How to get sponsorships for your business

January 24, 2024 | 6 minute read

Steve Strauss

Written by
Steve Strauss

The senior small business columnist for USA Today, Steve is also a brand ambassador with 20 years of experience and the author of 18 books, including his latest, Your Small Business Boom.

If you are like a lot of small business owners, you are often trying to figure out new and unique ways to grow your business. Should you upsell more to current clients or offer new, better, cheaper, or more expensive products or services?


One option to consider is corporate sponsorship.


For a small business, it makes a lot of sense to target corporate sponsors because such sponsors are on the lookout for programs, events, contests, and other opportunities to build their brand and spread their message. Additionally, corporate clients have bigger budgets than individuals or other small businesses, and that in turn means they have money to spend hiring or buying from you. Accordingly, if your business has a customer base that dovetails with a specific corporate need or interest, then a sponsorship can be yours.


What is a sponsorship?

Simply put, a sponsorship is when a corporation gives money or resources to a business or non-profit in exchange for promotion to that other entity’s customers.


For example, when a sports team sells the naming rights to a stadium, that is a sponsorship. The corporation get its name on the stadium (and all related events), the sports team gets a sizable fee, and both get exposure to each other’s customers.


Sponsorship may look different for a small business. A corporation might want to sponsor your website or social media contest. A bar or restaurant may have a special night or event that might fit a corporate sponsor. A shoe store could team up with a sports show company for an annual hike or marathon. The key is to find a sponsor whose target market matches your customer base.


As such, a sponsorship is (or should be) a win-win. The corporation gets in front of a new audience, and the small business gets corporate dollars and the opportunity to co-brand with a better-known entity.


Types of sponsorships

The first thing to understand is that there are a variety of ways that a sponsorship deal can be structured.


  • Financial sponsorships: funding is given by the corporate sponsor to the small business in exchange for publicity, exposure, or other similar perks.
  • In-kind sponsorships: occur when, like a financial sponsorship, the sponsor donates goods, expertise, and other products or services. The in-kind goods could really be almost anything: Contest prizes, a venue, food, etc.
  • Media and promotional sponsorships: the sponsor might give the small business free or discounted advertising or other similar media exposure.


How to get a sponsorship in 5 steps

Corporate sponsorships take effort and forethought. Getting one, the right one, is a step-by-step process.


1. Figure out what the sponsor will sponsor

Before you can approach a potential sponsor, and before deciding whom to approach, you need to know what the sponsorship will entail. Is it an event, a program, or something else?


2. Connect with sponsors

Begin by brainstorming. What you are looking for is a company that is “like” yours in terms of customer demographics, values, outlook, and so on. The obvious place to begin therefore is with your own suppliers and wholesalers. After all, you sell their products, they (presumably) like working with you, and your audiences similar.


By the same token, however, look at your competitors. Do they have companies with whom they work with that might be a good fit?


And beyond the low-hanging fruit of your own sphere, there are also several other places to look in your sponsor quest, including:


Online search

One of the best ways to find a sponsor is to find similar events or programs to the one you want to host that have already occurred. What corporate sponsors helped with that event? Bingo. You just found likely sponsors for your program too.


Social media

Almost all sponsorships are run through a corporation’s marketing department. As such, once you have identified the companies most likely to be receptive to your pitch, it is then just a matter of using LinkedIn to locate the right folks within those departments.


Online sponsorship platforms

A quick Google search will uncover several online platforms that can help you get connected to sponsors. Try starting with


Live events

Now that people are back to attending trade shows, conferences, and other similar business events, it would behoove you to attend a few in your industry. Nothing beats the one-on-one interaction and relationship building that can come from these sorts of events.


3. Understand your “unique selling proposition”

The questions you must first answer for yourself is why a corporation would:


  1. Want to team up with your business, and
  2. Sponsor this particular event


As you will see below, you will need to put together a sponsorship proposal. That proposal is your selling tool and it must answer these same two questions. You need to be able to succinctly explain what makes your business unique, different, and special, and why this event will help the corporation.


That last point is critical to understand. A sponsorship is a business deal. It has to make sense for the sponsor. What do they want? The answer is the same thing as what you want: to sell more and grow their business. So, you must give your pitch in that sort of language. You need to be able to show why doing business with you helps their business.


4. Develop your sponsorship package

Once you have identified the right company or companies to pitch, you will then begin the real work. You will need to sell them on the idea of sponsoring your event or program and begin to do that by having a great sponsorship proposal. That proposal should include the following:


  • Business overview: An overview of your business and why they would want to do business with you.
  • Event or program overview: An overview of the event or program and why it makes sense for them to sponsor it. This should include hard data and analytics of the event, the people it will attract, how many people it will attract, how it will be promoted, and so on.
  • Sponsorship benefits: This should include the various ways the sponsor will be able to interact with your audience – signage, advertising and marketing, access to mailing lists, etc. Additionally, consider other ways to help the sponsor such as giving them tickets, discounts and so forth.


5. Pitch

Lastly, you need to find the right people within the organization to send your pitch to. It is usually the Marketing Department, but searching on LinkedIn, or even calling the company directly to verify who managers sponsorships and their contact information is recommended. Next, you will need to speak with those people and then send them your sponsorship proposal.


Then it is a matter of doing what you know how to do: Sell. Sell them on you, your business, the event, and the sponsorship.


In the end, while getting a sponsorship is a lot of work, it is well worth it as it can take your business to the next level.

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