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Corporate Sponsorship for Health Promotion Events and Programs

By Karin Davis

Karin Davis recently completed a course on getting corporate sponsorship for events at George Brown College and has a special interest in this topic. She is also Administrative Coordinator at OPC and helps to manage the OHPE subscription database.

A. Introduction

Corporate sponsorship can be a great way to fund health promotion events and programs that you otherwise would not be able to run. But, it can also be a long and time consuming process if done without considering all of the issues or the proper research. It can even harm your image if you are not strategic about the corporations that you partner with. This article is an introduction to corporate sponsorship as a means of fundraising and explains the difference between corporate sponsorship and corporate giving, the issues that should be considered before soliciting sponsors and what corporate sponsors are looking for from a relationship with you. It will also discuss the research process, the important elements of a sponsorship proposal, issues to consider in closing the deal and how to nurture your new corporate relationship.

B. What is Corporate Sponsorship?

In order to be successful at securing corporate sponsors, you must make sure that it is sponsorship that you are actually requesting. Corporate sponsorship and corporate giving are often used interchangeably but are actually two completely separate acts; the money comes from separate sources, you will deal with separate departments and the goals, objectives and the proposal will all be different.

Corporate giving (or corporate donation) is a philanthropic activity. A corporation will donate money or products and the only acknowledgement they will expect is a tax receipt and a thank you.

Corporate sponsorship, on the other hand, is a business relationship. Corporations look for marketing and community relations opportunities in exchange for money, products or services, and they want corporate recognition for their involvement.

There are generally three types of corporate sponsorship:

1) Event Marketing (sponsorship of a specific event)

2) Partner Sponsorship (a long-term partnership with an organization or program)

3) Cause Related Marketing (corporate sponsor promotes a specific cause through the purchase of their product or service).

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C. Issues to Consider

There are many issues that organizations should consider before leaping into the world of corporate sponsorship. There are many concerns within health promotion about partnering with corporations and it is important to consider all of the implications corporate sponsorship could have on your clients, volunteers, donors and board members. For example, how would a woman at an eating disorder event feel if Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers sponsored the event? You will probably want to create a corporate sponsorship policy to guide you. This policy could include a statement of principle, screening criteria for sponsors and an administrative process. There is also an enormous amount of work involved in the research, soliciting and maintaining of corporate sponsorship relationships and it is important for you to have the time and energy to be able to fulfil your promises to the sponsors.

Ask yourself the following questions before you decide to solicit corporate sponsors:

What are the benefits for our organization?

What risks will there be?

Will associating our organizations with certain corporations affect our credibility?

Is corporate sponsorship appropriate for the nature of the event or program?

Do we have the resources to be able to effectively support the process of securing sponsors?

Do we have liability insurance that would cover us in the event of a problem?

Are there any philosophical or ethical issues that we should consider?

Are there any guidelines or policies that we should put in place?

What type of screening process will we have?

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D. What are Corporate Sponsors looking for?

Remember that this is a marketing opportunity for corporations and that you need to have something to offer them in return. Not only do they want to increase the awareness of their brand or product but they also want to enhance their image. When deciding to sponsor your event or program, corporations will ask themselves "What's in it for us?"

Will sponsoring this event or program increase our sales?

Is there a way for our employees to get involved?

Is there an opportunity for business to business marketing (e.g. a reception)?

Is there a target audience and product fit?

Is there a solid PR campaign in place?

Do we have flexibility?

Are there complimentary tickets or items available?

How much do we have to do? (Sponsors want to be able to just show up and have no additional responsibilities)

Does this organization have a good reputation with other sponsors?

Is this a once off or is it annual? (Most sponsors like to build long-term relationships)

What risks are involved in sponsoring this event or program?

Are we being offered industry exclusivity so that we have a competitive edge?

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E. Researching Prospective Sponsors

The amount and depth of the research that you will need to do will vary depending on how much money you are requesting and the size and types of corporations you plan on soliciting. If you are soliciting sponsors for an expensive nation-wide program, you will have considerably more research to do than if you are soliciting sponsors for an inexpensive local awareness event. The first step is to develop a list of prospective sponsors. Think about the nature of your event or program and consider the following:

Who is going to be attending the event or involved in the program?

What is the age of these participants?

Which gender is more involved?

What is the geographic location of the event or program?

What are the ethnic and economic backgrounds of the participants?

What does this group of people do, buy, read, and watch?

What are their interests?

Consider which corporations might have the same target market as your event or program. For example, if you are planning a health fair in a rural community for seniors, you would not solicit corporations like Sony, HMV, or NIKE. But if you were organizing a basketball tournament for teenage boys and girls in an urban setting, these would be excellent corporations to include on your solicitation list.

The second step is to qualify your prospective sponsors. You need to determine if the corporation you are considering has the financial capabilities to engage in sponsorship at all or at the level you are interested in. You can do this by contacting organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade. It is also important to confirm that the marketing plan of the potential sponsor is a "good fit" with your event or program. Review the sponsor's past marketing efforts, by reviewing their annual report and studying their advertisements, to see if there is a match. As well, talk to marketing executives to determine if your event or program would be of interest to them.

The last part of your research it to determine the appropriate person to send your proposal to and how long it will take them to review and consider your proposal.

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F. The Sponsorship Proposal

The sponsorship proposal must convince a potential sponsor that your event or program is going to meet their business needs. It needs to be visually appealing and easy to comprehend. Mail your proposal to the individual that you have already confirmed as being the appropriate contact. Follow up with that individual every two days from the date of receipt. Be persistent but very pleasant.

Your sponsorship proposal should include the following:

* A description of the organization that is holding the event or program

* A description of previous events or similar programs

* An overview of the event or program for which sponsorship is being solicited

* A description of who will be attending the event or involved in the program, how many and their demographics

* Quotes/testimonials from past sponsors and participants from previous events

* An explanation for the prospective sponsor of how they will benefit from becoming a sponsor

* A detailed media plan for your event or program

* An explanation of sponsorship opportunities (what's in it for them). For example: where their logo and name will be seen and how big will their logo and name be (on posters, tickets, banners, brochures, booklets, invitations, etc.), if there will be verbal recognition at the event, on television spots or at a press conference, opportunities for on-site sampling

* A list of what the sponsor will be required to provide (either financially or with products) as well as items such as their logo, banners, signs, booths, staff members

* A separate page of contact information so that the corporation can easily find the appropriate person to get in touch with if they are interested in pursuing the relationship

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G. Closing the Deal

Once a corporation has expressed interest in sponsoring your event or program, you will need to move into the negotiation phase. This type of negotiation can be intense and often will take place face-to-face. (If you are asking your local bakery to sponsor the dessert of your fundraising dinner, a phone call may be enough to close the deal.) When in negotiations, the potential sponsor may be asking for space for a larger logo or they may want the right to veto other sponsors. You will have to decide if you are willing or able to provide them with what they are requesting. Once a deal has been reached, make sure that you get it down in writing, even if it is your local bakery. If the negotiations are not working, do not be afraid to walk away.

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H. Nurturing the Relationship

Prior to the start of the event or program, keep your sponsor abreast of any changes that you are making that will affect their role as a sponsor. It's essential to keep the lines of communication open and address any concerns that they might have. The most important way to maintain a good relationship with your sponsor is to make sure you deliver on everything you have promised them. If you do not, you are not only jeopardizing the relationship with this sponsor but with all of your future sponsors.

After the event or program has ended, evaluate the partnership. Were participants receptive towards your choice of sponsor? Did your sponsor's display fit with the atmosphere of your event? Did you distribute as many programs as promised? Was the group of participants a good match for the sponsor's product? Were there as many media spots as promised?

Be sure to thank your sponsor for their involvement in your event or program and keep in touch after the event or program has ended. Invite them to other events such as an open house, put them on your newsletter distribution list or drop them a line to update them on upcoming events that may require further sponsorship. It is cost efficient for sponsors to maintain a relationship with you if they received a good return on their investment, and a lot less work for you.

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I. Conclusion

Corporate sponsorship can be a valuable source of funding for health promotion events and programs provided it is done correctly. This means taking the time and resources to first understand how sponsorship will fit with the objectives and policies of your organization and your event or program. And secondly, spending the time, energy and resources to do the necessary research, to write a professional proposal and to make sure that you deliver on every promise you have made. If you are new to the sponsorship world, consider starting small. Solicit one sponsor for a local event and then work your way up. Be professional and remember that you are entering a business relationship, which may be a different way of thinking.


Nyp, Gary. (1998). "Looking for Corporate Support?" Front & Centre. 5 (4) pp.1-3

Barker, Judith. (1998). "Legal issues in sponsorship: get it in writing". Canadian Fundraiser.

(1995). "Corporate support may 'cost' charities More Than They Bargained For." Canadian Fundraiser.

Barker, Judith. (1998). "Get your media sponsors on board first." Canadian Fundraiser.

Barker, Judith. (1997). "Sponsorship or charitable contribution - - what's in a name?" Canadian Fundraiser.

(1995). "How to solicit corporate support." Canadian Fundraiser.

Vale, Norma. (1995) "Cause-Related marketing can be a win-win situation for the charities and businesses involved. But is it philanthropy?" Front & Centre. 2 (2) pp. 1-2, 9.

McClintck, Nora. (1997) "Closing the BIG Deal." Front & Centre. 4 (3) pp. 1-2, 4.

Course material from the Sponsorship for Festivals and Events continuing education course at George Brown College. Prepared by Carolyn Prear. 1999.