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How To Make Your Events More Appealing To Brands

Caitlin Barry | November 3, 2022 at 8:30 AM

Connecting Sponsors and Events

Sponsorship marketing. Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’ve definitely seen it. From sponsoring local community events to internationally known sports events, brands are always looking for ways to get their product, message, or service in front of their target consumer.

But how do these events and brands connect? Look no further than Larry Weil, TheSponsorshipGuy, the expert on all things sponsorship marketing. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores what event producers need to know to get started and how to appeal to sponsorship brands. 


EP328 How To Make Your Events More Appealing To Brands With Larry Weil  TheSponsorshipGuy-1


A Little More About Larry

Larry is a sponsorship engagement strategist and customer acquisition specialist for some of the nation’s most recognized brands. His mission is to increase the value and effectiveness of sponsorship for event producers, sponsors, and attendees.

Larry has bought and sold sponsorships for over 20 years ranging from the Super Bowl to Monster Trucks, and Tech Conferences to BBQ Festivals and he’s likely seen every kind of sponsorship tactic and activation that events and brands use. His skills as an expert seller, negotiator, presenter, and strategist have connected him to many of the nation’s most recognized brands and properties leading him to over $200M in sponsorship transactions and building a database of over 4,000 brand and industry contacts across trade shows and conventions, visitors bureaus, entertainment, and sports properties, financial services and tech and fully digital properties.

Larry is considered an expert resource for media and has been quoted or featured on ABC News, SB Nation Radio, Sports Business Journal, Fox Business News, Eventbrite, and DIGIDAY. He is also a sought-after speaker and panelist and has presented at the International Congress and Convention Association World Congress (ICCA), City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA), and The Association of Fund-Raising Professionals, amongst others.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: You have a long and storied career of successes. How did you get here today?

Answer: Wow, that's a long story, but I'll chop it down. I kind of backed into it by accident. I had sold a company that I owned in Northern California about twenty-five years ago, and I was a trailing spouse, following my wife to AT&T in San Antonio. I started working on my MBA, and I got a call one day from a fellow who used to work for me, who is now the president of an event activation company, and he said, "Hey, can you do me a favor? I need somebody to go shop. My contractors up at the Texas Rangers." Not knowing his Texas geography very well that it wasn't very close, and I went up, and it was pretty easy to tell that they weren't doing what was hoped for. So, you know, if you're not there on time, that's a pretty easy check, and before you know it, he's like, "Please come work with us, you know, really help us out." And so I started about a seven-year career with passage events and promotions in which I initially took over operations and then kind of flipped into sales.

 
When I first got there, about 80% of our business was with MBNA for those who remember the old credit card affinity wars, and it was right in the middle of that. And so I traveled to so many professional venues, college venues, you know, and really got to know folks. What gave me the staying power was not only going out doing the activations, but you were really the representative for the client most of the time. And so you were speaking with the sponsorship people and the operations people, and sometimes the management of the team or the venue, or both, and that led to a lot of collegiate opportunities, and so on. We were fortunate, and then we brought in Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, you know, some other big ones really on with activation strategies around sports. And then from there, it kind of grew after seven years of being on a plane five days a week. It was kind of time to stop that. I really had to go to some of the people I knew who sold sponsorships for a living or bought sponsors for a living, and I said, "Would you buy from me? Tell me the truth. Don't hurt my feelings because I don't want to make a bad career choice here," because it's one thing when you have the backing of somebody like a big brand. It's easy to get them to pick up the phone, but not so easy again to pick up the phone when things changed around, and they— I don't know whether they were just trying to build my confidence, but they said yes, and so I did it, and I started off with a couple of clients and stayed in sports mostly for the first six or seven years.
 
But I've migrated more recently. You know, digitalists changed a lot of things. So you know, there are a lot of tech events, conferences, food events. The experiential economy is a big thing, and it's a great way for brands to target audiences on a little bit more refined basis. And so that's really the core of my business is trying to find that sweet spot for the sponsor and make the case with data and other rationale as to why this is a better choice than some of the other places they might have been investing their money in before.


Question: When you're working with a sponsor company, how should they be actually setting up themselves for success? How should they? Does it start with the proposal? Does it start with the ideation? Does it start with figuring out how much money they need? Where do they actually start?

Answer: Well, even the big agencies make mistakes. Their materials may be more professional, but sometimes their activation isn't as strong as it could be. So where I always start, and this is really the core of what I do is, a company that has a property that, in my opinion, could provide substantial value for, I want to say, a segment, you know, of types of companies in terms of their marketing, and so on. Then I sort of dig in and find out what they have and how they've been presenting it. And you're right most of the time, the problem is how they're telling their story. A lot of these properties, you know, do have something, but it's not completely there yet. So what I always start with is, I say, if I was an attorney, we would call it discovery, right? And surprisingly, a lot of these properties have not really done discovery on themselves, and very often, they think they're unique. "Oh, we've got this special way of doing a virtual conference that sponsors are going to flock to us." You're competing, and this is really important for them to understand. You're not just competing with other people who do exactly what you do, You're competing with anything the sponsor thinks will advance their business, and if they think going out and getting a bunch of billboards is going to be better than doing your event, that's what they're going to do.

 
And so the context has to be not just, you know, other events. If you're another food festival, it has to be a good value, and you have to understand basic marketing acquisition costs. Understand how the sponsor likes to go about it, and really present it to them in a way that says we understand the value proposition we're offering to you. We have a way for you to engage your ideal customer at a cost that's attractive, and at a volume that will move the needle, and almost nobody comes in the door with that. So you know the cost and the volume and the alignment. And so I mean, I could go on for hours just on the presentation stuff, but I think most folks and and they get a little frustrated with me sometimes because it's, "No, you've got to do more homework. You are not ready." You know, it's like giving the commencement address or something you got to practice. You've got to rehearse. You have to have all the materials you can't go wing it. There's too much because it's so hard to get through.


Question: What is the better approach? What should these companies be doing who are looking for dollars because they're never going to be able to actually do their event without having them?

Answer: The approach I like, and it is the downside of it is it's not fast, but because a lot of people come to me and I automatically have to decline working with them because it's, you know, six weeks until their event. It's just that, you know, there's a timeline for big brands to work with, and that's not it. It might be next year, but I like to try to create inbound inquiries. That's how my business works. So if you can, you know, if you've got a good media team, a good PR team, you know, good blog access, that kind of thing, I've always found that brands anybody would rather buy than be sold. They love ideas that are their own. They're reading a trade magazine, and they go, "Oh, look at that. This looks awesome. This is Giant Food Festival is happening, and we got to be there," and then they call you. I always say the best call from me always starts with, "Hello," you know, rather than trying to get through the gatekeeper, who more and more is just their voicemail now because nobody answers the phone. It's very rare for anybody to answer the phone.

And so my number one thing is to get your clients out there, get them on your website, get them on—I can't tell you how many of them don't even have a LinkedIn profile. So if somebody was looking for an event company to do something, they couldn't find them, right? And then when they get there, they don't know what they do. So I think that the number one thing is to understand that this can be done two ways because outbound has its challenges. So then you get to outbound, and there are really two kinds of outbound. There's cold, there's one, and the warm, you have to be it. You know, I always tell new clients to say like, I wish I could wave my magic wand and go, here's your sponsorship just by calling somebody, I know. But I'm not going to compromise my relationship with a brand by sending him something that I am not convinced is a great opportunity for them. Otherwise, they're going to say, "you know, it's that Larry Guy again who comes with crap to us. Let's not follow him, taking his call this time." And you do that a time or two, And suddenly you know your relationships that you've worked on you'll get—I'll get clients who say, "Well, why don't you reach out to them?" Because it's not right for them where I have it? There's a guy I know with a big agency in New York, and he always says everything's good for everybody, and I'm like, no, not really. No, everything is not good for everybody. I mean, maybe, you know, if you could sell everything to everybody, then fantastic. But so you know, the first thing is making sure that you're credible if you know if you're talking about a warmly, you have to have respect for their time. I'm a big believer in what's called the one sheet because somebody nobody's going to read that deck the first time. They're not going to go through a whole deck. They don't care about most of the information that's in there...
 
So, you know, let's get to that point. It becomes: what are you going to put if you can get their interest, and that, you know, comes with value propositions, which is a whole master class on how do you write a subject. Like it comes really down, you know, whether you're leaving it in a phone message, or you're sending it in an email or some other way. You're promoting it through social media. What's the value proposition? And people sometimes they think a value proposition is an elevator pitch. It's even more condensed than that. What are you going to accomplish? What can we do for you that nobody else can do? All the emails we get every day where somebody says they can generate 25 new leads for us by tomorrow if we hire them. Now you have to be specific about what you're doing. So if you have a great value proposition that resonates, then you've got a chance that they'll open, you know. Sometimes I say it's almost like clickbait. You're having to balance what have you got to do to get somebody on a cold email that doesn't know you to open it. So it's got to be relevant. It's got to be short.

Question: Larry, what advice do you have for those who are really hoping to sell their property to brands?

Answer: Get out of your own head. It's the old can't see the forest through the trees so often. That's the most common issue people have. They're working so hard on their own property, and if you have an event, it's a lot of work to put together an event, and then sponsorship gets treated as a little bit of an afterthought. Of course, you know everybody goes. "Oh, we can sell on tickets, but we could get sponsors." That's a whole other stream of revenue, but they kind of throw it together like, "Oh, yeah, here you go. You'll get banners, you'll get this," and yeah, sure, you can sell, you know, booths or ten by tens to vendors and things, but the big money, you know, is going to require more thoughtful consideration about how you do that outreach. And so I say, don't treat it as an afterthought. It could be, you know, an extreme, a big difference maker. Sponsorship can make the difference between whether you break even or you're fabulously successful. So give it the time it deserves. I think that and whether that's studying, whether it's hiring somebody on the outside, there are people who have training about sponsorship, hiring your own internal person, just, you know, educate. If you're not educated, find to find a way to learn more. If you don't have time to do that, hire somebody who knows how to do it. Whatever those things are, but treat it as a serious part of your business as you do your own market.


Check Out The Podcast!

Larry has so much great information from his experience as The SponsorshipGuy. Check out the podcast below to learn more about sponsorships and events!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year:

Every week we release a new podcast featuring guest's with so much knowledge about marketing, you don't want to miss one!  How can you make sure you don't miss an episode? Click below to subscribe!

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Topics: Podcast Interviews, Podcast, HB Podcast

Caitlin Barry

Written by Caitlin Barry