The cost of sponsorship

You need money to organise any event, even a braai at your house. So when you level up to a geek event, convention or wedding that you have to hire a venue for, you may need help with paying for everything. That’s where sponsors come in. Sponsorships can be anything from someone donating merch as prize support, to stores matching the money you spend for vouchers, to storing wargaming boards, to big sponsorships to cover huge expenses. Here’s my thoughts on what it costs you to have sponsors.

Why people contribute to events

People sponsor you because they think what you’re doing is cool, but they also want to get something out of it. It can be something as small as announcing who sponsored each prize at prize-giving and on social media when you announce the winners. At Upcon and G2C2 our prizes sometimes grew an hour before prize-giving when Awesome Stallholders suddenly came up to us with merch. (Yep, this is why we didn’t announce prizes in advance.)

Pro tip: Whenever someone does something for your event at a discounted rate or sponsors something, you have to say “Thank you”, preferably in public. For example, people who work the doors are often fans of the event. Thanking them, even if you pay them, shows you appreciate they gave up their chance to attend so everyone else could have fun.

So here go some thank yous!

I want to thank some of the regular sponsors that made Upcon and G2C2 go well and full of prize support each year:

  • My mom, for making curry and rice and sponsoring the ingredients some years.
  • Outer Limits Johannesburg (find them at Nexus). Grant sponsored discounts at Outer Limits each year for student society members and helped with roleplaying prize support each year.
    He and Les are also the powers behind ICON 2018. This year it’s running from 29 June to 1 July. (I’ll be there at least one of the weekend days too).
  • Outer Limits Pretoria sponsored wargaming prizes and stored the student society’s wargaming boards when we lost our storage space.
  • A. I. Fest helped with many things including setting up anime screenings at short notice, running the cosplay competition, doing price support for the cosplay competition and generally helping with organising and setting up.
  • Each year’s stallholders for all the spontaneous prize support that just appeared at prize-giving!

Big sponsorships for conventions

You need to have good contacts to get big sponsorships for a first-time event. Bigger companies usually want to see your portfolio and know details like how many people attend, what kind of people come, which day is busiest and past budgets. You also need to explain really well what you’re going to do with their sponsorship.

I’ve never gone with big sponsorships for my cons. Once, by luck, we had a contact in the right department at a big company. Let’s call it the Opaque Turtle Company. This was back when students were still organising the Upcon (the University of Pretoria Convention). One of the committee members found out some details about what we’d need to do to if Opaque Turtle Company decided to sponsor us. We’d have to rebrand everything as the Opaque Turtle Company Upcon. The committee decided not to go there. Like Camelot, Opaque Turtle Company ’tis a silly place.

Before you go for a big sponsorship, consider what you’ll have to do for it. I like using the expression “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” If your big sponsor puts in most of the money for the event, they can make most of the decisions even if it’s your event.

If you do go for a big sponsorship for your small event, get everything in writing. Make sure you know what you have to do to keep the sponsorship and what will happen if you don’t meet the conditions. You don’t want to end up with an expensive loan because some admin went out of whack!

My wedding has a big sponsor

My wedding funding comes from two sources: my savings and my mom. When I first started playing with ideas, Hardus and I looked at options we could pay for by ourselves. After we’d done some casual wedding scouting, my mom stepped in and offered to supplement my budget.

I accepted this particular sponsorship. My sponsor reasoned she had a right to be involved since I’m her only daughter (and child), she could afford it at the time, and she’d like to make my wedding special. (She didn’t mention it, but since she’s an Afrikaans mother I think part of it was a desire to feed guests properly.)

I know this sponsor well. We’ve worked together before on projects like university, my matric dance and many birthday parties. She’s good at making sure no-one goes hungry, and she doesn’t like organising. So far her big request has been juice at the tables. I can deal with that.

Of course being bride, and mother of the bride has been full of spats. There was the unhappiness about the wedding dress, followed by tears when she finally saw me in the dress of my choice. I cried like a baby because we both agreed she could have a pretty party dress for the wedding (we argued first because we misunderstood each other). She chased my rabbit away when he tried to chew my wedding decorations.

We haven’t discussed it, but I’m pretty sure I only lose the sponsorship if I don’t marry Hardus. After all, she still loves me even though I switched off the jumping castle at my eight birthday party (this came up during one of the spats). At least we agree on the most important point: I’m marrying the right guy.

My next post is on how to ask for sponsorship (the small kind).

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