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Blue Ribbon Consulting

"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

The Search For Sponsorship
By Lisa Derby Oden

Is your horse business or association running a horse show, clinic or expo
that you'd like to beef up?
Are you a competitor, trainer, or instructor looking for backing to perform
to your potential?
Is your horse association or non-profit looking for more support in carrying
out your mission?

Sponsorship is one way to bring new resources to these horse-related
pursuits. Sponsorships can provide financial support, in-kind support (goods
or services), and third party endorsement. Perhaps this sounds too good to
be true. But the key to developing sponsors is to realize that it is mutual
relationship. You benefit and the sponsor benefits. The sponsor can benefit
in a variety of ways that include: increased exposure for their company or
product to an attractive market; tax deduction if the event or organization
is a 501-c-3 non-profit; increased good will for their business image; third
party endorsement of their business or product.

Since you are the one looking for sponsorship, it is your responsibility to
develop and maintain the relationship. You must be able to demonstrate the
value of your mission, function, or talent. You will want to provide a
profile of who your market is and the exposure you can provide in that
market. Another key to success is a consistent communication system with
your sponsors and prospects. Like any relationship, if neglected or
under-valued the sponsorship may dissolve.

This is a year-round activity that should not wait until 2 months before you
need the funding. If you are starting the first time 2 months before the
funding is needed, be realistic about your goals this first time around.
Many of the businesses that you approach will have a long list of people and
groups approaching them for sponsorships. Often they have developed a policy
for contributions and sponsorships. You will want to do a little research as
you go along to find out as much about your sponsors needs before you
contact them with your request. They will be more impressed with you if you
can demonstrate that you know about them. Create a file on your sponsors
that shows:
1) Contact person and title
2) How often they make their donation decisions
and when
3) What types of activities, projects, groups they
give to
4) Who their customers are, and why you offer a
good audience for their company, product, or
You may approach a sponsor to discover that their "giving cycle" has just
passed. This should be noted in your files, and you can approach them
earlier next year. Or your prospect tells you they only give to youth
projects. Note this too, and determine if there are ways you can tailor
their need to yours.

1) Determine your sponsorship goals - List merchandise, money, both and
targeted amounts
2) Brainstorm a list of possible sponsors - family, friends, corporate.
Remember that the employers of those on the organizing committee or board of
directors may also be approached.
3) Create a file about each possible sponsor that catalogs all that you
know about them and their possible needs/markets for sponsoring you.
4) Make a calendar of your years goals and activities- location, number of
people that attend
5) Create a demographic profile of your audience - number of people, income
range, buying patterns, etc.
6) Prepare a budget projection for your event, project, or cause
7) Brainstorm all the possible opportunities that you can provide the
sponsor. These will vary according to whether you run events, work for a
cause, or are a well-known talent. A few ideas follow -
a. Logo on your banner
b. Their corporate banner displayed at functions
c. Their logo in a program
d. Name announced throughout the day at your functions
e. Their product displayed at your functions
f. Banner on your website
g. Link on your website
h. Their logo in your display advertising
i. Their logo on your requests for info
j. Listed in your press releases as a sponsor
k. Their logo on a polo shirt that you wear places
l. Logo on any mailings you do
m. Staff a booth they may have at a trade show
n. Availability to attend one of their events/functions
o. Show rings, tents, exhibit area can all be named for a sponsor for the
duration of the activity
8) Determine level of benefits for level of contribution - for example a
$100 sponsorship gets a link on your website; $500 gets logo and link on
website, plus logo in program at your functions.
9) Break your activity, event, or cause up into "sellable" components.
Determine a dollar value for each component.
10) Build in a little flexibility to hear ideas the prospective sponsor may
have too.

1) Put together a sponsorship package that you take with you when you meet
with prospects. You can include:
a. Demographic profile of your audience
b. History of your business/association/event
c. List of board of directors, organizers, or committee; titles; and who
else they may represent
d. Resume and/or list of accomplishments if you are an individual seeking
e. Past show list or show programs
f. Sample ads about your event or cause
g. Press releases about past events
h. Newsletter if your group/event has one
i. Business card or contact form
j. Suggested levels of donation/sponsorship, and/or list of "sellable"
2) Make an initial contact either with a phone call or a letter. Follow-up
by sending a thank-you for their time, if you are unable to proceed beyond
this point. Offer to send information about your project.
3) Set a time for a meeting - try to keep it brief, as these folks are very
busy. Let them know you only want 15-20 minutes of their time to share the
opportunities you offer that they might not be currently aware of.
4) Take your sponsorship package to your meeting. Be brief and professional.
Open with a concise overview of your organization and this project. Move on
to the demographics of your audience. Inform them of the sponsorship levels.
(You may decide ahead of time the level that you think they can give at.
Make this suggestion, but be ready to indicate that there are other
options -both higher and lower - if they seem reluctant.) Try to match your
sellable components to their needs during the meeting.
5) If you are turned down on the spot, try to determine why politely. This
may be something you can address in the future. Or it may be something
beyond your control. For example, they may have just reduced their budget
for this type or request.
6) Let them know that you will follow up and when. Then be sure that you do.
If they are not able to help this time, they may be able to in the future or
on another project that you have.
7) Send a thank-you after all is said and done. Put them on your mailing
list so they have you on their radar screen for the future.

Make sure you get logo artwork in plenty of time for what you've agreed
upon. Or if you have agreed to display their banner, make sure you have it
when the event rolls around. Send an invitation to your sponsor for the
event. If they can come, have a "sponsor ambassador" available to show them
around and answer questions. Publicly acknowledge that they are there.

1) Send another thank-you. If they weren't able to attend, let them know
what a success the event was. Send them follow-up press releases about the
success. Send some of this information to the prospects that weren't able to
help you this year too.
2) Keep adding to your prospective sponsor list as you attract new people on
your organizing committee. Start the entire process all over with these
3) Keep your sponsors on your mailing list for additional contact during the
year. Perhaps a holiday card gets sent; newsletters if you have them; FYI
note with exciting new features or activities. Don't deluge them with
information, but do let them know that your operation continues to grow and
is thankful for their support and part in that growth.
4) Remember to contact past prospects that have indicated "Not now, maybe
next time." Refer to your notes about the proper time of year to make a
request and about what their giving needs might be.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry.
She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at; or visit her website at

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