Sponsorship Basics (SCE p1)

Sponsorship Basics is the first installment of the Sponsoring Community Events series aimed at helping companies get to grips with sponsoring community events, and getting the most out of them.

What is a community event?

A community event is one organised by members of the community, as opposed to one run by one or more companies with a financial interest in the community. These events are fundamentally different because they are not being run for profit, instead, they’re run to assist other members of the community to increase their skills. Community events are not-for-profit with volunteers donating their own time to run them. They commonly use sponsorship as a means to keep costs for attendees as low as possible.

What is sponsorship?

At a high level, sponsorship is forking over some cash to an event so that the event can happen. Sponsoring an event lowers the cost for attendees, increasing access to the event by a broader spectrum of attendees. Sponsorship of an event typically yields opportunities for sponsors to interact with the event’s attendees.

Why sponsor an event?

Accessible community events simply can’t happen without sponsors, so by sponsoring an event you are directly contributing to the community and helping it grow. From a business perspective, this means the market for whatever you do grows and the community identifies you as a business that supports them. It’s tough to put a value on goodwill and eventual market growth, though. This is why most community events offer sponsors the opportunity to engage with attendees. Engagement opportunities allow you to directly promote your stuff and gather leads. These opportunities are usually where you see value sooner.

Where are events with sponsorship opportunities?

There are tons of community events out there, and it’ll be specific to your technology niche. I’m going to be blunt here and say that if you don’t yet know, you aren’t ready to sponsor any! You need to follow the community more, get on twitter, attend community events, talk to people. You won’t have any impact if you find any old event, shove some cash at them and expect gazillions of customers back whilst committing faux pas. Know your market before you market to it.

What is the process for becoming a sponsor?

There will usually be instructions on an events website on how to become a sponsor. Most often this involves arranging things with the event’s sponsor liaison. In smaller events like user groups, this is usually the sole organiser. For bigger community events like conferences, there’s often a dedicated point of contact. This liaison will work with you to identify the level of sponsorship that fits for both you and the event and takes you through their process. Depending on the size of the event this could involve contracts and invoices. Having a liaison is useful as they can help you get the most out of your sponsorship.

Who should be responsible for sponsorship?

You get the DBA answer of “it depends” here! Small companies could see the CEO arranging sponsorship, in larger companies it could be marketing, events teams, or even sales teams. It typically doesn’t matter so long as two simple principles are followed:

  • Make sure they understand the company and the community
  • Don’t pass it around, dedication to the task prevents mistakes

How much does sponsorship cost?

There’s no hard and fast answer to that as each event has different costs. There will usually be a number of sponsorship levels that increase in cost as they increase in engagement opportunities with attendees.

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