Finding & Approaching Sponsors

Securing sponsorship is undoubtedly one of the toughest jobs on any race director’s plate. And finding and approaching sponsors, in particular, is probably the toughest bit of it.

Where do you even begin looking for good sponsor prospects? How do you know which person to contact? What do sponsors really want? And how do you make that first approach to maximize your chances of success?

We’ve got some awesome tips for you on all those burning questions and more from today’s guest, Teresa Stas. Teresa is the CEO of event sponsorship consultancy Green Cactus, she is also the author of “Sell Your Event!: The Easy To Follow Practical Guide To Getting Sponsors”, and she has spent her entire career helping events of all shapes and sizes land long-term sponsorship relationships, including Hood to Coast, the world’s largest relay race - now also a growing international relay race franchise. 

In this episode:

  • Selling sponsorship = selling an audience
  • Figuring out your event's audience 
  • How your audience's interests can guide your sponsor prospecting 
  • Understanding your audience through surveys, Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, marketing personas
  • Putting together an introduction deck (not a sponsorship proposal!) for your event
  • Where to look and what to look out for when prospecting sponsors
  • In-kind sponsors, sustainability sponsors, media sponsors
  • Finding the right contact person inside each sponsor organization
  • Cold-calling vs cold-emailing sponsor prospects
  • How to cold-call and cold-email sponsors
  • Following up on your initial cold/email to sponsors
  • Making the most of sponsor rejections


Many thanks to our podcast sponsors, RunSignup and Racecheck, for supporting our efforts to provide great, free content to the race director community:

RunSignup are the leading all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events. More than 26,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. Find out more at

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Episode transcript

Panos  2:16  
Teresa, welcome to the podcast!

Teresa  2:18  
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Panos  2:20  
Well, thank you very much for coming on. We're going to be talking about sponsorship today, which is always a very exciting topic for race directors. Before we go into that, though, let's start with some introductions. So would you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your company, Green Cactus, and the work you do for events? 

Teresa  2:41  
Yes, of course. My name is Teresa Stas and I am the CEO of Green Cactus, which is a sponsorship agency. And we're based out of California here in the US as well as Portland, Oregon. We specialise in a lot of events based in the West Coast. I also have authored a couple of books about sponsorships. I do articles for international festivals and events associations, as well as other programmes. We are kind of twofold. One is we do brokering and actually handle all the sponsorship management both prelim and, then, on-site - that's one of our specialties. Then, our other, of course, is education. It's very important. Coming from the world of smaller events originally before I launched into more mega events style now-- coming from that world, I found that it was very difficult for smaller and mid-sized events to get any real help when it came to sponsorships. All the books and everything written about it are for what you would call rights holders, but they're for either venues or events that are very, very big. When I was first starting off, it was very hard to find information on how to do sponsorships when you were a smaller one. So we specialise in educating small events, as well as consulting with them and working on their sponsorship programme. We also broker and deal with sponsorships on a regular basis, and those are normally for very large events, including one of our big events that's very relevant to you guys, which is Hood to Coast race series, which is one is the most popular relay races in the world and has been franchised in, like, four different countries as multiple series. We're really proud of it coming up really, really soon. It's a 200-mile relay race going from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon.

Panos  4:38  
Yeah, what an amazing event. So basically, you do sponsorship sales for Hood to Coast - sort of, like, the whole 360, right? 

Teresa  4:45  
Yes, yes. 

Panos  4:46  
But then, as you also said, you also then take some of those things you learned from that - some sort of, like, playbook and some of the strategy - and you also put it into your consulting work which is educating others on how to do sponsorship so that smaller and medium events can get out there and do it for themselves.

Teresa  5:08  
Exactly, yes. Because most people will find-- we get calls. We probably get 10 to 20 calls a week from events wanting our services. To be quite frank, most brokers - because they work off commission - in smaller events, just don't earn enough to be worth it to a lot of brokers. So a little newsflash there. If you get one that says that they want to do it on commission, only be leery. For us, it's more about teaching them how to do it themselves in a profitable way, and also being able to take all of their money instead of forking over some of it to commission.

Panos  5:46  
Okay, awesome. I guess some of the stuff we'll be going through today is based on that consulting work and all of that advice that you have accumulated for smaller events?

Teresa  5:55  
Yes, absolutely. We have a book as well as a workbook that can they, kind of, work together. So some of the stuff, we're going to be kind of going through it. There are all kinds of things that you can find in there, but it is all doable stuff and stuffs that events can do for themselves.

Panos  6:12  
Awesome. So today, we've been going a little bit back and forth on this. I was trying to find what would be the best area within sponsorship to discuss, and I think we agreed that the prospecting stage, which is how you find sponsors, and the approach stage, which is how you actually do the first reach out, is going to be quite important. But as you were telling me the other day - and I think it's quite helpful for the context of today's episode - we may want to start a little bit before the prospecting phase because lots of what happened in the prospecting phase start a little bit earlier than that. You suggested that we start by discussing how rights holders - race directors and event directors - can get a better understanding of their audience. I took a note when we were talking on the phone because you said something - I've actually put down in a quote - which is, "When you're selling sponsorship, you're selling an audience." So do you want to elaborate a little bit on that?

Teresa  7:18  
Yeah. The very first thing that I always tell everybody when I speak and, also, when I do any kind of training is there's this misconception that people are selling their event. The truth is you're selling the audience. You're not selling your event. Most of the time, when I talk to sponsors, the event is sort of peripheral, which is kind of interesting, because you spend so much time and effort putting it together, but if you have no audience, then you really have no event. If you put on the exact same Coachella but nobody was there, then the value of Coachella is gone. So you have to know the audience and the audience is what the sponsors are targeting. So when we start working with those events, the first thing we ask them is, "What do you know about your audience? What is it that you know? How can we use that information to lead us to the correct sponsors?" You would be surprised at how little they know about who they're actually targeting, or what happens is they are self-identified to their audience, which isn't necessarily true. So they believe that they are the audience because they're putting the event together, which is, a lot of times, not the truth. I can't tell you how many country music festivals we work on here in the US, and I am not really what you would call a country music fan. You can't relate it to yourself. You can't say, "Well, that's what I would want." I mean, sure, you can think about it that way, but you have to be very cognizant of who your actual audience is, who is actually attending your event, who is actually racing your race, and what their lifestyle is. like. Once you understand that, then it becomes a lot easier to sell sponsorships. A lot of times, events completely skip over that factor. That is actually what your sponsor is buying. So if you don't understand that, then you are just wasting your time.

Panos  9:15  
Yeah. So in a sense, you're saying you need to understand the product because that audience is what you're going to sponsors with, right?

Teresa  9:22  
Yes, exactly. You can have the most amazing race, but if you don't know who your audience is, then it means nothing to those sponsors. That's the biggest thing I find with a smaller run - they just don't know.

Panos  9:33  
And in the context of a race, who would be making up that audience? Are we talking about the people taking part in the race? Are we talking about the people coming out to cheer for them? Are we talking even, like, remote people following my Facebook page? Who exactly is that audience?

Teresa  9:50  
Well, it's interesting. That's a fantastic question, and I don't get it very often. That's a great thing to understand about how you can segment that audience too. For me, I would say your audience is anybody you're specifically trying to target. Now, if you find out, like-- I'll use Hood to Coast as an example. They have about somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30,000 runners and, then, they also have a waiting list of 30,000 people who are just trying to get into this race. The funny thing is their beach party or the finish line tends to have close to 80,000 to 100,000 people that are there. Well, obviously, they're not all runners. So, having an understanding of who those mixed runners are is fantastic because it opens your sponsorship spectrum as well. Let me say that this is not common. We do understand that a lot of events don't have, like, the same amount and attendees supporting as they do and runners - I get that - but understanding that changes the way we sell because we do know that a lot of the general public is coming to that event. So it doesn't necessarily always have to be race-based. Some of the products that are out there are, we have cocktails, and we have beers, and things like that. Then, at one point, we realised there were so many dogs coming out to this event that, maybe, it's worth going after chew toys or things like that because, obviously, this audience was bringing all their dogs out to the beach as well. So you should be cognizant of who those are, but you should also understand who your primary audience is. Well, obviously, for this event, the primary audience is going to be the runners like most of your events are because that's where the bulk of your people are. Now, maybe, if it's, like, a race or - just for lack of better examples - like, the Olympics or something, the amount of runners in comparison to those watching is a totally different thing - it's flipped. So you would say that you have a segmented sponsor that's going to go to the runners - your brand is targeting those runners - or you're going to have the one that's going to target the audience that's watching it. So the good thing to think about this is look at it and ask yourself, "Do I have multiple audiences? Do I have a viewership versus a running-- I'm just dealing with the running community." So that's a great way to look at it, and a lot of people miss that completely. The other thing too is, sometimes, with events, the B2B aspect is something that people miss as well, and this isn't quite the same thing. We're dealing with a Brew Festival out of Miami, and there are 50 craft brewers that are there. Now, obviously, the large audience is going to be all those people attending the Brew Festival, but there are 50 brewers there. So there are certain programmes or technology or things like that, that are interested in looking at this event because they want to target the 50 brewers. So knowing who those different segments are is a huge way of looking at sponsorships that a lot of events miss. So I'm glad you brought that up because, honestly, a lot of people don't ask me who the audience is. They automatically assume it's going to be the runners which, yes, of course, it is, but look at those different segments and see if they're worth capturing or if you can target different sponsors because of them.

Panos  13:26  
That doesn't seem to be a cookie-cutter way of looking at this. 

Teresa  13:30  

Panos  13:30  
It probably needs a little bit of thinking through this to pick up on all the different opportunities for sponsorship.

Teresa  13:39  
Yes. And I think that is, honestly, why some runs struggle on their sponsorships unless they're a certain size, like your mid-size or your community runs or things like that. Sometimes, they will struggle a little bit because, in my experience, they all want to work the same way. They all want to do it the same way. They want to do the levels. The thing is you cannot do that. If you look at the way really big events work, they go to their uniqueness, they go in and directly figure out who all these different pieces are - that's why they're making all the money. And people want to say, "Well, they're making a little bit because they have so many people." Well, yes, that's an element of it, but just having a giant audience and not knowing anything about them-- nobody wants to buy that. They'd rather buy an event that has 100 people and they know 90% of that 100 people want to buy a car versus having a mass group of, "Oh, I've got an audience of 10,000 but I don't know anything about them." I mean, because at least this small group is a guarantee. So I think for some smaller events - and I know the problem is most of them run on very small staffs or volunteers and things like that - if they want to go in and make more money-- this is across the board too including large events. We work with a lot of larger events and some of them are missing the boat on this too. You have to really understand your event and not try to do it like everybody else. Take those tools, understand your audience, figure out how you can segment it, and go in that direction. It is on a case-by-case basis. I wish I could say like, "This is how you do it. There is an overall process and you can apply that process to almost any event, but the different pieces are very customised. That's what's going to make your event special, and that's why somebody would buy your event over somebody else's."

Panos  15:34  
In terms of the actual information that I should look to mine about my audience that the sponsor would be interested in, there's the standard stuff like gender, age, location, and maybe income. What else would be relevant for me to think of getting from my audience so I can be prepared in talking to sponsors?

Teresa  15:58  
You're absolutely correct. At the very minimum, you want to try and get at least the most basic demographic information from your event, education, income, age, race, gender, and all that kind of stuff. That's all very pertinent information. Most of the national brands that we work with won't even look at an event until I least have those basic things provided for them. The next step is what we call lifestyle traits or lifestyle attributes that are tied to these people that are participating. I mean, to really think about the categories that you can target-- we try to find out things like, "Do you travel for leisure? Do you travel multiple times a year only or, maybe, once or twice or not at all? What's your job title? What kind of levels are there?" because there are special brands that will target CEOs or certain C-level participants?" Where do they shop? Do they shop online? If they are online, what kind of social media channels do they use? The other thing is things like beverages. "Do you drink alcohol? Do you drink beer? Do you drink sodas?" Beverage is a huge, huge sponsorship category. It's probably our number one. In almost every one of our events, we can sell in beverages. So that's a great one to know. Things like what they do in their spare time, kind of hobbies, things like that. Wearables is a great one for racing. Wearables is a huge category, and understanding what your audience wears and how they use it is also a great way. I actually have a good example of that with Hood to Coast. We sent out a lifestyle survey that was only 20 questions, multiple choice. I always tell everybody, "Try to make it multiple-choice. Don't make it any more than 20 questions. Try to do an incentive when you do this. You can send it out through emails or try to have them do it when they're there." If it's multiple choice, you get a lot faster responses. But honestly, it was an event. I mean, the event is in Portland. It's a pretty affluent group that participates in this race because it's not cheap - it's about $1,600. So, for a lot of racers, that's kind of expensive. Plus, you have to travel and have vans and all that kind of stuff. 

Panos  18:09  
We should just say that - just so people get a bit of context - it's a relay race, right? It's a team price.

Teresa  18:15  
Yes, it's a team price. Correct, yes. But it is still high. You have to get it together. You have to pay the whole thing at once, so it can be a little challenging. Then, there are other expenses like bands and things like that. For us, we thought, "Okay. Portland, Oregon. Kind of affluent. Very healthy health nuts and that kind of thing. They're going to be into plant-based proteins." We totally thought that that was going to be a hit, so when we sent out our lifestyle survey, we included a bunch of stuff. One of the things we also included was wearables. Then, we talked about plant-based proteins if they were interested in that. Surprisingly, when it came back, like, 1% was interested in plant-based proteins. I was completely stunned. I thought it would be way higher than that, especially since there are a lot of vegetarians in that particular area, but runners that participated in this race were not that interested in it. On the flip side, we found out about a watch company that about 25% of the runners were already using that we had not even heard of. So, we used that information, approached that company, and said - I mean, the audience told us who to go to-- so we approached them and said, "Look, 25% of our runners are using your watch for long-distance running and training. Do you have an interest in marketing towards these other runners as well? We're upgrading those that are--" and they were totally on board. I'm in this industry and would not have known to even look at that particular brand. My audience told me, "Stay away from plant-based protein and go towards this wearable." The other thing we learned is about how much they travel. So if they travel a lot then you can start targeting vacations, airlines, rental cars, hotel companies, or things like that. So understanding that information is huge when it comes to the world of prospecting, and people forget all of that. They just start calling people randomly. You're just wasting your time at that point.

Panos  20:13  
It sounds like what you're saying is think a little bit ahead to the kinds of sponsors that you think might be interested in the kind of audience you have, say, the wearables, the sports watches, the running shoes, the hotels, if you're looking for like to have like an official hotel or something, and then work a little bit backward to gather that information that the sponsor would be interested in on top of the usual demographic stuff. Is that sort of how you approach things? 

Teresa  20:40  
Yes, I would say, for me, we do, kind of, work a little backward, but we have a lot of knowledge in that - I know that some people don't. There are standard survey questions. We even have one in our workbook that people can start with until they start to, sort of, feel where they're going with this. But if you've been doing your event for a while, you should have an understanding of this audience, you should have an understanding of, kind of, what's out there as far as sponsorships. Being able to do those surveys will help guide you to that-- and some of these questions are a little general - things like, "How do you prefer your information on social media? Do you like them in reels? Do you like them in stories?" Things like that. Those questions can also help with your marketing in a huge way too once you understand how your audience gets their consumption. It really helps with their marketing sponsorships, and the market goes hand-in-hand in a lot of ways. But yes, I think you're right on the backward notion. Sometimes, people have no idea even where to start. In that sense, some basic standard ones like travel vehicles, and beverages are standard categories that you can find money in. So getting a sense of where to go within those categories is very helpful.

Panos  21:52  
And vehicles, actually, is a particularly interesting one. I keep seeing not only actual car manufacturers being involved - very much in the US, lots of local dealerships going in, particularly, for smaller events with cash. They want to have a presence, they want to bring a car out, and they're very specific about the data they want to know about people participating. Do they own a car? What kind of car? Would they buy a car? That kind of stuff, I guess, if you can get it from people, because you can be asking 60 questions as well.

Teresa  22:19  
Yeah, exactly. That's why you do, sort of, a general 20-question. Sometimes, some of our bigger events will even send these surveys out once every three months or four months. You don't want to do it too often. If you provide, sort of, an incentive, or a prize, or maybe even, like, an early discount, or something like that, you usually get a pretty good rate. People don't mind telling you about themselves, especially if you make it really quick and easy, and that you could kind of hone in and cultivate. So, if you think you've got a couple of ideas in a certain category, then you could put something together and send it out there, and it can be very helpful, especially with dealerships. Dealerships is - especially in the US - a major major category both national brand and also local dealerships. There's a lot of money in both and they're trying very hard to get into that. So, like I said, even if you have a smaller event, if you know that 20% or 30% of that, even if it's smaller, want to buy a car within the next six months, then that is going to be a very valuable tool to those local dealerships. You might not get the national but the local will, versus one where you're like, "I have a really big audience. I just don't know anything about them."

Panos  23:33  
The race survey, as you said, is one tool for getting information back from people - the tip you shared about including an incentive definitely helps. Then, there are other channels, right? There are also things you can do to understand your audience without even involving your audience directly or intruding in their space. 

Teresa  23:54  

Panos  23:54  
There's Facebook Insights - I think you were discussing in your book - which is very helpful. Google Analytics, I guess, also, if you have a website, visitors will tell you a little bit about that stuff. Do you want to tell people a little bit about-- I think Facebook Insights particularly is an interesting one.

Teresa  24:09  
Yeah. Same thing with Instagram now that they're all by the same company. You have to be somewhat understanding of the fact that those that may follow your page might not necessarily be participants, but if you have a good general following and your social media or you have a nice email list - those are the kinds of analytics - and a good website, things like that, you can look at those insights. They can actually tell you what kinds of groups that your audience is involved in and what kinds of things they tend to like. And you can really kind of take a deep dive in getting a sense of, at least, your online audience, which will give you someplace to start. I always tell events, especially if they're really new, or they absolutely have no real insight into their audience, "That's one of the first places to start. Go ahead and look into your social media analytics and your insights because both Instagram as well as Facebook have actually a pretty damn good breakout of what your audience is. I mean, take some time and actually click on the people that like it and see what their pages look like and what they're into, and you'd get kind of a good sense of where you're at with those people. Same thing with your website and Google Analytics. If you have a decent website and you are driving traffic to it, you can get some really good information on that as well." So these are things that are tools that give you a really great starting point. I still don't think there's anything better than the actual survey of your audience. The one thing that races have that a lot of other events don't have is because - the information you have to have in order to be a participant in the race - you guys pretty much come out with most of the basic info already. When you have them register, you could put in one or two extra questions in that registration if you want to. Maybe they don't have to answer it. Maybe, it is like, "Hey, do you want to buy a car in the next six months? What kind of social media platforms do you tend to follow?" or things like that. So you could throw a couple more in there and it would help a lot. The other thing that's really interesting too is, now, a lot of those ticketing platforms and registration platforms can tie into social media, so people can easily log in using their social media. When you use something like that tool, it also captures all that data for you in a very easy way where you get a lot more insight than you would necessarily with just a name and email address. I mean, a lot of that is trial and error, but those are really great tools that you can use. 

Panos  26:46  
Yeah. I think, actually, the tip in regard to the registration checkout flow is really important for people, right? I mean, you have an opportunity when someone signs up. As you said, you're not going to make the process too long because then you have other kinds of risks, right? But you can add a couple of questions, right? You can ask things that maybe a local gym might be interested in knowing like, "Do you exercise often?" or the travel point that you ask.

Teresa  27:13  
Or what kind of watch you use or shoe you use or whatever. 

Panos  27:16  
Yeah. Plus, the other question that I find - when you apply for permits from local authorities - people would be interested in knowing, particularly if you're travelling to the race from out of town, is "How many people are you bringing with you?" That kind of thing, right? That's also important information to capture.

Teresa  27:32  
Yeah, that is, like, an impact study information, which is also very important. I do want to make a distinction about that because I do-- sometimes, what will happen is when I start with an event, they say, "Oh, yeah. We have all this information about the audience and what they have is an impact study about the impact it has on those communities," which doesn't really help you sell anything overall. It's great for tourism. It's great to know if you're trying to get funding from the cities or the states, but they don't help as much when it comes to selling, so just keep that in mind. When you're out there and you're like, "Oh, I've got this information. Make sure what you have is not an impact study, but you have, like, a real demographics of your audience as well as lifestyle information."

Panos  28:19  
Yeah, absolutely. So one last question I had on audiences - I think it was in your book, and I've seen it elsewhere also in marketing. People use personas, right? So, basically, you understand your audience to the point where you actually build a little, kind of, like, caricature of your typical person in your audience-- 

Teresa  28:39  
--like an Avatar. 

Panos  28:40  
Yeah, like an avatar, and you say like, "Jen. She's 37 years old. She's a mom," that kind of thing. Do you think that helps? Would you advise race directors to think through the process of building a persona?

Teresa  28:53  
I have sort of an activity in our workbook that you can do with your group. I think the reason why that helps is that if you have multiple people on your team, even if it's small or even if they're all volunteers, oftentimes, there's a breakdown internally on who your audience is. You probably have different people that are in different types of demographics - some are younger and some are older. So, what we do, as humans, is we self-identify. Jenny, who's 20 is always thinking that the race participant is like her, but Bob, who's 40 thinks that they're like him. So sometimes, there's a breakdown in who are we targeting here or who is it that we're going after. Granted, especially with runs and any kind of like activity, there's going to be your core and it's going to be probably pretty wide, especially with running. I mean, it can go a big broad, but only if your runs are different in some capacity - maybe it's a triathlon, maybe it's-- so they're going to be different. I have like an exercise in there that I try to suggest that people walk through which is building that avatar, which is taking that basic information - that information that you've found about your demographic - and creating one-- I mean, go as far as finding a picture online and putting her on there, or putting her up in your office and saying, "This is Jenny. She's our core." It's okay to have a couple of them too. I mean, there are a lot of events that have a couple of them. We have, like, sort of, a large age round - especially when it comes to different music festivals, that happens as well. So, going through that process also makes you look at something and say, "Okay, would Jenny go to this particular sponsor? Would Jenny be interested in this particular wearable or whatever?" It kind of helps you narrow some of that wasted time down. At first, it seems like it might be a wasted project in a sense, but you'd be surprised at how doing that really kind of brings the whole group to understand who the target is, and it is perfect for marketing. And yeah, and it's a very common practice in marketing as well. 

Panos  31:00  
It's interesting because personas, as you say, do give off the impression of, like, "Why would I do that, of course? I know who my audience is" kind of thing, but I had Peter Abraham in the podcast who's, like, a branding expert, a few episodes back, and we talked a lot about the importance of a mission statement. That's another thing that you think you have at the back of your mind but, after that podcast, I actually sat down and I wrote a mission statement for Race Director's HQ, for instance, and it is remarkable how helpful these things are - personas and mission statement - in focusing when you want to make a decision. Let's say you want to approach a sponsor. You need to ask yourself, "Is that the kind of product or service that Jen, our persona, would be interested in us having in the race?"

Teresa  31:50  
Absolutely. And knowing that as well as with the mission statement too is, when you're sort of mid and smaller size, the idea of actually turning a sponsor away seems unfathomable. But once you start to understand what your brand is, what it stands for - those kinds of things - who your audience is, there are times when you're like, "Yeah, I know this brand wants to give us money, but it really isn't a good fit." That's the other thing that I find events doing. They, sort of, shove their events somehow or shove the sponsor in somehow because they don't want to turn the money down but, ultimately, it's a fail as far as the audience. A really kind of funny example of that is there's a huge EDM - Electric Dance Music - Festival in Miami, and we are not a part of this, but it's called Ultra, and it's huge. They have them internationally as well. It's probably one of the largest EDM festivals. They decided to do - this was a few years back -where Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders became a hologram and he DJs as a hologram. Okay, now, as someone who's in sponsorships, I personally think it's genius. I thought that was hilarious, but the audience just, like, hated it. They thought they were making fun of the music. They thought that it was to commercialise and bring this, sort of, caricature of a fast food restaurant and have him replicate what these musicians and artists are doing. I mean, someone totally missed the boat on that because they were trying to take Kentucky Fried Chicken and forced them into an EDM festival. Now, to me, it's sort of funny, it's kind of comical, but it's a great example of someone missing the boat there because they didn't really take into account-- they got a lot of pushback and flack for it, and it was not good for the sponsor, either. So, understanding what your mission is and understanding who your audience is not only helps you in your decisions and sponsorships, but it's going to help you overall in the branding of your event. So, taking the time to do that-- because it can be hard. Mission statements can be really hard to, kind of, work together, especially if you're doing it with a group - I mean, that's the worst - but it's a little bit like this project too can be a little bit daunting at the very beginning but, honestly, if you just say, "Okay, I'm gonna give myself two hours. We're all going to focus on this," then it will help you in the long term, for sure.

Panos  34:26  
When it comes to sponsorship, closing sponsors is only part of the job. Keeping them happy is where the real work begins.  

And, fortunately for you, RunSignup, the trusted provider of all the technology you’ll ever need for your event, has a few things up its sleeve to help you along the way.

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So, to learn more about RunSignup’s sponsor activation capabilities and many other great features, head over to, and see why over 26,000 events are using RunSignup’s industry-leading technology to take their races to the next level.

Ok, let’s get back to the episode…

Next thing, after understanding your audience or, like, gaining some of that data, what you would advise people is to build an introduction deck for your event, which is not to say build a sponsorship proposal, right? These are two different things.

Teresa  36:20  
They are two different things. So the term "intro deck" is not super common in the industry - they usually call it a deck. I named it an intro deck simply to make it very clear to my students and those that I'm consulting that this is an introduction to your event. So the interesting thing is that a lot of events will create-- like, they might have a couple of pages about all about the event, maybe there's a whole history about the event, and then it's stapled to like five different levels - gold, silver, bronze, or whatever - and that is very common. The problem with that scenario is that you have sent this to someone - and I could be wrong - but 90% of the time, you've sent this to someone who didn't really ask for it. You don't even know if they're interested in your event. Without even talking to them, you have decided for them what they're gonna get, the price tag they're gonna get, and you don't even know what their goal is. You don't even know what they're trying to get out of it. So what you've put together may have nothing to do with what they want to try to get out of sponsorship, so your cookie cutter-- bronze, gold, silver - what happens is they look at it and they say, "Well, I don't need a Facebook mention. I don't want a logo. I don't want this. So I'm just not going to buy it." I compare it to walking into a dealership. If you walked in and they said to you without asking you any questions, "These are the three cars you can buy. One is a convertible Mercedes that only holds two people. One is a 16-passenger van. The other is like a Yaris or something," and none of them fit your price tag and none of them fit your needs, which is a family of four. What do you do? Well, you just don't buy any of them. You just leave. That's the same thing that's happening with these, like, levels and that kind of stuff. So the introduction deck-- what that is is it's your-- for me, I think of it as a way for them to see all of the relevant information that they need to see to make a decision on whether or not it's worth even talking to you about it because the first thing we did was a survey of all of our decision-makers from all of the agencies and brands that we work with, and we had a huge response - it was almost a 90% response on all of them. Surprisingly, the question we asked them was, "If you don't know anything about an event at all and you're looking at it for the first time, what's the number one piece of relevant information that you want to know?" I thought it was going to be information about the event - just general information about the event - and it wasn't. It was demographic information. They wanted audience data before they even cared about your event. So if you think about the introduction deck, think of it as a very brief description, almost like a sales brochure without the prices in it. Like, "Here are the great things about our event. Here are some opportunities that you can have. Here's the basic information that you'd probably find on your website. You don't have to go look for the information. We put it right here for you in this really pretty package. Then, you use it as a way to say, 'Hey, is this event of interest to you? Can we talk about what your goals are?'" That's really what the introduction deck is all about. It's not making any assumptions about that sponsor or that you even know - what their goals are - because what happens a lot with events. If they decide, "Oh, well, this would be a great sponsor for this," it might be but you have no idea. It might seem like, "Oh, we'll have Nike sponsor shoes because that seems logical to you," but you have no idea that what Nike may be targeting is their new sunglasses, or it might be important to them to do their hats or something like that. So if you go off and just send them something that's like, "You'll be the sponsor with shoes" without even checking with them what they're all about-- I mean, we have conversations all the time with brands and we're like, "Oh, I had no idea that they're trying to go after this" or it might be health care, but the health care is really interested in going after B2B health care, not necessarily individual health care. So things like that. So we do the introduction deck - basically, the point of that - to basically ask these sponsors, "Do you have an interest in our event? Can we talk about our event?" For us, we have to send it to all the agencies. This is very important. Most of them won't even talk to us until we send them this for all of our events, and we say, "Does this one look like it works for you?" because some of them actually have to plug it all into a back end system to see if it even fits all their criteria because, just as you and I were talking about mission statements, and audiences and things like that, these brands are doing the same thing. So if your event and your audience don't fit into their target, then there's no point in having these conversations.

Panos  41:19  
But beyond, I guess, the hard numbers, the audience - the stuff that I definitely appreciate-- corporates have a pipeline. They're going to put it into a system. They're going to do some pre-selection and stuff. I guess that deck also has to convey some of the soul and the excitement of the event and why people love it. Basically, you want to tell them that that's my audience and that my audience loves my event, and you guys should be interested in getting on board.

Teresa  41:43  
You do, and you'd want to do it, though, I would say, in a concise manner. So yes, it is important. Like, if your event has different accolades, if it's gotten press, if it has any kind of fun elements to it. Photos sell. I always say that photos sell more than words a lot of times, so having great photos is really important. So yes, those things are important - having all that stuff is super important. But I will tell you that, in the beginning stages, especially when you're trying to work with regional and national sponsors, a lot of times, they don't care about, like, when I first-- poor Hood to Coast, I'm going to call them out on it again. But when I first started working with them several years ago, though, their little deck was, like, two pages - it was all about the history of the event. Well, it's really interesting stuff but, at that point in the game, when you're sending that out, they just don't care. I wish they did, but they don't because they're going through so many people trying to go after it. So yes, you want to have those things. I mean, it's really important. You want to make sure you have all that information, but you want to make it super concise on how you want to do it. Like I had mentioned before, I'm happy to give you guys a link that you can download where you can actually get a workbook that would explain to you page-by-page what your deck should look like.

Panos  43:04  
Yeah, that'd be great. We can put it in the show notes. So basically, you're saying that - just to recap on that point which I think is important - sort of, the objective of this deck - the call-to-action, basically, because you're sending it out and you're asking for something - is you're going to be sending that deck to your sponsor prospects to basically invite them to have a chat with you about taking part in their objectives and all that.

Teresa  43:32  
Absolutely, yes. You're using it as a way to say, "Would you be interested in this event? Let's have a conversation about it." You want to give them enough excitement that they want to talk to you about it, but you also don't want to give them so much information that they just shut you down without having that conversation with you.

Panos  43:49  
Awesome. So that's a great segue then to actually start looking at the prospecting stage. So I've got my audience. I know who they are. I've got my intro deck on hold, ready to send out to the right people. Now, I want to find the right people. I want to match my audience with the right kinds of sponsors. I was going through your book and, actually, in that, you have a great list of little areas where you might look for a sponsor that might be suitable for your event - little pockets of opportunity. I want to go through all of them one by one, if we can. First one you said there - which is definitely one you want to check when you do a race, particularly a small local one - is you want to be looking at companies that are local to the race. We mentioned local car dealerships - a really interesting target ground. I've seen lots of, like, lawyers - family service type - get involved, some local supermarkets. What else comes to mind?

Teresa  44:55  
When it comes to the local community, sometimes the local running stores, sometimes the different coffee shops, things like that, when you're a smaller race, in-kind can be very important to you. So some of those may be more in-kind trade - looking at those local companies. Think about what you use too - I mean, a little bit of stuff self-identifying there. Do you use certain dry cleaners? When it comes to the local stuff, people tend to support those who support them. So if you are a customer, I tell people to go to the bank that your race uses and say, "I'm a customer of yours. Can you support us?" And a lot of times they'll do it depending on the event. Sometimes it may not be that much, but sometimes it can be a lot, and you may not need that much. I mean, $500 to $2,000 might be fine for you as a sponsor, depending on the size of your race. Those are really important - those local ones like you were saying such as grocery running stores. Sometimes, even if you have a race, you might look at other acts or activities, because probably those that are running would also be interested in things that are other outside activities and things like that.

Panos  46:10  
Yeah. Actually, running stores is definitely one for the local sponsor bucket, but also a good fit for the second area you were suggesting there, which was companies that would be a good fit with a race - I guess what people call, like, "Endemic kind of sponsor" who are relevant to running. You mentioned, running stores, gyms, I guess, are good ones - they like to get involved with races. Physiotherapists- I see quite a lot. That kind of thing, right? 

Teresa  46:40  
Yeah, exactly. The thing I'd mentioned too is that these pockets that we're talking about-- this is a perfect brainstorming opportunity to, like, try to get your group together and do this together. What I suggest in those is that you go through each of these groups and you each write down five that come to mind. By the time you get done, if you have three or four people in the room, you're going to have a great list to start with that isn't just a random, "I'm going to pull the Chamber of Commerce" list. So yes, those are great ones - you nailed it on there - the ones that are very obvious. Protein, bars, Gatorade, or things like that are going to be the easy ones like the ones you see at every race or the ones that are natural fits for runners or those people around that lifestyle. So that's a super easy one. Then, the other one was, like, companies or people that I know already. Like, you start to say, "Okay, what are my contacts? Who are my contacts? Let's just write them down - people that I know would take my call and talk to me about the event." When you're doing this brainstorm, write them all down, do it with everybody, and then you can read through them later and say, "Okay, does this fit my mission? Does this fit my avatar?" and go through it that way. When you're trying to brainstorm it, just start your list, get them all down, and think to yourself, "Okay, do I know this person? Do I know this person? Is there another avenue? Maybe this doesn't make a super amount of sense right now, but is there another way that I can try this sponsor in some capacity?" Things like that. So that's another one because it's all about who you know, getting in there, and those contacts.

Panos  48:18  
Yeah, that's a great point about brainstorming that's not a phase to hold back in. You want to dump everything on paper, and you can go through and shortlist and prioritise after that. You want to do a session where-- just anything that can come to mind that fits those categories, even remotely, you just put down - right? 

Teresa  48:36  
Yes, absolutely. 

Panos  48:38  
I thought this was probably one of the most interesting points in this list, which is, obviously sponsors need to be relevant, right? You don't want to make the mistake you were mentioning earlier to just go for the money and get anyone in. I guess, within that circle of people who might be relevant and interested, or at least you think might be - we're going to talk about the reaching out phase in a sec - you're going to have an easier time with people you know or people that you know people know, so it's going to be an easier "in" into those companies, right?

Teresa  49:07  
Correct. That's why by including that in your brainstorm, you will realise that there are all these other people that know all these other-- they all have their own contacts in some capacity as well. So that will really start to build out your contact list and your database, basically. If you do it as a brainstorm and don't rely just on yourself, it can be very helpful, even if you're just including some volunteers that are part of the race. I know sometimes people are doing those races all by themselves, I get that, but if you can involve some people that are part of that in some capacity, they can be like, "Oh, I know this person and they work at such-and-such grocery store, whatever." 

Panos  49:44  
Yeah, super important. I mean, networking, generally, which I guess this would fall under, is super important for putting on an event with very little stuff. You want to get as much information about who you can reach out to - even, as you said, a volunteer or a participant who knows someone in the local authority, right? You want to have as many touchpoints of interest as you can across sponsors, participants, local communities, and everything right? 

Teresa  50:11  

Panos  50:12  
Now, the next bucket, which is also very important - I feel this is the lowest hanging fruit - is companies that sponsor races similar to yours, right? I mean, no-brainer, right? I mean, you will ask yourself, "How do you know a sponsor is interested? How do I know they would be interested in sponsoring stuff? Well, look at the 10K in the next town and see who sponsored that kind of thing, right?

Teresa  50:35  
Absolutely. This is, like, the number one rule that I always tell everybody, "If you're looking for sponsors for an event, they go to events. Go check them out. Go see other races? Not only is it better and good for you as an event producer to see how other events do it, but you can learn some fantastic things you wouldn't even think about. Also, you can learn what not to do. Not only that, but then you really get a good sense of who their sponsors are." Now, I mean, the one thing that all events are, sort of, notorious for doing is posting all the responses on their website. As easy as just looking at all these race websites that show you who they all are, a lot of them sometimes are just the local sponsors, but then you think to yourself, "Oh, I never even thought of talking to a casino, or I never thought about the state lottery," but if they can even jog your ideas of, like, "Oh, I could look at that, even if it's in a different state." So sometimes, if you can't go to them, at least go to the website and see what that is. I mean, it always gives me anxiety. Sometimes, I was like, "Oh, great. We've posted all of our sponsors right up there," but that's what they want. It is what it is. So it's a great tool. If you have a race, then go look at other races. But it doesn't mean you can't also look at baseball games and other, like, sports-related stuff - maybe it's football or whatever it is. Checking those out too gives you a really good sense of, also, how they're incorporating those types of sponsors and if you can do that in the same capacity - that's another way of looking at that too because you might get somebody who's, like, a mortgage company, and you're like, "Okay, well, how can I relate this in a unique way to the audience that's running?" Because you don't really think of mortgages when you're running but everybody running needs a mortgage, or maybe they do. So looking at those also gives you ideas of other categories that you might not have thought out as well. But yes, you're right - absolutely the low-hanging fruit.

Panos  52:41  
Yeah. You can't imagine how much you can learn almost instantly by, just as you say, observing, "Who sponsor other events? How they're doing it? Can I get someone similar to that?" It just jogs your thinking process.

Teresa  52:56  
Yes, your creative juices, for sure. 

Panos  52:59  
Now, the last category you have there - also very important, a little bit, I guess - on the pragmatic front is, "Think of the needs you have." There are certain things you need for your race - here, we're leaning a little bit more towards in-kind sponsorship - and you're thinking, "Okay, let's say I have a team there in the location. I may need a hotel. I may need nutrition bars because I want to put them out anywhere. I may need water bottles, right?" All kinds of stuff. 

Teresa  53:30  
Yeah, it could be any of that stuff. It could be porta potties. It could be timing. It could be any of that stuff. Maybe you have a concert at the end of the race. You need to stage or things like that. But yes, looking at all of those things and thinking to myself, "Okay, these are things that we need. Can we offset them with sponsorship in some capacity?" You don't necessarily have to go to the brand that would inherently provide those. Maybe, you need a stage, but you don't necessarily have to go to the stage company and say, "Can you be a sponsor and give me a stage?" What you can do is say, "Okay, we need a stage, so what I'm going to do is go to that mortgage company and say, 'Hey, do you want to be the stage sponsor of this?'" and they can help offset your costs - things like that. Or, if you need water, you go to one of those water companies that actually services office buildings or something like that, and then, "Can we have some of your giant - I don't even know what those are called - containers of water." I mean, we had a company that needed water and I couldn't get water because, I will be really honest, water tends to be kind of weird. It's hard to kind of get a water sponsor in your traditional sense because they want depletion - they want you to buy the bottles, basically - so it's a little difficult. Usually, it's tied to your soda contracts and a lot of races don't have those. What we have done in the past has been able to get water provided by something that may not traditionally be tied to water - maybe it's a doctor's office or something like that. So we bought the water but, maybe, it's labelled because of the doctor's office. Maybe you have water stations and they're branded, like, "Liquid I.V." because Liquid I.V. is a hydration packet that goes in water - things like that. That's all very commonplace, but actually getting sponsored bottled water is actually very difficult, believe it or not, when it comes to, like, using a national brand. Now, you can probably get somebody to go to, like, one of the big box stores and buy cheap water, or have it donated by a grocery store or something like that, but it's hard to get those, like, Aquafina's and those kinds of things to actually pay for a sponsorship of water. 

Panos  55:49  
Yeah, I think there is a very interesting point there that's very pertinent to races, which is, lately, one of the big additional demands that I guess are starting to emerge for races is sustainability, right? People want to make their event greener and more sustainable, but there's a cost, and there's this emerging trend of sustainability sponsors, which runs along those lines, which is basically to say, "Let me go to a bank or let me go to someone who would benefit from being seen as supporting my sustainability effort as a race, and let me tell them, 'You're gonna give me five grand or something and I'm going to use that money to make that race more sustainable. We're going to get the more expensive water cups. I'm going to get all kinds of stuff to improve my race footprint'." But I don't go to the water cup people - I go to the bank that has the money and I tell them, "You're going to be my sustainability sponsor."

Teresa  56:49  
Right, exactly. That's an excellent point. When you look at what you need, it's a great way to pick those sponsors that you can't seem to figure out how they're going to fit in there naturally into creating something that's more of an activation and something that engages with that racer than just a logo on a T-shirt or just a logo on a banner, because I'm highly against that. It's very hard to get those people to come back if you haven't done something where they're having this impact with those people and when you make the runners' lives easier when your brand has something to do with making it easier like providing them with water, or providing them with hydration, or providing them with a sustainable race and event there. They relate to that sponsor in a totally different way than if they just see the logo on the back of a T-shirt.

Panos  57:38  
And one last, I guess, sub-branch of "Companies that can feel a need that my race has" kind of bucket is also local media companies that I see people don't think of immediately because media companies can provide you with coverage. They can provide you with publicity. Having, like, a radio sponsor or a local newspaper, and stuff like that, is also quite important. I mean, you don't pay for that, but it's a very great benefit to have, I guess.

Teresa  58:05  
Oh, absolutely. I came from a 15-year career in radio before I moved into this and, depending on the market that you're in, it can actually be difficult to get free coverage or to get free promotion. So, if you can work on that deal with those media companies ahead of time and get something like that where they even provide you with so many promos - maybe it's 200 promos, maybe it's 200 spots or things like that - if you have that stuff in place prior, you can also use those as leverage for your sponsors. You can sell them in, like, "You're gonna get tagged on so many radio spots," or "you're going to be included in this morning coverage" or something like that. So knowing what your media partners are willing to provide you-- we've also had sponsors who will pay part of it. You add on to it and you say to them, "In your package, you're also going to get two weeks tied to radio spots." We take a part of that sponsorship and go buy ourselves ads, and that helps market the event, and then the sponsor also gets part of that marketing budget. So, knowing your partners is a huge-- if you can do that prior to, it's a huge win for you. I do know a lot of smaller events have a hard time getting that, but there are usually some local papers or local radio that would be interested in being involved in that, but when you get to the bigger markets, it can be a little bit difficult to get those media partners involved without any kind of money towards them, but you can also tie that into a sponsorship too, as well. So keep that in mind.

Panos  59:44  
Let's move on to the next stage in this process. You've come up with your shortlist of sponsors whom you want to contact. This is also a very tricky stage, I think. How do you find the right person to contact? How do I get their contact info? We're going to talk about what you tell them in a sec. Like, how do I even know whom to reach out to? What are your tips on that?

Teresa  1:00:10  
Okay, so I have 10 different ways that I tell people they can do it. I'm gonna start to preface this by saying that, "As an agency, I've been doing this for over 20 years and there is no magical potion. I wish I could tell you that there's a hidden database that nobody knows about that you just type in and then you get the contact, and that's what happens." There are a lot of those - I'll tell you about one of them in particular, but there is no, like, secret thing that nobody knows about. This sponsorship is our lifeblood. So, part of what we do is we have to find these people as well. So, I'm going to share with you some of our tips and how we do it when we're starting from scratch. Now, we've been in business long that we know most of the agencies now and they know us, so it's a lot easier, the more you do it. But when you're first starting out, you're like, "Well, how do I find those people?" So a couple of things to keep in mind - the first one is, obviously, you always go to a company's website. That's the first thing you do. Check it out. Look at the very bottom-- even those national ones. If you look at the very bottom, sometimes they'll have partnerships at the bottom, or they'll have, like, "Contact us" and they'll have, like, "Frequently Asked Questions", and things like that. Some of that stuff will all be in there - the company's LinkedIn. LinkedIn has changed the game on some of that stuff. So even if you can go into LinkedIn and search for people that work for that company, sometimes, you can get the names. If you understand, like, a real trick we do, if you can go on the website and figure out how their emails are structured, then when you go into LinkedIn, you use their name and then structure the email that way. I know it seems a little tedious, but we do that game all the time. One another one now is to search companies' Facebook or other social media because a lot of them also have-- they'll now mark who are leaders or who are part of that page, sometimes, depending on the brand and who they are. If you message them through there-- don't do a pitch through any of these channels. If you message them, say, "Who would I speak to if I want to talk to someone about partnering with a race?" Something like that. Don't give them a whole bunch of details. That's the other key - I don't ever use the term "Sponsorship" when I'm first engaging with people - I use "Partnership" because sometimes "Sponsorship" sort of scares people off. There's another thing - we've done that before - where I've just reached out through their social media channels right via message and said, "I'm just trying to track down who the contact is." A lot of times, they-- and I don't write it on a board or anything like that, message them. A lot of times, whoever's in charge of that, their whole job is just to forward, so they will actually send you an email address. So that's another one. I always say, "Google the company." Then, what I do is search press releases too. So if you Google the company and then type in "Sponsorship" with it, a lot of times, it'll pull up press releases or other information like that and it will tell you who the contact was. I found press releases with people's cell phone numbers on them. Now, I try not to use that, but that's another trick that we do. Also, think about the contacts that you may have within a company. Look at your social media. I mean, I did this with our operations director, Justin. One time I was trying to track down a contact for a very large vehicle company, and he was getting frustrated because they were sponsoring everything, and he couldn't track down the number. I was doing everything I could do. We finally tracked it down and, lo and behold, I never knew this, but I was friends with the person on Facebook. I didn't even think about it because I didn't know who they were - because I didn't really know them - but they were friends with one of my friends. So sometimes, just take a look at your actual network and say, "Do I know anybody on here?" because some people have more people than others and they're friends with them on social media. I did not know that she was actually connected to me on Facebook and I and we had spent so much time - she was very frustrated with me on that one, but I didn't think about it. The other thing too is to call the home office or a local branch. If you cannot find it, just pick up the phone and say, "Hey, I'm trying to get in touch with somebody to talk to them about partnerships. Who would be the person I reach out to?" 90% of the time, they're going to either send you a voicemail or they'll send you an email address. Most likely, now, they send you an email address because it's easier. Most companies are not just going to say, "Oh, we can't talk to anybody." They're going to give you somebody. Just don't try don't launch into pitching them when you call them. Just find out who it would be. Or maybe, just walk in the door. If it's like a phone company or something like that, or a Cricket Wireless, or whatever, you might just walk in locally and say, "Hey, who would I talk to if I want to talk to somebody?" What a lot of smaller events like to do is they just drop off that four-page levels and don't actually have a conversation with anybody, and then whoever's behind the counter is, like, "Oh, okay." There's no actual engagement. Another one - this is the one we do use - is we use a third-party application. There are several of them out there. We've probably used almost all of them that are specialised towards sponsorships. There are a lot of sales tools that you can use for B2B and things like that, but there aren't very many that specialise in sponsorships. So, we use the tool "Winmo". I can also give you a code that gives everybody, like, 100 free leads, so they can get some free leads just for going and looking at it. It's a really massive database. It's probably the closest thing to the "secret weapon", but, I'm gonna be honest, it's not inexpensive. It can be pricey. They do have nonprofit discounts and things like that. It also gives you all this up-to-date information about what brands are doing, what they're spending, and what they're buying, and you kind of know it before it happens so that you can get it in your budget because, sometimes, what happens is, by the time you see a big launch, or you see it on television, or you see it all over the place, they've already blown their budget - they've already spent it all - because it was part of their big release. So keeping that in mind that one does get you up-to-date and that one is one where if you're looking for something in particular and you can't find it on there, they will search it for it, they'll find it for you, a human being will find it for you. There are some cheaper ones out there but, a lot of times, they're not human-verified. They're just basically like an algorithm that scours the internet for contacts and it's a lot of what you can get already. It just, kind of, saves you time, but they've not verified if those are the right contacts, whereas Winmo is verified, which is why you're kind of going to pay for it. But that's probably our favourite. That's the one I endorse when it comes to third-party ones. If you have a lot of events, it's probably worth the investment. If you have one it might not be. Another one that circles back to what you and I talked about is to go to community networking events, be a part of your chamber, be a part of your business alliance, be a part of those kinds of things, because that's what's going to help you. If you know those people or if you know somebody in a company there locally, they're more inclined to take your call or be like, "Oh, we met at such-and-such Alliance or such-and-such networking dinner. They're going to be more inclined to take those calls and, at least, look at what you have to provide them. So that's a huge one. Then, mutual contacts who might be willing to connect to you - that's another thing-- looking at those friends of yours that might be on social media or those friends that, maybe, you see kind of remotely for work and ask them to help connect you. So those are, sort of, our tips on how to find it, and that's what we actually use as professional sponsorship "secrets". I wish I could tell you, like I said, that there's some secret thing, but if you follow those sort of protocols, you're going to have a lot more success, for sure.

Panos  1:08:33  
Yeah, I think these are awesome tips. I've taken a look at the tool you suggested. I think that probably makes sense for you guys as an agency. For your average race director, it is a bit pricey, as you say. I actually think that LinkedIn nowadays, as you say, is probably the closest thing you have to a secret weapon because even if you pay-- let's say you want to do all of this process - all your sponsor outreach - within a month or two, the subscription is probably, like, $40, $50 a month or something, and you'd get lots of tools to enhance your search and you can even, like, do cold outreach to people who are not your immediate connection. So LinkedIn, I think, is a great tool. The one question on that, which applies more generally but is important to LinkedIn, is what kind of title would you look for people within an organisation who would give you better chances of hitting someone who may be the contact person for partnerships and sponsorships? What would their title say?

Teresa  1:09:34  
So a lot of them will be, like, partnership director. Sometimes, they'll say sponsorship. A lot of times, it's partnership. Sometimes, it's event manager or it'll be promotions and events. Sometimes, field marketing is another one. I usually will, kind of, look in the marketing category because, usually, sponsorships falls into marketing. The one thing I will say is, depending on the company, you don't want to go too far up. You don't want to go so high up that it just is trash in their mailbox. I know some people think, "Well, I got the CEO." Well, the CEO of Sony is not going to answer your call. So you want to find something that's more local to what you have - maybe find partnerships for West Coast if you're West Coast or maybe partnerships for that area-- but look for marketing, field manager, partnerships, sponsorships - those are, sort of, those keywords. I 100% agree with you on the LinkedIn thing. I would say I would be careful about pitching within a message, but I would definitely take a look at their email and, maybe, try to send an email in that direction. Through Winmo, you can search by their titles, so you can pick out the marketing versus the sponsorship. So that is one of the other nice things about them because that is an actual issue sometimes - just trying to track down who the right person is within the company, which one is the right person. We stay away from CEOs. We stay away from COOs, things like that, CFOs. Like, we pretty much try and stay within the marketing field, and that's where we get PR, sometimes, but honestly, PR is different than marketing. Most sponsorships come out of a marketing budget.

Panos  1:11:25  
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode…

Let's now move into the scary bit, which is reaching out to people, which involves a lot of things using the word "cold 'something'", which people get very nervous about - cold emailing, cold calling, all kinds of stuff, right? 

Teresa  1:12:47  
Yeah. Nobody's, like, "I love this". 

Panos  1:12:50  
I mean, there are some people who are, like, super extrovert or whatever, but no one likes rejection, and there's lots of rejection involved in this as we'll see, which is also a great lesson for people don't get dissuaded. Everyone gets rejected, right? So let's look at this approach, then. Let's assume you've identified the company, the contact person, you have your intro deck, your stuff, your audience, and your sponsor, which is really important before you reach out. Then, you want to make your approach, right? I guess there are two common ways of doing that if you don't know that person. One is to cold call and the other one is cold email. Which one would you recommend? How do the two compare? Assuming you had both an email and a phone, what would you do? Would you pick up the phone or would you write an email as a first contact strategy?

Teresa  1:13:42  
So it has changed. When I first started in this, it was cold call. Now, it's cold email. People are very sensitive about their time and they feel almost intruded upon when you just call them randomly because, let's be honest, a lot of people work off their cell phones. So we always do email. I mean, it's so funny because our agency has a lot of, like, the last three generations that work there. So it's obvious that our older sector who came from the world of call and hit the pavement and walk into the store kind of thing are having to shift into the email world because that is really how it works. Sometimes, it depends on the sponsor. I will be honest. My experience when I'm dealing with dealerships - like, car dealerships-- I have to call them. I don't know why but, for some reason, the car dealerships, I always have to call always for some reason.

Panos  1:14:41  
Because that's what they do, I guess - right? They're also very big into calling. That's their mode of communication.

Teresa  1:14:46  
Yeah. They might not just sit in front of the computer like some other jobs do too - I'm not really sure. I think the last three dealership deals - like, big deals - that we did were through phone and they've been surprisingly enough too. Those were some really big deals on a cold call, and we never even met the person until after the deal was done. I mean, we're talking, like-- I think we did one over a cold call for $7,000. Then, there was, like, a random one whereby the guy didn't respond to our emails or our calls for probably four or five reach outs. Then, one day, I randomly called and got him on the phone, and then he bought a sponsorship for $40,000. So it's just kind of a flexing - I wish I could tell you that it's straightforward. For the most part, I would say 90% of our people are through email. We do that first because we tried to set up a time so that they will be in the right mindset. If they feel a little ambushed, then sometimes they'd kind of reject it just like you would. Think about yourself and how you would respond to someone, kind of, calling you out of the-- so if you do call cold call, the first thing I always ask is, "Hi, John. This is Teresa from Hood To Coast. I wanted to see if this was a good time, but I'd really love the chance to chat with you a little bit about our event and see if whether or not we would be a good partner." I always say it that way too. That kind of leads to one thing I was gonna say about mindset when you're going through this that is, if you change the way you approach it and you think about, "This is a discovery call. This is a way that I'm going to find out not only if they are interested in us, but if we are interested in them. Maybe it's not going to be a great fit." So having this conversation with them-- you're just trying to approach them to see if, "Hey, could we work together? Can we approach this together?" You may say "No" just as much as they may say "No." I mean, you might get off the phone and be like, "Oh, that's probably not going to work for us." That happens a lot to me. So there'll be times where I'm super excited going into a call and I get done, and they're excited but I'm like, "I don't think that's going to be the best fit or they're not willing to invest what is needed for this to be a great partnership." So thinking about it that way a little bit can also help relieve that anxiety that this is some sort of, "We're waiting for them to tell me 'No'," because you may feel just the same way. But yes, I would say that, for us, we're finding now that the best success comes from us emailing and asking for a chance to have a call about the event and just seeing if we can partner, if we can reach goals, if we have mutual goals in mind, or if we can help them reach any of their marketing goals - that kind of thing.

Panos  1:17:44  
Right. Because this initial call or email, even if you get someone on the line, and they have a little bit of time, this is not the time to overwhelm them and get, like, tonnes out. This is not the discovery session itself. It's trying to book that discovery session.

Teresa  1:18:02  
Yes, exactly. It's trying to just say, "Hey, can we--" sometimes, keep in mind, and I always tell this to people when they call, "Be prepared that it could turn into that call" because, like I said with that one car dealership, that's what happened. I was calling to say, "Hey, have you gotten the emails? Is there any way we can set up a time?" "Well, I've got time right now. What are you thinking?" If you're going to do that, just be prepared, have your questions in front of you, and know what you're trying to get out of that call. What you're trying to get out of that call is basically what is their goals. I can go through some of the questions that you might want to ask. The goal at this point, though, initially, when making that approach is you're trying to set up the discovery call, you're trying to set up a chance to understand what they're trying to get out of the sponsorship so that you can propose a sponsorship that's better for them. I know it sounds a little bit like this is a super long and tedious process, but it really isn't once you kind of get into it and, sort of, get into a cycle. This is how you make really big money. This is how you go from doing $4,000, $500, $2,000, maybe $4,000 sponsorships, for those mid ones, to the $40,000, $70,000, $80,000, and $100,000 - the Nike kinds of sponsorships because you're not going to get those with you sliding over gold, silver and bronze packages. You have got to have to invest the time and the effort in order to get those big ones like this.

Panos  1:19:32  
So on those first calls that you make, and the first emails you send out, is the idea also to persuade that person to receive your intro deck as well? Would you even attach it to your cold email, I guess, to sponsors?

Teresa  1:19:49  
Yeah. That's sort of a personal preference. Some people on my team, when they send the email, they'll attach the deck and basically say, "Here's a little bit of information about our event. We would love to have the chance to chat with you to be a partner with it. We think that your brand is really great and would fit really nicely with our audience," and then they attach the deck. I tend to not attach mine. I tend to just send a couple of sentence email and say, "Hey, we've got this event" and I'll have, like, a couple of highlights that has, like, this many people and a really great audience that would fit your demographic - or one best race ever or something like that. "I'd love to have a chance to talk to you about your brand partnering with this event. Would this be something you'd be interested in? I would be happy to send you more information." I usually wait till they engage with me before I send the information. The reason why I do that is because, if they come back and they say, "Yeah, I want more information," then I send it to them and say, "Here's the info. I'd love to have a chat with you about it." Then, usually at that point, we've sort of gotten a rapport going. So that's why I don't usually attach it, but I do have other salespeople on my team who do attach theirs and it works for them as well. I kind of think that's one of those things you just have to sort of play with. I usually wait - that's my personal preference - but I don't think there's really a right or a wrong answer to that one.

Panos  1:21:25  
Right. I think I'm probably with you that, maybe, you want to get a little bit of buying before you, sort of, shoot that out, right? You want to get a little bit of someone on the hook a little bit before you send it out so that you know they're interested. You don't want to seem too presumptuous - you just throw a bunch of information to them. One tip I would give people actually-- I don't know whether you guys do that. I do that quite a lot. When I send out business presentations and other stuff - put together your deck in a PDF or whatever, you strongly advise a PDF - I don't actually send out the PDF. I keep it in my Google Drive and I send out the shared link to the PDF because even if it's out, you can then sort of make some updates to the actual document and, still, the link would point to that and you can keep on updating it. Plus, you don't have to attach, like, a 2, 3, 4 MB file or something and, sometimes, it gets sent to junk or something because Gmail thinks you're sending something nasty.

Teresa  1:22:25  
Some of the corporate software on those really big brands, though, will fish out if you have links and you haven't had correspondence with them before, so that's the only reason why sometimes I would be careful on that. But I would agree with you. The other thing too is, if you're going to do that with your links, then I would make sure that you open it up so that anybody with the link can open it because the other thing is to make sure your permissions are correct. A lot of times, those get forwarded to other people to take a look at, so you just want to make sure that that's clear. Nowadays, it's pretty common to use links for stuff like that so it's easier, but we did, for a while, struggled a little bit with the links. But you're absolutely right on the PDFs being-- we'll have to, sometimes, resize ours twice down to make sure that it is small enough and easy to open, for sure. I'm a big fan of PDFs only because they look the same on every device whereas, sometimes, if you use, like, a Word, PowerPoint, Google Slides, or whatever, they look different with different fonts and things like that in different capacities.

Panos  1:23:38  
Yeah, sending word documents is completely archaic these days. 

Teresa  1:23:45  
I know. I still get them.

Panos  1:23:49  
I think people should definitely think about sending out PDFs for this. One other aspect in which calling people versus emailing people differ. There are lots of differences. As you said, I think one point that you made earlier, that I want to stress out for people, was that when you cold email someone, you can ambush them in a way the same way they can ambush you. Like, they can get you straight into discovery and other stuff where you may not be prepared. So, calling is more of a high risk medium. I mean, you need to think on the fly, you need to be on your feet, right?

Teresa  1:24:27  
Feel confident in what you're doing. Sometimes, if we've reached out maybe four or five times and we haven't heard anything, then I will call and, usually, I'll just say, "Hey, I'm just checking in. I sent this email. If you're not interested, it's totally fine. Just let me know. I just wanted to make sure you got it." So I'll do that. A lot of times, I'll get sent a voicemail at the beginning of it, and then I leave a voicemail. The really interesting thing I will keep in mind - because this kind of brings up something that I want to point out to people - is there's a book called "The Science of Selling". People get discouraged within, like, two to three meals. If they'll say one or two and then they don't hear anything, then they just call it quits. When it comes to something like this, we say, "Don't give up until you hit, like, touchpoint seven." I know that sounds ridiculous, but a majority of our sales are done within four to seven touchpoints, believe it or not. So if you don't get a response, follow up on the same email and the week later to say, "Hey, I'm just checking in and wanted to see if you want any more information or have any questions," - that kind of thing. Don't quite give up because, actually, a "No" is better than nothing. If you get a "No", then you got the right person, put that in your contact, keep in touch with them, follow up with them each year - that kind of thing. At about seven, if we don't hear anything from somebody at touchpoint seven, we retire the lead as, maybe, one that's not a valid lead, but don't be afraid. Don't give up because you didn't hear anything the first time or the second time around.

Panos  1:26:08  
Yeah, definitely. One of the things I do when reaching out to clients or even, like, business partners and stuff like that, I send them an email, they don't get back, then I follow up in a week, they don't get back. I mean, if you keep insisting, someone may come back even, like, on your 6th email or five months later, and they'll tell you something. One thing I do that I find is very effective is, after I send maybe a couple or three at the most, saying, "Hey, just checking if you got this kind of thing." On my third email or my fourth email, I would go, "Listen. It's okay if you're not interested." Just make people comfortable to say "No" to you. You prepare the ground. It's like, "Listen, it's perfectly fine if you're not interested, but can you just tell me you're not interested, so I can just close off, as you say, the lead on the CRM. No hard feelings. Just make me the courtesy to just say no." And it's that email where you put people on the spot a little bit that someone who just reads your emails and doesn't have time to respond to something would actually stop and say, "Oh, no. Listen, it's been hectic out here. I'm going to get back to you in a couple of weeks. It's not that I'm not interested" - kind of thing. You want to put people a little bit on the spot.

Teresa  1:27:23  
Right. Just be careful to not come off too super aggressive about it but, yeah, I think you're right on that. I get that too because, sometimes, I can't tell if they are automated because there are those automated CRMs - because I get these kinds of emails all the time. So, I'm like, "Is this an automated CRM email that just I got tagged into? Or is this a person actually trying to reach out to me about something?" So I think, including something about their brand in it is also a really big thing. The way you do your headline is also another way - like the way you do the subject line. For us, we always put the brand, like, let's say, Nike and Hood To Coast. That's what we put. We don't put, like, possible sponsorship. We just put the brand and then the event. 90% of the time, they open it just simply because they're trying to figure out what it's about. So that's something to do as well that would help get you some sort of, at least, open rates on that, too. 

Panos  1:28:33  
Yeah, I think that's a great way to structure the subject line - we do it all the time as well. The last thing - so inextricably linked with all this - is rejection, of course. You're gonna get tonnes of it, right? I mean, you need to grow a little bit of thick skin on this. It's not personal, right? 

Teresa  1:28:49  

Panos  1:28:49  
All kinds of reasons why you may be rejected. 

Teresa  1:28:52  
Oh, my gosh. I can't tell you how many of them that were rejections that ended up becoming sponsors that we've ended up working with for years. I mean, sometimes you just have to find the right time. There are ones where they were interested and come back to us, and say, "Hey, you remember that event? Do you guys still do it?" So I just think of it as, "It's just not right now. No, for now." It's kind of how I think of it. It actually doesn't bother me anymore, like, at all. I never thought I'd get to the point. One of the guys on our team always says, "'No' is better than 'Maybe' because, at least, then you know." Every time we get to "No", we know that we've got a contact and we put it into our database. The ones that actually are more frustrating for me are the ones where they just don't respond at all because, then, you're like, "Did I even get to the right person?" - that kind of thing. So the "No" actually, for me, is way better. I mean, of course, "Yes" is the best but the "No" is at least, "Hey, we're engaging now. I can come back to you next year." The thing I always ask them when they say no is - usually, they'll say, "No, we're going to pass this here." - I'll say, "Well, I totally understand. Would you mind just giving me some insight on why you guys passed?" People forget to ask that because if you ask that, then it could be-- and don't use it as a way to change their mind. Use it as a way to reapproach in the future. We were going after 5-hour Energy at one point, which is the energy supplement for a race and they were like, "No, not for now." I was like, "How could this supplement company that loves to sample say 'No; to Hood To Coast which has, like, all these people?" We just couldn't fathom it. And they were like, "Well, we just don't do one-day events. It's too pricey for us to do one-day events. Well, that's not anything we can change." So, it wasn't about us. So, knowing those kinds of things about these different ones, you make a little note and save it, and then, if any of your events ends up changing or you have other events that may be a better fit for another event-- so asking them those things are really important. Or it could be something you could fix - maybe, you don't have enough information for them or maybe your pricing is off - those kinds of things. So ask them if they say "No" in the most respectful way possible. Just be like, "Can I ask for some feedback on why there was a "No" just so that I can take it back to the team and we know better." 

Panos  1:31:28  
Speaking of pricing, it's not something you'd advise when you go into that call, but what if a sponsor prospect asks you straight away - like, some people are very kind of like money focused - "What's this going to cost me?" Even if they don't have the patience to go through the process that is the right process, what if you hit someone on the phone and they're like, "What kind of money are we talking about?" Is that something you'd go into or would you gently try to wiggle out of it at that point - because you just wouldn't know enough about it?

Teresa  1:31:56  
So that does happen sometimes. Usually, when they're that hardcore about it, they're not genuinely interested, or they're trying to gauge whether or not your event fits in their budget. So normally, what will happen is I say, "Well, all of our sponsorships are custom. So it's based on what kinds of assets or what kind of activations you need to fulfil your goal and make sure that everybody is taken care of to their marketing goals. Our sponsorships range anywhere from like-- I have some events where the cheapest sponsorship was $10,000." So, I would say, like, "Our cheapest sponsorship is a 10 by 10 booth, and it's $10,000, and then it increases from there." The thing is, if that's the case for your event, then you can go ahead and be straight up with it, because you don't want to waste your time. If they can't do $10,000, there's no point trying to do a whole sales pitch if they can't do that. Now, if your event is smaller and you're gonna say, "Well, a basic booth starts around $2,000, or $500," something like that, then that's totally fine too. So have an understanding of what you're willing to do. Like, what is the minimum you're willing to take for a sponsorship? You really need to understand that about your event because, that way, you know it's not worth my time, effort, or my volunteers' time if it's less than $1,000, or $500, or $200, or whatever, depending on whatever your event size is. Once you understand that, then, when they ask you that, you can say, "They start at this price, and they go all the way up to $20,000 or something like that." But I always say, "Ours are all custom. Once we have a better understanding of what it is that you're looking for, then we can put something together for you and give you a couple of options." I always give options too. I always do, at least, two or three different types of sponsorships because that's another science of selling, sort of, saying that human nature tends to pick one if there are three. So it's kind of an interesting thing to know about it. Even if you don't really have three options, stick one in there because they tend to pick one if there are three options. I don't know why that is, but it's true.

Panos  1:34:11  
It is. It's a very common thing. That's why you also see on, like, pricing pages and stuff. There are always three options for some reason.

Teresa  1:34:18  
Even if you know that they want a 10 by 10 booth, put a 10 by 10 booth in there and then put another one that's maybe, like, a race bib sponsor or something like a presenting sponsor just to give them the option of choosing. That's a very common sales practice.

Panos  1:34:35  
Yep. Usually, what they say is that you put, like, a really stupidly expensive option that you know they're not going to take just to have one there so they feel like they're getting a bargain when they go with a middle ground or something like that, right?

Teresa  1:34:49  
Yeah, something like that.

Panos  1:34:51  
It's completely silly sometimes - how psychology works. Yeah, listen, I really wanted to go into the next stage, which is the discovery meeting, and a few stages after that. But I'm really hoping after such a very fruitful discussion full of tips, maybe you do all of us the honour and come back on the podcast in the future. 

Teresa  1:35:13  
I would love to do that. 

Panos  1:35:15  
And we go into that in a separate episode because we're close to, like, a couple of hours now. I guess we'll let it down a little bit. We've been chatting for a while, which is awesome. I think this is one of those episodes that we've had so many tips. We actually went through the actual call kind of thing, right? 

Teresa  1:35:34  

Panos  1:35:34  
So many practical things that I hope will put people in the shoe of, like, a real sponsorship process. Before we sign off - hopefully, as I said, we'll see you again on the podcast - tell people a little bit about how they can get in touch with you. Maybe, if they're considering some of the consulting advice that you offer, the book, or other stuff that you do, how can they reach out?

Teresa  1:36:01  
Yeah, so the easiest way, of course, is our website, which is That's our website. It has a whole bunch of different resources on it, freebies, and things like that. You can get the workbook download. You can actually get the discovery call questions - that kind of stuff is on there. All the information from the book is on there as well, but you can also the bought by the book, which is "Sell your event! The Easy To Follow Practical Guide to Getting Sponsorships." That's on Amazon, of course, and Barnes and Noble. Then, it has a companion workbook. Quite honestly, I'm really proud of that workbook. It goes along with the actual book, but it goes page-by-page, step-by-step, a lot of what we've talked about, and has an amazing amount of templates so you don't have to actually recreate the process. You can just download the template and reuse them. It's got the questions. It's got the surveys that we talked about - they're already done for you. So a lot of information there and it's only $20. I always tell people, "There's even an agreement and there that cost me about $1,500, $2,000 to get made by my lawyer, and it's in the $20 workbooks." So that's available as well, and you can get that again at The book, though, can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Then, my social channels are all Teresa Stas. I'm on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Feel free to follow me. I do a lot of speaking. So hopefully, I will see some people out and about. That's basically it.

Panos  1:37:48  
You sent me some stuff for, like, research purposes and I've seen you have tonnes of templates and stuff in the book, like-- we were talking about prospecting, putting all the prospect sponsors in buckets and stuff. It's going to be really helpful for people and I really hope that people consider reaching out to you because God knows we all need a little bit of education in things like sponsorship and marketing and other stuff. And as I said, I hope we'll see you back on the podcast sometime soon to go through the rest of this process. 

Teresa  1:38:16  
I would love to. 

Panos  1:38:18  
I want to thank you again very, very much for making the time so early in the day and a couple of hours of it as well. 

Teresa  1:38:24  
Of course, thank you for having me, I appreciate it. 

Panos  1:38:26  
Thank you to everyone listening in and we'll see you all on our next podcast!

Panos  1:38:36  
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode on finding and approaching sponsors with Green Cactus CEO, Teresa Stas.

If you liked today’s episode, we’ve got a couple more great podcasts on sponsorship for you. So make sure to check out Episode 35 of the podcast on “The Sponsorship Seeker’s Mindset” with the amazing Kim Skildum-Reid, and our very popular Episode 10 on “Selling Sponsorships” with Life Time Events’ Ben Pickel. 

Besides that, you can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website You can also share your questions about sponsorship or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.

Many thanks again to our awesome podcast sponsors RunSignup and Racecheck for sponsoring today’s episode. And if you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite player, and check out our podcast back-catalog for more great content like this. 

Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.

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