5 Organizations that Sponsor Design Events

Sales was a big part of my life for quite some time. The biggest draw for me was the ability to learn how people made decisions and how those decisions are influenced.

Next to selling tickets, sponsorship is the other part of organizing that requires us to convince someone of our event’s value.

For this article, I wanted to identify who the big players are in event sponsorship and how they choose who to work with.

(For our edition on developer conferences, click here.)

Of course, that would have been borderline impossible if I’d tried to find the biggest players for every type of event ever, so I decided to limit my search.

I went with one of the industries where a lot of Tito’s customers do their business: design conferences.

I looked into 35 of the biggest design conferences globally to see if any patterns would emerge regarding their sponsors.

There were well over 100 companies I found that sponsor design events, but there were six that kept coming up over and over.

(If you’re struggling to figure out how much you should be asking sponsors for, we’ve made a resource for that here.)

I wanted to give some insight into the information available regarding how they choose their sponsors so that it might help design events that are on the hunt for sponsorship:

(NOTE: This post was last updated for accuracy on August 21st, 2018.)

1) MailChimp 

Sponsored 30% of the design events.

This ubiquitous email automation app came up like springtime daisies. With every Google search, it became more apparent that MailChimp have completely encompassed the design conference landscape.

MailChimp sponsors events like Brand New, Design Matters, and ReasonsTo. Broadly known as champions of doing marketing differently, MailChimp has expanded this to their event engagements.

For example, they don’t worry about traditional ROI when it comes to who they sponsor. Instead, they use a rubric they’ve called the “Lens of Delight”:

“When return on investment is measured by delight instead of sales or conversions, there’s a lot more freedom to be creative, to be bold, or maybe even to be creative and bold.”

– Lain Shakespeare, MailChimp

This explains their fascination with design conferences as they’re some of the most inspirational and creatively-focused events on the market.

Further to this, the way that they integrate with their sponsors mirrors that appreciation of creativity. Working with Creative Mornings, they co-branded speaker slides at the event to the laughter and delight of audiences:

mailchimp slide debbine millman.jpg
Image Credit: Creative Mornings on Flickr

To read more about opportunities regarding sponsorship with MailChimp, look no further.

2) Rosenfeld

Sponsored 20% of design events.

Rosenfeld have a dedicated section on their website in praise of events. They go so far as to call their organizers “the true heroes of our field.”

Products they sell include training and books, but they refer to themselves primarily as “format agnostic”. They provide user experience expertise first and foremost.

rosenfeld media.jpg

Image Credit: Rosenfeld Media – Library Pack

So many of the events they’ve sponsored have UX in the title (CanUX, Revolve, and Big Design to name a few), businesses with a similar moniker might feel well-placed approaching Rosenfeld.

In what may well be a welcome change of pace for organizers, the sponsorship application process for Rosenfeld is straightforward. They have a form that asks a few basic questions which you can submit on their website. Besides that, they simply say that “they’ll handle the rest.”

3) Shopify

Sponsored 15% of design events. 

“Sponsoring an Event” is one of Shopify’s chapters from How to Make Your First Sale. In that same piece of content, they also divulge their recommended recipe when it comes to choosing which events to sponsor:

  1. They place priority on events where consumers will attend.
  2. Then, they pick events where people will be interested in the business.
  3. And, thirdly, they sort by cost.


Image Credit: Tech Crunch

Shopify is involved with different layers of events beyond sponsorship also. They started hosting Beyond the Code off the back of one employee’s quest to make events more diverse meaning they’ll be a sponsor that understands all that goes into creating a great event experience.

4) Balsamiq

Sponsored 14% of design events.

Not a misspelled vinegar, but a wireframing tool that reproduces the experience of sketching on a whiteboard, according to the website. It’s not hard to see how design events compliment this offering, but the choice events that Balsamiq has most recently sponsored are MidWest UX, Big Design, and Design Matters.

balsamiq interface.png

Image Credit: Balsamiq

When I spoke with Francesca and Angie from Balsamiq, I asked them why they, as a company, choose to sponsor certain design conferences over others:

“We like to sponsor events that support and educate the UX/UI communities. It’s our goal to ‘help rid the world of bad software.’ We also say that we won’t stop until usability is taught in high schools around the world.
To that end, we want to sponsor as many events as possible that align with those goals. Events that teach UX Design, particularly to communities that are underrepresented in tech, are especially important to our mission.”

5) inVision

Sponsored 11% of design events.

Beyond taking the time to write up blog posts about the events that they like, inVision also give those conferences money.

The marriage between inVision and several design conferences is one made in heaven. InVision is a product design collaboration platform that’s used by over 2 million people. They have customers with massive clout like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and other apps that consume all of my down time.

invision event.jpg

Image Credit: The inVision Blog

Given that their target market is made up of collaborative creators (see: developers, project managers, designers) being featured at conferences that these folks go to makes perfect sense.

When it comes to what InVision looks for in a sponsor, they’ve mentioned what kind of treatment has made their experiences worthwhile a few times on their blog:

“In addition to how the venue was run, the layout made it really convenient to be a sponsor. The handful of sponsors were all setup in the main hallway that had to be utilized by everyone in between sessions. Attendees would stop by after talks and sessions. They wanted to catch up and talk about what they just heard.
Other sponsors were close by and would spend time chatting while the attendees were in sessions. It created this amazing, common area for community to happen throughout the event.”

– Ben Jordan, InVision, on his experience of sponsoring The Future of Web Design Conference.

For context on the types of events they work with, they’ve sponsored Clarity Conf, Canvas Conference, and Interaction 17.

Hopefully these sponsors’ preferences will help some organizers to better understand what their potential partners are looking for. 

We’ve written a collection of other articles on sponsorship if you have more unanswered questions. We’ve also made some downloadable resources for conference organisers, one of which you can find below: