Every other day, we get bombarded with a request for sponsorship from a student somewhere, for our clients or our firm. However, rather than simply asking for something, what is it you are really offering a sponsor?

Asking for money or something in kind is easy. You simply ask. However, discerning what is in it for your potential sponsor and making the return on investment (ROI) really compelling for your sponsor, that is the question.

More often than not, a typical student approaching an organization asking for cash is simply promising a mention in an internal collateral that is circulated to the faculty or the institution. How the collateral is really distributed, actively, or more likely, passively, is seldom communicated to the potential sponsor. And if you have been a college student before, you would, like me, not really notice the fine print about who were the sponsors for a student event. You would more likely look at the notice board for something interesting (if you are really bored), and then simply jot down the details and attend the event. Therefore, if that’s the great pitch, then you cannot expect much from a sponsor.

If however, you plan for an event that is actively and persuasively communicated to a massive audience, especially through proven past media coverage to the mainstream broadcast, print and online media (and we are not talking about a friend’s social media page), then the sponsor would more likely sit up and listen.

Second, what is usually said to the potential sponsor is a speculative number of attendees, and what’s worse, the number is not that compelling either. The pitch usually would mention for example, a potential future customer base, which when mapped to the actual event, may not necessarily correlate to real prospects.

Let’s use a fictitious example. If you are organizing a student event for rock climbers, and you send a pitch randomly to many potential sponsors such as restaurants, hotels or spas, the correlation is really low. But if, for this fictitious example, you target only relevant companies in extreme sports apparel, portable video cameras, sports recovery drinks and nutrition products, then it would make perfect sense.

Next, what is the promised and realistic ROI your potential sponsor can expect? Is there something tangible, believable and achievable? If you ask for US$1,000 from your sponsor, what can your sponsor expect in return? Think about it. Think really hard. And then, prove it to your sponsor. If you cannot, ask for less, or in-kind. Or get creative. For example, if you have permission to use a space for your event (from your college or a regulatory authority), you may be permitted to allow potential sponsors to set up shop in parts of the space and ask for a small fee as sponsorship. That may make it more compelling especially for FMCG sponsors.

Sponsors are not charities, and what one asks for, sponsors expect an achievable and a great ROI. It is perfectly alright to be realistic and modest. There is nothing wrong from starting from the ground up. All great things start with a good foundation.