Supporting special events

Can you think of a community that is more defined by its special events than Reno-Sparks? Have you ever seen a brochure about this area that didn't carry a photo of hot-air balloons, a bucking bull, a roaring airplane or a finely detailed classic auto? Our major special events give this area a unique and exciting personality, as well as support for our tourism economy. Many residents and tourism officials just take it for granted that these events have the funding needed and will return each year.

I have found that our community has a real affinity and love of events. But this year is firming up to be much different for many event producers because support and funding is dwindl-ing. In addition to its budget constraints, the convention authority has a policy change and is encouraging the support of new events. This forces established events to raise even more money than in past years.

Thus, the competition is on to find more funding among all events in a rather small market. Some of the funding will come from national companies, but most is raised right here among our local companies.

The truth is that community-wide events cost a lot of manpower and money to put on. And without the support of the community and its businesses, these events won't go on forever. Attending these events as a spectator is a start. But, these events need sponsorship support to cover enormous budgets. Of all of the major legacy events National Championship Air Races and Air Show, The Great Balloon Race, Reno Rodeo, best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, Artown, Street Vibrations and Hot August Nights the smallest production budget is $400,000. Others cost millions of dollars annually.

Reno's major events offer sponsorships that range from $1,000 to over $500,000. The amount of exposure and media coverage your business will receive from being involved escalates with the dollar amount, of course.

But not one event producer would expect anyone to just fork over sponsorship dollars. Sponsorships come with some great promotional benefits for businesses. All of these events have developed sponsorships that provide a real return on investment for businesses. As a business person, are you interested in motivating and team building for your employees? Or how about entertaining some of your best clients? How about a community-wide tie-in campaign that will entice your customers with a new approach? And there's always just getting your name out and in front of hundreds of thousands of event lovers. Special events can provide all that and more.

Events provide more interaction with the public than the usual advertising and publicity, helping your products and services become more real. They give your company the opportunity to be in front of more people than you could ever crowd into your business at one time. When customers won't come to you, you must go to them. And appearing at special events can help you do just that.

I have seen many companies sign up for an event and then hope that they might get noticed. My favorite phrase: Hope is not a strategy. A special event sponsorship should be treated as an investment. Strategizing on how to maximize your investment is imperative. Many of the special event professionals can help businesses identify what activities and packages will work best. After all, they need happy, returning sponsors.

You and your marketing team should decide on the over-riding objective(s) of your event involvement. Here is a small list: 1. Motivate employees, i.e. an employee incentive program, 2. Team building for your employees as they do an activity together, 3. Entertain customers/ clients/venders, 4. In-store promotion/ contest/giveaway, 5. Show community caring, 6. Get in front of as many people as possible,

7. Introduce a new product or conduct sampling, 8. Introduce a new service and pass out literature, 9. Interact with as many people as possible and put a face on your business with one-on-one interaction, and 10. Business-lead generation.

Most businesses go to all this work and support events because of the one-on-one time they get with employees, clients and customers in a fun setting. All of the events listed below offer great opportunities.

Reno Rodeo:

The Great Reno Balloon Race:

Street Vibrations:

Hot August Nights:

Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off:

National Championship Air Races and Air Show:


These are a few of the biggest events in Reno and Sparks. But don't forget about the Nevada State Fair, sports events like the Reno-Tahoe Open, cultural events like Hispanic Heritage Days and Cinco de Mayo, and environmental events like Earth Day. And, don't forget all of the local charities that produce fundraisers and need your support. An extensive list of local events can be found at the Web site:;;

When the event is over, it is imperative to review the outcomes of your sponsorship. Did your business receive news coverage? How many people/employees did you entertain? How would they rate their experience? Would they return next year? If you distributed promotional material, did you meet your goal? What was the attendance of the event? And, how can you improve the involvement in the future?

Community-wide special events have always made Northern Nevada unique. They make us feel good about the community in which we live and support our economy by giving out-of-towners another reason to visit our area. Events need your business's support to continue. Have fun and get involved in one of our great special events!

Marlene Olsen is president of Olsen & Associates, a public relations firm in Reno. Contact her at


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