My Sponsorship Journey, What I Learned

Hey, Roberta here!

This is my first pic posted on social media on Myspace taken by my son writing my first book ‘How To Plan Your Own Events From Beginning To End’, in 2005, before changing the title to How To Plan Sponsored-Events Effectively and Secure Sponsors Successfully.

When I established Vigilance Style & Grace (VSG) an event planning company, in 1999, I was working as an account executive selling websites, attending college for small business marketing and management, volunteering on a celebrity calendar project before becoming the project manager, and managing being a new and single mom after losing the father of my son.

While working on the celebrity calendar project, I realized that the movers and shakers were the ones who worked behind the scenes with the celebrities – the ones who made a celebrity a celebrity. In school, I was part of a college club and was aware that many clubs had students who wanted to become singers and dancers – this was during the time it was said that you’ll have to sleep your way in or to the top if you wanted to be in the entertainment industry.

VSG was created as a solution for up and coming models and talents, who didn’t want to sleep their way to the top or in, and planned and coordinated showcases, seminars, open-mics, contests, and fashion and talent shows, and eventually started to plan events for children and teens. I never taught about or had dreams of becoming a business owner even though I come from a family of business owners and entrepreneurs; I just saw a problem that I was passionate about and jumped in and provided a solution.

I learned from trials and errors how to plan sponsored-events and secure sponsors; no book, no school, no website or social media, no friends and family, just trials and errors followed by successful results.

I’m genuinely a kind person if the situation calls for it, I was “to be returned” when someone reported this about me in the news. I believe in giving back, helping people in need, and establishing win-win partnerships in exchange for receiving tangible and intangible benefits.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned on my sponsorship journey that will prevent you from making the same embarrassing and costly mistakes that I’ve made.

Ready, let’s begin!

The beginning of my sponsorship journey:

I established an event planning company, Vigilance Style & Grace, in 1999, to help up and coming talents and models gain recognition and information from executives in the entertainment industry and needed money to implement the events. During this time I never heard about sponsorship so I couldn’t ask for sponsorship. I remember when I walked into the office of corporations and asked to speak with someone who will invest in my events before anyone gave my verbal proposal any consideration I was adversely escorted to the (exit) door. After a few times of this happening, I became disgruntled with the process. I wondered why didn’t anyone understand my event’s purpose, and how it could benefit them. After all, I did have many years of sales experience and was selling something that I was passionate about; in addition to that, before I walked into those offices, I had already secured “investors”, King Bravel Records and Top Choice Corp. I told my two investors that I would return their investment. For the record, even though I had asked companies to invest I didn’t want investors; I wasn’t looking to flip anyone’s money, that’s not what I was interested in or knew how to do – I wanted to connect brands with my event audience. It didn’t make sense to pay them back directly with cash because they were paying my company to connect their brands with my event audience. My confidence was so high when I had approached larger brands to fund my events. At some point, after facing more rejections from major corporations the word sponsorship or sponsor came into my realm. I have no recollection of when or how it came to me. The word came, but not the process. I stopped using the word invest and started to use the word sponsor, partnered with my sponsorship proposal, wallah I am in the event sponsorship realm and business. I later explained my initial intention to my events investors, after learning about sponsorship. Lesson: Do not ask companies to invest in your events if you are seeking sponsors; it is essential you understand the sponsorship terms.

sponsorship journey

The first event I coordinated was Entertainment Industry Network Seminar. In 1999 V.I.S.I.B.I.L.I.T.Y was huge and Sean “Puffy” Combs was not only one of the biggest public influencer in the music industry (hip-hop genre particularly) but the greatest street promoter, offering relentless visibility – to give you a visual of what his promotional skill looked like, think of the lights in New York City, Time Square – his posters were lit up everywhere. It was only natural to invite Mr. Combs as a guest panel to share his wealth of knowledge, unfortunately, he was unable to attend as you can see in his response. Lesson: Overcome no’s.

sponsorship journeyFlyer for my first event, which was canceled!

Something unforeseeable happened, after promoting my first event Entertainment Industry Network Seminar, and sending out invitations, the venue had notified me that they canceled my event because there was a misunderstanding with the scheduled date. Even though I was able to get another date which was a month away from the original date, the damage was done; money was spent on flyers, promotion, etc. As a result, the event audience attendance was low. Lesson: Deal with and plan for unforeseeable events. Also, check in regularly with your team, venue, and all things event related to ensure your event is running smoothly or running at all.

sponsorship journeyFlyer for my re-scheduled event, after cancellation!

The purpose of the event was more determined than the cancellations and disappointments. Fyi: Focus on your event purpose.

Lesson: Be persistent.

sponsorship journeysponsorship journeyCrossing over to corporate sponsors!

The second event I coordinated, Entertainment Industry Network Seminar 2. I continued to secure local sponsors and started to approach and secure corporate sponsors. This event was sponsored by Kinko’s along with a few other sponsors. Lesson: Sponsors fund events with products, services, and money.

sponsorship journey

The following day after my second seminar, I was implementing a Children’s Fashion & Talent Show sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger Jeans and featured in The New York Daily News. One of the event sponsors pulled their sponsorship after I placed their name on hundreds of flyers.

Lesson: Get sponsor agreement in writing, but most importantly – bounce back quickly because the show must go on. 

These are just a few events and lessons that I’ve shared with you. There are lots of great information that I share in How To Secure Sponsors Successfully, Third Edition Revised- Funding For Events that will help you secure sponsors successfully and get better sponsorship results.

Please Support My Events’ Sponsors – they give back to communities in which they do business ..


Here is my book process, from 2005 as an e-book to now in print. 

I’m not new to this..I’m true to this.. lol.. Take care.. 🙂

Order Your Book


Single Order

Bulk Order

Roberta Vigilance is a sponsorship author and consultant. She teaches sponsorship seekers how to secure sponsors and problem solves with her clients. Contact Us!