You identified the attendees of an open source event as an interesting target group for your business and decided to become a sponsor. Sounds like a win-win situation. Now let's quickly scroll through the checklist to make sure your commitment will be a success.
1. Think "marketing", not "sales"
Remember, sponsoring is an instrument of marketing. First thing you won't ask is "Do we make leads there?" because you know it's not a trade fair. Of course you will be visible as a sponsor. Your main objective would be a positive image of your company. Everyone organizing the event wants to make it great. Therefore your brand will be connected to positive feelings. It's your job to use that positive image in further marketing activities.
2. Enforce credibility
Open source communities have a culture of collaboration, transparency, and respect. For maximum impact your organization should become part of the community by embracing its culture. Show respect for what others are giving and have already contributed. Follow the community's announcements and discussions, become involved. If the community sees you are there and behave like a community member, you are a community member. Being a community member gives you credibility, and that is the currency of modern marketing.
3. Don't stress your goals to achieve your goals
The organizers you are dealing with know quite well that you give money for a reason. Constantly emphasizing that your company expects something "in return" for the sponsorship shows that you are not appreciating what you already received: free software, documentation, tutorials... or at least an event for reasonable entry fees that attracts a lot of the peers. Be wise and put your commitment in first place, not your expectations.
4. Be aware of the team
Open source event organizers know their target groups because they are long-term community members – as freelancers, employees or CXOs. And they usually donate their own worktime to organize the event. They typically do not get provisions for acquiring sponsor money (the money benefits the event 100 %), they are no professional fundraisers. Yet they are highly respected professionals in their everyday's jobs. They belong to your peer group. Don't cause them extra work by bargaining your benefits or by demanding to produce a lot of logo print spaces. Show that you are aware of their dedication and their workload – and value it. There's no better impact for you than having the peer group think positively of your brand.
5. Be a true supporter
Giving your money is one way of supporting the event. To make everyone involved love you as a sponsor, give more than that. Promote the event in every outbound communication (your newsletter, through your social media account...) and ask how else you can support. You might offer to write a press release or convince other companies to sponsor. You might offer storage space and shipping, if needed. You might procude a promotional video. Be creative. Be supportive.
6. Be entertaining
How much would you appreciate a conference where you mainly learn how cool the sponsors are and how great their products and services are? And would you believe that? As a sponsor you should be grateful for organizers avoiding that impression. Too much sponsor focus can diminish the attendees' positive experience and therefore fail in achieving the image benefits at all. Instead, find a way to entertain the event. Organize free ice-cream for everyone. Put up a branded soccer table or bean bags on your dedicated "sponsor table" area.* Create a positive experience in itself.
Whatever goals you have defined for your company or organization – hiring talents, presenting your brand as one the of "big players", selling your products/services or finding fulfilment partners – the above rules can help you perform in any respect. Summarize your learning in the old public relations wisdom: "Do good and talk about it (yourself)."
Blogpost licensed by Meike Jung/cms-garden.org under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License
*) Thanks for the inspiration: DigitalOcean booked an ice-cream truck for DrupalCon Amsterdam. undpaul assembled the soccer table at DrupalCamp Schwerin.