Chicago Event Sponsorships

Use These 4 Chicago Event Sponsorships To Boost Rankings and Drive New Leads

Guest Post By Garrett French, Founder of ZipSprout

Chances are, regardless of your business’s size or niche, event sponsorships are the most valuable marketing tool you aren’t using. If you implement them strategically, local events are a great way to boost local search rankings, make sales, and attract new clients.

The good news is that event marketing isn’t as difficult, costly, or time-consuming as most marketers and business owners think. It just gets a bad rep from people who are doing it all wrong. Let me show you what I mean.

First, let’s confront the elephant in the room — ROI. Many business owners, especially small business owners with small budgets, avoid event sponsorships because of the cost. After all, attendance alone can cost between $500 – $1000. However, because of its lead generation and link building potential, sponsoring an event can easily bring a satisfying ROI. You just have to know your market.

The key to maximizing your profit and making local events worth your while is finding opportunities that put you in front of your target market. In other words, if you sell trendy wares to millennials, a home and garden show is probably not your best bet. You want to be where your customers are, making instagram-worthy food festivals, family-friendly fairs, and charitable social events your best bet.

Now, let’s get specific about how sponsoring events might work for your business. Using ZipSprout’s newly launched Local Sponsorship Finder, we’ve found four sponsorable events in the Chicago area. One by one, we’re going to show you how to use these events to boost your local search rankings and get new clients.

Taste of Chicago ( – $$$$

With live music performances and family-friendly activities, Taste of Chicago is more than a food festival. That said, people come to eat. So, food vendors of any kind will fit naturally into this setting. Participating eateries will receive a link on the City of Chicago website (DA 76), and there is the potential for media and social media mentions.

Free samples are a tried and true way to a foodie’s heart, but you shouldn’t stop there. Other gimmicks, like a drawing to win a free gift certificate or a promotional gift — perhaps a koozie or kids’ toy — with purchase can attract attention and increase sales. You can also set up a joint venture with other vendors. For instance, a bakery could work with a barbeque joint and a brewery to create a discount program for patrons. If customers receive a special price at the bakery tent when they show a receipt from the brewery or BBQ tent (and vice versa), it will drive traffic to all three eateries.

Printers Row Lit Fest ( – $$$$

If your market is people who love books, this is the festival for you. That means, if your business serves readers, librarians, educators, or aspiring authors, you will want to exhibit at this event. If you don’t sell books, you may still be interested in having a presence, depending on the speaker line-up. For example, a comic book author will attract prospective customers for a clothing retailer or toy store who sells licensed merchandise. Likewise, people who regularly volunteer for non-profits will come to hear an author who advocates for social justice at the podium.

You don’t get a website link unless you’re a sponsor, which is probably over budget for small businesses, but that’s okay. Focus on making sales and gaining clients at your exhibit booth. Offer a discount coupon to be used right away in exchange for signing up for your email list. Direct people to a giveaway you’re running on your Facebook page to get more social media followers for future promotions and events. For local customers, staple a coupon good for a free gift with their next in-store purchase to their receipt.

DuPage County Fair ( – $$$

The county fair attracts a broad demographic and provides the opportunity to interact face to face with a lot of people in a short period of time, which means it has potential for a lot of businesses. However, since many fair visitors come from far and wide, it makes the most sense for businesses who have something to sell on the spot or those who can service clients from a distance. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of your time and budget chasing leads you can’t use.

Fair sponsorship benefits are outlined here. Perks vary depending on the investment, but each one includes your logo and link on the fair website (DA 34). The more expensive packages also include a booth or table you get to set up to talk to attendees. So, if your target market is parents, set up a free activity for the kids to keep them occupied while you talk to mom or dad. If it’s anyone else, simply offer a way to beat the heat. Chicago in July is brutal, and free water from a dispenser (as opposed to a bottle) or a misting tent will attract prospects to your booth and keep them there for a few minutes. While they cool down, you’ll get a chance to make a new friend — and a sales pitch. If your assigned location happens to be off the beaten path of the fairgrounds foot traffic, you may want to bring a promoter along to mingle with the crowd and direct them to your offering.

Run4Paws 5K ( – $$

Pet owners and fitness enthusiasts will be lining up and lacing up on race day, with and without their four-legged friends. This event is perfect for retailers who sell running shoes or athletic apparel, veterinarians, pet sitters, kennels, doggie day cares, groomers, animal rescue organizations, and even artists who paint pet portraits. Benefits include a presence at the event, the chance to include a coupon in a goody bag, sponsorship signage, and social media mentions. However, only investments of $1,500 and above include a link on the website (DA 29).

To maximize the likelihood of gaining new clients — of the human or animal variety — hold a drawing at the event for a chance to win a product or service you normally provide. This will allow you to collect contact information for people who are interested in what you sell, and you can follow up with everyone after the event.

In short, events are the most efficient way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. You just have to make sure you get in front of the right audience and find ways to get — and keep — their attention, typically by offering them something they find truly valuable. For more information on how to do that, check out our ebook, The Local Sponsorship Playbook. The first three people to email to request a copy will receive it FREE!

Garrett French is ZipSprout’s Chief Strategy Advisor. He has been in the marketing, writing and link building business since 2001. Garrett recognized the opportunity that exists in the fragmented hyperlocal space and wanted to find a way to stitch these on and offline opportunities together into a true hyperlocal advertising network. He provides strategic guidance for new clients and is constantly looking for ways for ZipSprout to make a bigger impact.


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