The Dance – How to Get Sponsors
Getting sponsors has a lot to do with (actually everything to do with) story.
All a sponsor wants is to be able to tell their customers (or partners, the government, the public, their competitors, etc.) that they are a part of a particular story, a story they are already telling themselves about who they are. You are here to contribute to or enhance that story in a way that makes it easier or more impactful for the sponsor to tell.
On a recent call with the founder of a coworking space initiative in the Dallas–Fort Worth area, the founder and I discussed sponsorship at length.
I told her that sponsorship was kind of like a dance. You start by taking one step, then another, then another, moving around the room. In the beginning the dance isn’t happening, but at some point, if you keep going, you weave together a pattern. That pattern is your dance. The dance is your story.
You start by taking some small action like attending a few meetups and events, taking pictures, sharing them, and spreading the word. You help a couple of community leaders with their initiatives. One day you do something such as host a black tie event for those community and business leaders in your area, at which you tell a story (usually with slides) about how your coworking initiative will change the community for the better. Then you take all the best photos and videos from that event and you post them online. You reach out to news organizations and local magazines, even small ones, to tell them about what you did and about another public event you have planned, which will be held in a couple of weeks. You use your media from the prior event to promote the next one and get people excited. You pack the event with 300 people, there’s live music, and food. Again you generate media and content, which you share and promote. You keep doing things like this and you start reaching out to potential sponsors who may want to be a part of your story (many of these will be the community and business leaders you’ve been courting). You weave this narrative together and place it into a nicely-designed sponsorship document. You go to lunch, you go to meetings, you create projects of value that your sponsors want to be a part of. And on and on and on.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. Sponsorship is not free money. Sponsorship is not logo placement (though it certainly involves that). Sponsorship is the artful, creative process of writing a story and selling others on being one of the main characters.