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Driving Value for Event Sponsors

(This is a guest article by Dan Westervelt)

One of the first mistakes that inexperienced event planners make with golf tournaments is to ask for donations for arrival gifts. This usually results in a hodgepodge of miscellaneous and unrelated logo’d merchandise like pens, mouse pads, drink cozies in a recycled plastic bag. What message does this send to the players? This is an unprofessional/budget event. The problem with this is that your experienced players have come to expect a quality arrival gift and will judge your tournament very harshly without it, i.e. they won’t be back next year.

Solution? Find a sponsor for the arrival gifts and buy nice ones, like leather duffel bags, shoe bags, a golfer kit, or maybe a valuable pouch to clip on their golf bag. These all come with your sponsor’s logo on them so look for items that can be attached to the golfer’s bag. Classy but inexpensive, keep in mind this is the ‘first impression’ your tournament makes on these golfers, and they are your next year’s starting lineup of repeat players. The average successful event spends $30- $40 per player on these items. A 100 man event times the $30 budget is $3,000 but you sell this package for $4,000.

Great, but how are we supposed to pay for that?

Have a volunteer(s) assigned to do nothing other than approach local businesses to sell the arrival gift sponsorship. Don’t forget the arrival gift is the first thing the golfers put their hands on, so the better it looks and feels, the better the image projected by both the sponsor as well as the event. Have the volunteer carry actual samples of what will be included in the package to show at their presentation.

Times are tough, money is very tight and sponsors are hard to find and difficult to pin down these days. How do we appeal to them? Simply put, give them $3 of value for every $1 dollar you ask. Instead of using the ‘It’s a worthy cause and we need your help (money) this year’, create a marketing opportunity for them that will push customers into their front door. This is now a marketing plan not just a charitable deduction for next year’s tax return.

Appeal to their desire to grow the business by adding to their active customer list. Plan a series of social network announcements, blast emails, Linked In etc. Ask them to offer specials (discounts, coupons, special values) for those who play in the event, make these offers redeemable only when they actually walk into the sponsor’s door.

Ask them. “What new markets are they working to get for their products or services? How do they usually acquire new customers? Is their advertising pulling in new leads or customers?” Show them how your event can bring them new business.

Make sure the local media is part of this effort, radio, newspapers all love to have a story about a local businessman supporting a local cause, this is a must have part of your value added approach to the sale. Think outside the box, suggest a way for their name to appear on something unique and fun, like a blimp or a helicopter ball drop. When you think of signage think big, the larger the sponsor’s name, the more important they appear at the event.

Lastly, make sure that sponsor is thanked, as often as possible, and tangibly. The most successful device for year to year sponsor retention I have found are sponsor plaques which have their name, logo and the event shown on it. These are available from Golf Tournament Specialists in Irvine, CA. see Sponsor Plaques, under Products and Services tab.

You should also to take a look at the GTAA website specifically the “Education.”  There you’ll find the Taking your Tournament to the Next Levelseminars by Phil Immordino. His books are loaded with proven fund raising ideas, and membership in the GTAA is free.

Keep in mind that Value is not about the money a sponsor spends but about the customers they gain as a result of sponsoring your event.


Dan Westervelt is a recognized speaker and an expert on advanced selling techniques, he is the author of four books and numerous published articles on advanced selling. He currently serves as the National Tournament Consultant for the GTAA as well as being an Adjunct Professor of Sports Marketing and Promotion at the National University Golf Academy at Carlsbad CA. A lifelong golfer, his tournament experience is extensive as both golfer and organizer. You can get in touch with Dan via email.

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