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Understanding your Sponsors

Before setting your goals and starting to reach out to sponsors, it's extremely necessary to understand them and their perspective towards supporting hackathons.
Sponsorship is one of the most crucial parts of every hackathon. When you're reaching out to sponsors, it's necessary to understand their perspective of supporting your hackathon and the outcome they're expecting out of it. You should consider this as a sales pitch for your hackathon. To understand it further, let's first understand the different types of sponsor hackathons generally target to.

Hackathons target five categories of sponsors:

  • Financial/ Monetary Sponsors — Companies that pay for services like having their logo on your website (most sponsors fall into this category).
  • Presenting Sponsors — Companies that co-host or co-brand your event (be careful not to give up too much control here).
  • In-kind Sponsors — Companies that donate services or goods for free like hardware or platform credits.
  • Strategic/ Media Partners — Companies that help with marketing and promotion; often publications.
  • Community Partners — Companies that can help you recruit hackers, mentors, judges, or volunteers from their community for free.
Please note that these are all broad categories and there will be sponsors that can fit into multiple categories at once as well.
We often see companies attempting to give away free credits or swag to avoid paying a sponsorship fee. We recommend steering clear of these engagements or evaluating these opportunities on a case-by-case basis using the guide we wrote for you below.
Now when we have enough information about what category a sponsor might lie in, we should try to understand what their goal or primary reason might be to support your hackathon.

Sponsors support hackathons for three primary reasons:

  • To get real-time feedback on their products, especially APIs and development tools.
  • To raise awareness (or change the perception) of their brand/ product or service.
  • To recruit interns and full-time employees, especially during the fall season.
Other than the three primary reasons, sponsors might have their region targeted goals as well which can be a driving factor for them to help your hackathon out. Working with them to send specific stats about your event to help their process can be a great way to improve your chances of sponsorship.
For partners generally, the reason for support can be related to alignment with community values, increasing engagement or general awareness as well.
Since you have understood the way to target your sponsors and their reasons to support your hackathon, you should now be aware of the different concerns they might have.

Sponsors’ top practical concerns:

  1. 1.
    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?
  2. 2.
    Who else is sponsoring?
    • Depending on the sponsor, your other backers will matter. Some companies prefer to sponsor events their competitors sponsor, whereas others want to ensure they’re the biggest name on your roster.
  3. 3.
    Package Value
    • Are they getting their money’s worth?
  4. 4.
    The Force (a.k.a. their gut feel)
    • How do the sponsors feel about your competency: is the event well-organized so far? Have you been professional in all communications?
While setting your goals, take all of these points into consideration and make different categories of people you need to target. Creating specific Sponsorship Prospectus for different target companies can be a great way to help them understand the value of associating their brand with your hackathon.