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Summer is almost here, which means busy schedules of large community-focused events like lunchtime concerts, 5k runs, and neighborhood festivals. This also creates a need for volunteers and event marketing. Why not check both off your list while increasing the visibility of your event sponsors and their dedication to the community?

There’s a good chance your sponsorship agreement already outlines their on-site presence and providing employees to act in a volunteer capacity. Hopefully it also outlines general event marketing and social media engagement, such as including the event logo linking their website to the event site, posts on Facebook, and including the event’s hashtag in related tweets. All of these items create a great opportunity to show their commitment to your partnership.

If any of the above items were not part of the sponsorship contract, don’t be afraid to ask your contact about these opportunities. Do it as soon as possible just in case there is an internal approval process, which can take time. Ideally you should ask over the phone, if not in person, and follow-up with an email outlining the details. Taking the time to call or meet in person speaks volumes to your sponsor and prevents the impression they are part of a general ask mass email. Once they say yes, and if you have the resources, connect them with your team member who is dedicated to sponsor communications and involvement. By having one point person for all your sponsors, it allows for a streamlined process to give and receive information. If you’re uncomfortable about not being included on such communications, have your point person copy you on the emails so you’re in the know, but can focus on the bigger picture.

Before continuing on, it’s important to note all event volunteers are equally important and should be profusely thanked for their time and energy before, during and after the event. While it can be hard to show equal appreciation to your volunteers and sponsor volunteers (SV) at times, do your best to have them all shine so they’ll return for future events.

Some additional ideas:

1) Use customized rubber bracelets noting the event name and add “sponsor”, for example “Town Festival Sponsor.” Have your contact give these to employees prior to the event to help spread the word and create an internal marketing buzz around water-coolers and coffeemakers. If they are worn at the event, it serves as a great sponsor identification piece.

Take it a step further: include the event website or hashtag on the bracelet, for example #TownFestival. Or drop the word “sponsor” so they can be used as a general marketing tool for your sponsors, event partners as well as your own team to hand out to clients, customers and attendees before and at the event.

2) If you have event t-shirts, be sure to give them to your contacts at least three days prior to the event. This will allow time for the shirts to be handed out to the SV, sizes exchanged, and for some people, the opportunity to wash their shirt in advance (some folks like a soft shirt). Be sure to bring additional shirts on-site in case someone forgets it at home.

Take it a step further: if it’s within your budget or you have a t-shirt sponsor, have all volunteer shirts in a different color then, for example, the 5k participant white shirts so they stand out from the crowd.

3) Be sure to have some sort of visible identification for those involved with your event. This allows staff, vendors, sponsors, and volunteers to know who is who on-site. If you create buttons, have the staff button say “Ask Me.” This clearly lets attendees know who to approach with questions. If you think your vendors will be able to answer questions – where’s the first aid station? bathrooms? food? – have them wear the button as well. The second set of buttons are for the sponsors and volunteers simply saying “Thank You.” While walking around the event, this batch of buttons not only says “thanks” to the attendees, but serves as a token of appreciation for the person wearing it. You can add a little pizzaz to the buttons by adding the event’s hashtag or have a watermark of the event logo; just make sure the text is bold and easy to read.

Take it a step further: if you have lanyard badges for staff and volunteers, create a special lanyard with each sponsor’s logo (very time-consuming), name (slightly time-consuming) or “Sponsor” (super easy) printed on it. If your staff badges are blue, volunteer badges are yellow, then have the sponsor badges be white so each group can be easily identified. Yes, this takes extra time but this type of detail can pay off in the long run simply because it accomplishes two important items: 1) your sponsors stand out from the crowd, which 2) allows your staff to easily spot the sponsors and thank them for their involvement. It doesn’t matter if the person wearing the lanyard is the sponsoring company’s CEO or night security guard, your team saying thank you will make a huge impact on those involved at the event, hopefully adding to their experience and return as a sponsor. You never know if the company’s night security guard has a direct line with the your contact or the CEO.

How do you boost sponsors’ visibility beyond the usual logo and podium treatments on-site? Any favorite methods to encourage sponsors to be an active event marketing participant? Please share!

Until next time, skoal!