11 Secrets for Successful Association Sponsorships in 2023

Are you finding it challenging to create a sponsorship program that offers real value to both your members and your sponsors? Read on to discover the secrets of sponsorships that resonate — and the upsides of putting people before programming.

Here are 11 strategies for successful sponsorships for your association starting TODAY.

Image: 11 Secrets for Successful Association Sponsorships in 2022

1. Move from ABCs to VIPs

Let’s talk about how to move from ‘Always Be Closing’ or selling sponsorships to creating Values-Aligned, Inclusive Partnerships to support your association’s mission and strategic objectives. Commit to making your sponsorship programs align with your association’s mission. Always focus on the needs of your association’s members!

2. Don’t Buy Into Old Methods that No Longer Work!

The sponsor is NOT always right. Your members and your staff deserve your diligence in ensuring the sponsorship serves your members and serves your association. Your staff should not be bullied into submission. Sponsorship should be a positive experience for all individuals involved. 

3. Cultivate a Long(er) Relationship

What would a “year-long” sponsorship engagement look like versus a “conference” or event-based activation? Having all sponsorship benefits concentrated around a several-day conference may not have as much value for your top-tier sponsors that have year-round business goals.

Recommended Read: Looking for detailed advice on designing an event sponsorship package that will be competitive in today’s market? Download the free Sponsorship Strategy Guide to learn how💰!

4. Know Your Members’ Values

Researcher David Allison talks about the importance of using values rather than demographics to make decisions about everything from marketing to benefits. The same applies to thinking about your members’ needs. To decide the benefits to offer sponsors, start with an analysis of what your association and your members really value. Sponsors’ benefits can be better crafted to support what your members uniquely care about within your association.

5. Avoid the “One Size Fits All Approach”

To package benefits for sponsors, make sure they match the needs of each company – especially for top-tier sponsors. The Gold/Silver/Bronze-level pre-packaged sponsorships are a popular sponsorship option but are unlikely to inspire creative strategic thinking when it comes to identifying the best products and offerings for members and sponsors. 

6. Understand your sponsors’ businesses better

Test out direct, one-on-one dialogues with the executives from each company. Ask them about their marketing goals and what they believe a successful sponsorship would look like. Try to find out if there is one type of member or member segment in particular that they would like to connect with for the sponsorship. 

A calculator, a pair of glasses, and some white balls over printed charts

7. Understand your sponsors’ timing better

To determine the beginning and renewal date for sponsorships, base it on the best timing for the sponsor (not your association’s fiscal year or the calendar year). Ask each company when they make budgeting decisions and when they would like their sponsorship to begin.

8. Collaborate on new initiatives

To create benefits of value to sponsors that are also based on member needs, think about high-level recognition like co-branded content, joint social media campaigns, and consider involving sponsors in toolkits, focus groups, and roundtable meetings with the association’s staff and/or board.

A team of professionals having a meeting.

9. Augment the sponsorships with other types of engagement

To increase sponsor value at virtual conferences, provide top-tier sponsors opportunities to post educational content for conference attendees; participate in live or videotaped interviews on topics of importance to members; serve on panels for sessions; access registration data segmented by demographics.

10. Explore new voices and choices

Consider new companies your association’s members purchase from that could become sponsors. Are there new companies and products in your members’ industries that could “shake things up” in a good way for your sponsorship engagements? 

11. Invite vulnerability into sponsor relationships

”The more that we tell sponsors about what we do as associations, the better our sponsors are at understanding ways they can provide value to our members,” said Tanya Hannah Rumble, CFRE, Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Recommended Resource: 📺 Watch 8 short videos to learn how the EventMobi event platform can help you deliver events in any format that engage attendees and offer sponsors more value.

KiKi’s Bio

Kiki L'Italien

KiKi L’Italien helps organizations develop stronger ties between their mission and their members. She has honed her approach to communications and strategy for many organizations – nonprofits and corporate alike – including Optica, American Red Cross National Headquarters, QVC, and the American Institute of Architects, to name a few.

KiKi is a senior consultant with Tecker International and speaks regularly about management strategy and cultivating communities of trust.

KiKi is the creator and host of Association Chat, an online community, blog, and podcast reaching 72k individuals every month. She was also featured in 2021 by Cvent as one of the ‘20 Event Professionals You Should be Following’, and in August 2021 as ‘30 Nonprofit IT Influencers to Follow in 2021’ by BizTech Magazine.   

KiKi has served on the membership and component relations section councils for ASAE, and was recognized in 2019 at IMEX as a Hall of Fame recipient for Organizational Leadership by the Association for Women in Events. Other awards include BizBash Top 1000 People in the U.S. Event Industry (2019) and SURGE Innovation Pioneer (2018).

She is the current president of the Woman’s Club of Wenonah.