Securing a media sponsors for your fundraiser or special event is one of the most powerful ways to attract attendees
, donations and volunteers. Media outlets sponsor special events as a community service and to promote themselves to key audiences. Promotion is important when there are several media outlets of the same type in the same market, all competing for audience and ad revenues. By associating themselves with popular public events, the media promote themselves as good corporate citizens worthy of public support. Broadcast media, in particular, like to cover or sponsor community events to demonstrate their commitment to the community (which they can then provide to the CRTC as proof of their community service activities when their licence comes up for renewal).
Why do the media sponsor fundraisers or special events?
- It makes the media outlet look good in the community.
- It can sometimes mean additional publicity, even by competing media.
- It’s an inexpensive way for the media outlet to spread the word about its good deeds.
- It gives the media a chance to sell more newspapers at an event.
- Having its name associated with successful community events enhances the media’s credibility.
- Sometimes media celebrities such as news anchors are asked to serve as emcees, thus elevating their profile in the community.
Why should go after a media sponsorships for your special event?
- It will save you thousands of dollars in advertising costs because newspapers magazines, and TV and radio stations typically donate advertising as part of their sponsorship commitment
- A media sponsor will give your event more credibility.
- The media sponsor might give you more publicity than it would have otherwise, particularly if it’s a TV station. This is not necessarily true with print media, however.
- TV and radio stations reguilarly send station personalities to community events, usually in a van emblazoned with the station's call letter and branding to increase their visibility
- Community events coverage is seems as a mutual benefit, providing publicity for the event and demonstrating the media outlet's commitment to the community.
Media sponsorships can be negotiated for everything from a peewee ball tournament to a major arts or cultural event Sponsorship benefits can range from signage to recognition at the podium and in the event program. Essentially, media sponsors get special treatment from event organizers in return for the right to be called media sponsor
Generally, you negotiate media sponsorships through the community relations or the marketing department of the media outlets you think will reach your target audiences. Your biggest selling point is either a very large audience that will provide maximum exposure or a very targeted audience that matches the target audiences of the media outlets
If you are trying to secure a media sponsorship to promote a motorcycle safety program, you are more likely to get support from a hard-rock radio station targeted to 15 to 25 year old urban males than you are from a radio station that plays country music targeted to older rural listeners.
For large community events, you can secure media sponsors from a radio station, a tv station, and a newspaper and offer exclusivity in each category. The media generally see competition, particularly for advertising dollars, only from media in the same business.
Yet competition is fierce in the event-planning world for media sponsors. Some TV community affairs directors routinely get several dozen requests a week for sponsorships. That’s why your pitch must stand out in the crowd.
Which media sponsors are best to approach?
When seeking media sponsorship, ask yourself which media outlet would be the best natural fit, according to the type of event. For example, if you’re sponsoring a health fair for older adults, you wouldn’t ask the local business journal to co-sponsor it, because older adults typically don’t read business journals. You might, however, ask a local magazine that devotes almost all its editorial content to the elderly.
If, on the other hand, you are sponsoring an event that will attract primarily a business crowd, the local business journal could be the logical choice.
Do your homework
Before lining up a media sponsor, do your homework. For print media, call the advertising department at your local newspaper or magazine and ask them to send you the publication’s media kit. This is a folder of information about the media outlet that includes a wealth of information such as demographics of the target audience, circulation figures, advertising rates, upcoming special sections, etc. Study it to find out whether your event would be of interest to its target audience.
If you find nothing in the media kit that offers a clue about major community events it already co-sponsors, call and ask someone in the advertising department. You don’t want to approach a newspaper, for example, with a request to sponsor an event that’s similar to an event the newspaper already sponsors.
For TV, watch programs on the station you are interested in inviting as a media sponsor. Pay attention to the format, community focus and on-air talent. Most TV stations have annual themes and pet causes. As you are watching, ask yourself, “Is our event and message a fit with this station’s focus?”
Develop a list of benefits you can offer potential media sponsors. Be creative. Consider the obvious e.g. event tickets, recognition, etc. but also think outside the box
Who to pitch?
At newspapers, start with the promotions director. At some papers, promotions also is the responsibility of the circulation director. If this is a major event, you might also find yourself sitting face-to-face with the newspaper publisher, the chief executive who is responsible for the entire newspaper operation. Do not ask to meet with the publisher unless the promotions director makes arrangements for that.
At TV and radio stations, the community affairs director usually determines which events to sponsor. TV sales managers also look for events that might offer a chance to generate more revenue. News directors are interested in events that will give high visibility to on-air talent and increase news ratings.
What to include in your proposal?
Whether pitching newspapers or TV, go to the meeting with no more than a two-page proposal. Tell the executives exactly what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. In other words, you’re not presenting only the interests of your group. Your proposal must make it clear that there’s a lot of value for the media outlet as well. If you’re asking the local business journal to sponsor a breakfast that will feature a prominent VIP or celebrity as the keynote speaker, for example, be ready to offer the newspaper the following:
- The chance to distribute newspapers at the event
- The names and addresses of everyone who buys a ticket. The newspaper will use this information later for marketing purposes.
- Plenty of signage at the event.
- A certain number of free tickets. Media outlets sometimes give these tickets to their major advertisers or offer them as free on-air giveaways. Or sometimes they simply want their own staff members to be able to attend for free.
- The media outlet’s logo displayed prominently on all marketing materials.
- Microphone time. The publisher might want to extend a greeting the crowd.
- All planning for the event will be done by your organizations. This is very important. The last thing the media want to be saddled with is extra duties. Keep in mind that they are not meeting planners. Nor should they be expected to do any of the grunt work.
How to cultivate relationships media sponsors?
- Provide them with newsworthy opportunities and support throughout the year.
- Respect their deadlines and high call volume.
- Don’t expect a lot of expensive production time and assistance.
What if they say no?
Accept their decision gracefully. Do NOT try to change their minds. Understand the immense pressure they are under to sponsor hundreds of community events. Send thank-you notes to everyone at the media outlet who has met with you or provided services to your organization.
What if they say yes?
- Ask the media outlet if there’s anything else they want from you. Sometimes, they will ask for a percentage of revenue, or a percentage from the gate. Be ready for this question, but you don’t have to answer it immediately. There’s nothing wrong with telling them you want to review their counterproposal with your planning committee before giving them an answer.
- Sometimes the media will ask you for exclusive coverage at the event. Be ready for this request, but do not agree to it. Here’s why. If your co-sponsor is a TV station, and war breaks out in the Middle East on the day of your event, there’s a chance the hot news of the day could kick your story off the air. If only that TV station is covering it, that means your event could end up with no coverage. If someone asks for exclusive coverage, you can counter with an offer to let them cover certain events first.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the media outlet, “What’s the most important thing you want to get from sponsoring this event?” They might give you a variety of answers—everything from being able to sell more newspapers to being visible in front of a huge group of people.
- Get a clear understanding of deadlines. When are they planning to run free ads for your event? What’s the deadline for copy? (Yes, YOU must provide the copy for the ad. Remember, you must make the media’s job as easy as possible.) Can someone from your group proofread the ad before it is printed? Who is your key contact in the advertising department?
- Ask who your key contact will be at the media outlet, then be sure you ask that person how often you should call them just to make sure everyone stays on track.
- Ask the media about special needs the day of the event. They might want you to reserve space at the front of the room for a huge banner with their name and logo. They might need additional tables for newspapers. If you’re having a trade show as part of your event, the media might like their own booth.
- Ask about news coverage. Will they see to it that the event is covered by someone on their staff? Or are you on your own when pitching story ideas to their news decision-makers? If so, ask them who the best person is in the newsroom to talk to about coverage. When you contact that person, you can mention that the media outlet is a media sponsor, but tell them you don’t expect anything extra as a result. Many people incorrectly assume that a sponsorship means more news coverage. The folks in the newsroom resent this, so telling them you don’t expect them to give you anything more could score you points.
- Check back again with your media contacts to make sure they have everything they need at the event. Ask if there’s any other help your group can provide.
- Provide media sponsors your media kit including your hi res logos, posters and any other promotional materials you will or have produced.
- If possible, provide them with your own quality video footage, either of previous events or of programs and client interactions. Media san easily utilize this footage to create a public service announcement or PSA that is broadcast to promote the event.
- Prepare speakers for media interviews. Some television stations might provide an opportunity for a guest appearance on one of their morning or news shows as part of sponsorship. Be careful when choosing your speakers. Whether staff, board or clients, they should be outgoing, well-informed, comfortable speaking with the press and delighted to present a lively presence on television. Make sure they are already comfortable speaking to the media.
At the event:
- If possible, try to incorporate an emcee role for your media sponsor's anchors or reporters. This helps secure possible news coverage. Keep in mind what newscast they report on or anchor for. For instance, if you have a weekday event, scheduling a reporter as emcee whose shift ends at 7pm, you might want to schedule their podium time for 8pm.
- Request emcees for your event at least six months out. Be specific about your needs from the sponsor, providing the exact date, time, etc. along with a description about the event
- Send the contact person for each media sponsor a detailed timeline of the evening at least a week prior.
- Prepare a detailed event script the week of the event. Make sure there is copy of the latest script at the podium on the night of the event. The script should be 24 point or larger in a binder with plastic sheets.
- Send a volunteer to pick up the scheduled emcee from the station and drive them, if requested. This kind of offer can make a media sponsor's team much more flexible.
- If parking for your event is an issue, secure valet parking for your emcee and your media sponsor's reporters, so they can dash in and out easily.
- Assign a greeter to shepherd the VIPs. Generally, they do not know anyone at your event, so it's important to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
- Be sure to save a plate of food for your invited guests, emcee and the volunteers.
- Be sure to thank the the media sponsors along with everyone else after everything is done!
What do you do with media sponsors after the event?
- After the event, schedule a debriefing with your media contact. This means you will visit the media outlet to review a list of questions about the sponsorship arrangement. Those might include:
- Were you each pleased with the sponsorship arrangement?
- Were you each pleased with the event?
- Do you have suggestions for things you could have improved at the event?
- Were their expectations met?
- Would they be willing to sponsor the event again next year? If so, when should you contact them to start making arrangements for the event?
Media sponsorships, like most other contacts with the media, rely on strong relationship-building if you are to be successful. That means being as flexible as possible. Be willing to do far more than what you thought your group might have to do to snag a media sponsorship.
Sample of a Media Sponsorship Proposal
2013 Media Sponsorship Proposal
(Name of Media Outlet) will receive sponsorship benefits listed in exchange for promotional support for the Event Name).
(Name of Media Outlet) will provide the following at a value of (the media sponsor will provide you with a breakdown of the value of things they are offering as part of their sponsorship commitment):
- The following should be a bulleted list of all the things you are asking from the media outlet. It’s important to specify details, including when you would like ads to run. The following list provides you with some suggestions based on the type of media outlet. Be sure to talk with the media outlet contact about what other opportunities they can offer.
- Team and survivor recruitment and luminaria ads. Find out if the newspaper can design the ads for the Relay. If not, formatted ads are available by contacting your staff partner
- A Relay For Life multi-page tab insert to be designed and printed by the newspaper. Insert should run close to the event date.
- Relay information posted on their website.
- Team and survivor recruitment and luminaria ads. Pre-produced TV Relay ads are available through your staff partner or communications manager.
- Relay information posted on their website.
- Team and survivor recruitment and luminaria ads. Live read copy for ads are available by contacting your staff partner or communications manager.
- Relay information posted on their website.
- Send an email out to their listeners.
The Company Name will provide the following (add a value to each item you include and ensure that the value you are offering the media outlet is equal to the promotional support you are requesting from them):
- This is a bulleted list of suggested benefits the American Cancer Society can provide to the media outlet in exchange for their sponsorship:
- Exclusive (newspaper/TV/radio) sponsorship of the Relay For Life of (name of event here).
- Name or logo recognition on Relay For Life of (name of event here) promotional materials, including event t-shirts, event advertising and programs.
- A waiver of the $100 team registration fee for a (name of sponsor) team.
- Banners, provided by (name of sponsor here), to hang at the Relay.
- For newspapers doing inserts – Provide multiple copies of the newspaper insert to hand out to participants at the Relay.
- Leads and information for possible feature stories. (Be sure to talk to the contact person about the editorial opportunities available)
This proposal will stand as an agreement to the above stated as it is now known with the understanding that creative additions may be made. Signed and agreed to this date, _________________________by:
Name and title, media outlet contact
Name and title, ACS contact
To sum it up
To keep your media sponsors happy and to live up to your end of the bargain, get everything in writing with as much detail as possible. Keep a checklist of everything you and the sponsor have agreed to and ensure that everything is done. Throughout the event, be sure to recognize your media and other sponsors, even beyond what you agreed to do. You'll have a much easier time getting them on board the next time you have an event you would like them to sponsor.