How to build strong relationships with event sponsors

Splendour in the Grass' director shares how to build strong relationships with sponsors.

Sponsors are a huge part of any event, but gone are the days of exchanging a lump sum of cash for a logo placement.

More and more, sponsors are becoming an integral part of an event, which gives benefits to the organisers, the attendees and, of course, the sponsors.

Here, Andy Walsh, business director at Secret Sounds, shares his experiences working with and incorporating sponsors into events like Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival.

Finding the right sponsors

There’s a huge difference between finding a sponsor and finding the right sponsor. For Walsh, how a brand aligns with your audience and what they can do to help take your event to the next level are the most important factors.

event sponsors
Andy Walsh

“We’ve always had such diverse sponsors be part of our festivals,” he said.

“We challenge brands to ensure they develop a role that adds value or delivers something that’s important to the audience — these things will drive alignment.

To do this, Secret Sounds combines insights from the audience and brand.

“From a brand point of view, it’s looking at their proposition in market right now. How do they talk about themselves?” said Walsh.

“On the flip side, from the audience point of view, what are they talking about? What do they care about right now? That process, more often than not, can lead you to a strategic territory that makes sure it’s going to work for all sides.”

The value of a strong relationship

There’s an old sales adage that it’s a lot cheaper and easier to keep an existing client happy than it is to acquire a new one.

A similar idea is true of sponsors too – it’s a much better use of your time to keep your sponsors happy than it is to constantly be looking for new ones, plus it means you can build trust and develop ideas over time.

By making time early on in your search for partners to really work out what you want, you can make your job a lot easier and find an opportunity that gives huge benefit to all involved.

“We focus on trust in relationships,” said Walsh.

“If our brands are coming back year on year, if you have strong retention, you’re both winning. That mutually beneficial partnership is core to having a powerful value exchange between both parties.

“It becomes core to the festival, then for us we’re getting amazing value because they’re entertaining the audience and making that experience greater. They’re also driving great value out of it: they’re selling products, they’re getting powerful brand equity, all helping drive purchase behaviour at the festival and ongoing.

“It all starts from having a strong brief and good insights so you all know what success looks like. If that happens across all partners, it’s definitely a win-win.”

An example of a sponsor relationship to strive for

The goal for sponsors has many parts. Ideally, you want someone you can build a long-term relationship with, someone who is on the same level as your audience and someone who can add value to your event.

If you can find someone that ticks all these boxes, you could be on the way to a hugely successful partnership.

Walsh said vodka brand Smirnoff is great example of one of Splendour in the Grass’ long-standing event sponsors.

“For Smirnoff, it doesn’t matter so much what campaign is in market, our events represent an opportunity for them to build relationships with our audience,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity to trial, an opportunity for product launches and to build emotive campaigns. They’ve been a partner for 14 years and have major brand equity as part of Splendour.”

Before working on festivals, Walsh worked with Smirnoff and was part of the early evolution of their role in music.

“Looking at research that we do now, their brand recall is super high,” he said.

“It’s not just the volume of sales, which commercially is important, it’s actually the brand recall and the relevance that people, not only know that Smirnoff were there, but actually actively seek it out because it’s become a destination at the festival. People want to spend time there during the day and night.

“That’s where they’ve had great success. It’s been a long-term investment and they’ve become the fabric of the festival.”

Learn more from Andy Walsh and the future of events by attending The Business of Events on 19 March 2020 at Luna Park, Sydney. Book your ticket here.

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