Understand Your Sponsors

Who They Are, What They Want, And How They operate

You’ll be targeting five types of sponsors:

  • Financial — Cash for services. Most sponsors fall into this category.

  • Presenting — Sponsors that co-host or co-brand your event. (Be careful not to give up too much control here.)

  • Anchor brands — These companies make you legit in the eye of other sponsors.

  • Strategic partners — Sponsors that help with marketing and promotion; often publications.

  • In-kind — Donor companies. They can contribute hardware, t-shirts, etc.

Sponsors support hackathons for three primary reasons:

  • To get real time feedback on their development products, especially APIs

  • To raise awareness (or change the perception) of their brand

  • To recruit interns and full-time employees, especially during the fall

Sponsors’ top practical concerns:

  • Cost per attendee — sponsors want this to be low, while you want this to be as high as possible while keeping their support.

  • Attendee value

    • Are your hackathon’s attendees a good fit for the company in terms of recruiting, marketing, etc.?

    • How hard is it for companies to reach this audience without your help?

  • Who else is sponsoring?

    • Depending on the sponsor, your other backers matter. Some companies prefer to sponsor events their competitors sponsor, whereas others want to ensure they’re the biggest name on your roster.
  • Package Value

    • Are they getting their money’s worth?
  • The Force (a.k.a.) their gut

    • How do the sponsors feel about your competency: is the event well-organized so far? Have you been professional in all communications?

MLH Tips

  • Keep mind the person you’re talking with is often not the person who makes the final sponsorship decisions. Make sure all materials you send are as clear as possible to ensure decision makers have enough information to say yes without taking time to contact you.

  • Many company budgets are quarterly. Q1 and Q4 are often the best times to get money because budgets are more flexible.

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