Auction sponsorship to drive bids: "Bidder Bucks"

There are many ways to offer event sponsors benefits in exchange for their sponsorship and participation. Almost every sponsorship solicitation packet I see offers a similar list: logo placement in the program, an ad onscreen during dinner, and prominent table placement the night of the event.

Give a sponsor prominent placement in your bidder's eyes and try to drive up bids at the same time.
Give a sponsor prominent placement in your bidder's eyes and try to drive up bids at the same time.

One idea to give a sponsor lots of marketing traction at your event, and hopefully drive up prices on either live or silent auction items, is to get a sponsor for “Bidder Bucks” (see photo). Bidder Bucks are essentially a currency that you hand out the night of the event that are good only in the live or silent auction.

Every couple receives their allocated Bidder Bucks, and can use them as part of their bid on an auction item. The Bucks are non-transferable, and only good the night of the event. In the example at right, every attendee got $40 in bidder bucks that were good only in the silent auction that night.

Ironically, this particular sponsor wanted to remain anonymous, so they missed out on the branding opportunity. But you can see the branding potential here, especially if the bucks are of a high enough value.

The value of the Bidder Bucks is determined by dividing the sponsorship by the number of auction items. $2,000 in a 50-lot silent auction would result in $40 Bidder Bucks. $10,000 in a 20-lot live auction would give everyone an additional $500 to spend in the live auction and so on. The value of the Bidder Bucks has to be high enough to be meaningful to people, otherwise it lacks impact. $10 Bidder Bucks aren’t going to change people’s behavior.

This type of sponsorship works best in an environment where people are value-minded, people are of potentially limited capabilities, or participation in the auction has been lackluster. Bidder Bucks are ready-made for school events, for example, or a fledgling event in the sub-$200,000 range.

The goal is to use the sponsorship as a lever to get people to spend more than they would have. Once someone bids on an auction lot they are committed and far more likely to bid again. And when people start with “free money” the natural tendency is to spend it…and then some.