I'm involved with the Ivey Entrepreneur Forum (an event that marries investment-seeking companies with angel and venture capital investors). Last year was the inauguration of the event and it was a huge success - standing room only at the Toronto Board of Trade (and given that the event was in November 2008, that's saying a lot).
There were a few sponsors of the event, so of course we're going back to those folks as we have begun planning for this year and want to give the same firms the chance to participate this year. After all, they are the founding sponsors and it's a great opportunity for them to build a relationship with the event and, over time, reap the benefits of having been the ones to make it happen.
I just learned that one firm is debating its involvement as they didn't see as much deal traction from the event as they had hoped. All I can say is that sponsorships are relationships, and they take time. If you're considering a sponsorship but you don't have the funds to stick with it for 3+ years, then I would really hesitate to get involved for a year. You won't see ROI. The best analogy is that it's like dating. You don't expect a home run on the first date. You shouldn't for sponsorships either. The best ones will mature over time. Stick with them as long as you know the fundamentals are right - you have the same values and the same objectives.
More on the Ivey Entrepreneur Forum in a later post.