8916785299_1933c20679Successful marathons, half marathons, and even 10ks and 5ks rely on the help of generous sponsors to be both financially viable and appealing to participants. Solid sponsorship can help you bring in the funds you need to make your race go smoothly, and it can also help you keep your participants’ registration fees to a minimum. Finding sponsors for a race can be a challenge, but it’s certainly not impossible. If you’re looking for sponsors for your next big run, here are five important things to consider.

1. Before you start, make a list of the right companies to ask. You don’t want to just send out sponsorship information to every business in a 50 mile radius; that involves a lot of wasted time and energy, not to mention money on materials. Instead, think about what companies, both local and national, might be likely to sponsor your race.
Local businesses with a health and athletic slant are good places to start, as are bigger media outlets, banks, and any bigger companies in your area with a community relations office and a reputation for local giving.

2. If you’re asking big companies for sponsorship, start early. When you’re wrapping up your annual event, you may not be ready to think about next year’s iteration. However, if you’re hoping to bring in a national sponsor or two, asking a year in advance is not at all out of the question. Look for information on company websites or contact community relationship offices.
Giving and event sponsorship is a small but significant part of many large corporations’ missions, but these companies typically approach giving in a very structured way. Be prepared to fill out necessary forms and submit your requests well in advance of your race.

3. Make your follow-up timely and personal. Sending out carefully worded letters asking for sponsorship is a necessary first step, but it’s not your last step. Don’t expect a lot of response from just a single letter. Instead, follow up within a week or two, either on the phone, in person, or with a personalized email.
Following up is often most successful when it’s done by someone who has an established relationship with the potential sponsor. If your race has an employee, volunteer, or board member with a personal connection to any potential sponsors, have that person do the follow up.

4. Offer several different sponsorship levels. Different companies may be looking for different benefits from sponsoring your event, so providing different tiers will usually bring in more interest. Clearly explain the sponsorship benefits at each level, such as company logos on promotional materials, naming rights for a tent or an entire event, and so on.
It may also be helpful to consider in-kind sponsorship opportunities instead of cash up-front. For example, a clothing company may be considered an event sponsor if it provides free race shirts, or a newspaper may be a sponsor in exchange for free advertising.

5. Be prepared to share your numbers. Potential sponsors want to know that they’re going to be associated with a well-structured event. Be ready to share your registration numbers, how you expect to be in the black as an event, what your website traffic is like, and the like. This shows that you have everything organized properly and under control.
The good news for race organizers is that there are lots of companies out there who are willing and ready to be associated with your event. If you can do the legwork, show that you’re an organized event that’s worthy of sponsorship, and reach out personally, you’ll stand a good chance of having a full sponsorship roster.

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