Ad Sales

I Tried Selling Last Minute Niche Event Sponsorships. Here’s What Happened.

During the holidays last year, I was stuck watching America’s Next Top Appetizer Food Truck, or some such thing. The contestants had to prepare a meal for the judges (who saw that twist coming?). One of the judges arrived late and missed the appetizer course.

          “You didn’t set any food aside for the late judge?” the contestant was grilled.
           “No,” replied the now doomed contestant.
           “You always, always set aside food for late arriving guests! Late or early, everyone should get to sample each course! You don’t get a rose.”  

As the contestant was led away in chains for his crimes against haute cuisine, I thought about what this episode could teach me about event sponsorships.

I get last minute companies who must, must!, sign up to sponsor my conference. I’ve heard: “My boss just told me about it!” or “I dropped the ball, can you help me out?” Last minute deals can be bonus money – or it could go horribly wrong. So follow these three tips for tasty last minute niche event sponsorship revenue:

Have a plan in advance

  • Bad choices get made if you wait till the last minute to shoehorn a sponsor in. So take time in advance to plan what you can sell at the last minute.
  • Your signs and program are already in production. So think digital. I use video signage at a lot of my events. Last minute sponsors are no problem. I drop their logo into the PowerPoint that runs on my digital signs.
  • Does the last minute sponsor have a gift item (that your attendees would actually want) that you could hand out at registration? Charge them for the right to hand it out.  
  • Uber and Lyft offer ride codes for events. Have your last minute sponsor set up a discount code and send an email out to attendees letting them know “Take $5 off your ride to the conference thanks to Carl and Co. Use Promo code NICHE18 when booking.” The sponsor can cap the number of coupon codes available so they aren’t on the hook for more money than they planned.
  • But: Your last minute sponsor’s benefits can’t be better than what your regular sponsors get. As good – but never better. That is a great way to annoy companies who signed up on time. Again, we want to encourage good behavior here.

Don’t discount. Do insist they pay on time.

It is tempting to offer a discount to land that last minute deal. Do not. Signing up at the last minute is not something you should reward people for! If you do, what’s to stop them from doing it again next year? Instead offer other benefits, like print or digital ads, to replace any benefits they miss out on. But always charge the same price as sponsors who signed up on time. And I always require that all sponsors, regardless of when they sign up, pay in full before the event starts.  

Set realistic expectations – and put it in the contract.

Make it extra clear in the sponsorship contract what they will and will not get as a last minute sponsor. If they aren’t going to make it into the conference program, write that in the contract and underline it.

If they are getting lousy, back of the hall exhibit space, write that in the contract and underline it. Not going to be on conference signage? You guessed it. Write that in the contract and underline it. I’ve written contracts just like this and had the company pass. That’s ok. I’d rather they walk away than expect something I can’t deliver.

I hate leaving money on the table. Your niche events have a real opportunity to bring in delicious last minute money. Unlike our food contestant, however, you need to plan ahead for the late arrivals. This maximizes your bottom line and keeps your judges (i.e. your customers) happy.

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More about Christopher: Christopher Ware is Founder & Inventor, Sales Tonic Media and is also the VP of Business Development for NAIOP, a national trade association. He is a niche media sales expert with 18+ years’ experience in selling print and digital advertising, event sponsorships, and exhibit space. Christopher has generated $20,000,000 in media sales for niche publications and events. He lives in Virginia with his wife of 18 years. He’s been to all 30 Major League Baseball parks, over 40 minor league parks, and hopes to one day see a game in every state.

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