing.
Once you’ve landed on a selection of assets for each of the activations you’d like to show your lead, it’s time to build out your Activation section. There are three components you’ll want to include here: Sponsorship Assets, Activation Summary, and Objectives Achieved.
The sponsorship assets section is where you want to outline the exact assets your sponsor would receive as part of this suggested Activation Concept. Include all the elements that would be leveraged, and get specific where necessary. If it’s an event they’ll have on-site space for their brand, what is the square footage? If they’re going to have a VIP section, how many guests will they be able to entertain there? Be very clear so that their expectations align with reality.
Use this section to very clearly showcase that you have your sponsor’s objectives in mind. Highlight the exact objectives you expect to achieve with this Activation Concept, ensuring that they align with the objectives you know to be important to your lead.
Include a single paragraph that brings your Activation Concept home. Be bold, and be captivating. Talk about the reasons you selected the assets you did, and why they’d be beneficial for the lead’s brand. Tie it all together in a way, much like the birthday cards we mentioned at the beginning of this post, has your lead smiling, knowing that what they’re reading was crafted specifically for them.
To include or not to include price…
Like any other sales pitch, presenting pricing information is a delicate dance. Too soon, and you risk scaring off your prospect before they’re able to understand the true value you are providing. Too late, and you risk spending a great deal of time courting a lead, only to discover that your pricing and their budget are nowhere near aligned.
In general, we advise our clients to NOT put the pricing of their assets and activations in their sponsorship proposals. Why? Because this guarantees a follow-up conversation with interested leads. When pricing is included in your proposal, you are giving your lead a very easy “yes or no” question to answer. They’ve read the proposal, seen the value, and seen the pricing – all that’s left is to decide whether or not they want to proceed. However if there’s no pricing in the document, and you’ve done a good job getting the lead excited about the opportunities you’re offering, they’re going to want to set up time to discuss further.
A post-proposal conversation with your lead is the perfect opportunity to ask more questions and gain additional insights, such as:
What do you think about our (event/blog/website)?
How much overlap exists between our target market and the one you’re courting?
Did any of our assets or activations look particularly appealing? Anything that didn’t seem like a good fit?
Any additional objectives you’d be interested in targeting as part of a sponsorship program with us?
You’ve now got the lead talking through all the particulars you need in order to seal the deal. You’ll also understand if you hit the mark with any of your activations, or if you need to go back to the drawing board and refine further. This ensures you develop the perfect activation for them before diving into pricing.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you feel it necessary to include pricing in your proposal, we suggest putting pricing on a separate page from your activations. When price is on the page, it will be the main focus. Get your lead excited about the activation, the assets, and the objectives that will be targeted before they see the price. For more on this concept, be sure to check out our highly-rated online crash course How to Write a Sponsorship Proposal that Earns.
Thank You/Next Steps
After your Activation Concepts, wrap up your sponsorship proposal with a thank you page. Be sure to include you contact information, as well as any relevant notes regarding the next steps in the process. And of course, thank them for taking the time to read through your proposal!
There you have it, the keys to writing a winning sponsorship proposal that earns.
It’s understandable that you may be feeling like you don’t have the time to create a sponsorship proposal this robust and this targeted. You’re busy running your businesses, planning your events, raising money for your charities, and creating content for your blogs. We totally get it! But what’s the cost of not creating a stellar sponsorship proposal? Though you can certainly save yourself some time by creating one of those generic “one-size-fits-all” proposals, is it worth it if you are not able to land any significant sponsors?
The benefit of creating a well planned, custom sponsorship proposal is that your chances of conversion increase significantly. And with increased conversion comes more money, and less time chasing leads. With this sponsorship proposal template we’ve outlined here, you can significantly reduce the amount of brands you chase. Pick your best leads, create a killer proposal, and watch them sign on in record numbers.
Interested in taking a massive shortcut to building a sponsorship proposal that earns? Then be sure to follow the lead of thousands of other sponsorship seekers, and check out our Udemy course How to Write a Sponsorship Proposal that Earns.