Should I Organise or Sponsor a Hackathon? A Complete Guide

In the rapidly evolving tech landscape, hackathons have emerged as a dynamic platform for innovation, collaboration, and engagement. For organisations looking to tap into this vibrant ecosystem, the decision to run or sponsor a hackathon presents a strategic choice, each with its unique advantages and considerations.

We’ve been on both sides – running bespoke hackathons for brands and organising global hackathons with multiple sponsors. Here are the most important considerations are when deciding between both.

4 Main Considerations


Organise if you have a clear goal and specific execution in mind
When it comes to orchestrating a hackathon, the degree of control you wield can significantly shape the event’s outcome. Running your own hackathon affords you unparalleled control over every aspect of the event. From the inception of its theme to the selection of challenges and criteria for judging, everything can be meticulously tailored to align with your organization’s goals and values. This high degree of customization is ideal for companies with a clear vision of their objectives and the outcomes they wish to achieve from the hackathon.

Sponsor if you are looking for structure and exposure with less organizational burden
Conversely, sponsoring a hackathon offers a different set of advantages, particularly for those new to the hackathon scene or those looking to tap into the expertise of experienced hackathon organisers. While sponsoring means less control over the event’s specifics, it provides a structured environment that can be invaluable. Sponsors can benefit from established formats and rules, gaining insights and experiences that are crucial for hosting future events. This blend of guidance and exposure is an excellent stepping stone for brands considering their own hackathons down the line.



Organise if you want to engage with a specific target audience
Running your own hackathon offers a more focused reach. While it may seem narrower in scope—limiting participation to those already interested in your brand or within your geographical reach—this doesn’t inherently mean less impact. A well-executed, brand-centric hackathon can attract a significant number of participants, fostering a deep, meaningful engagement with a highly relevant audience.

Sponsor if you aim to expand your audience and leverage a broad network.
The scope of your hackathon’s reach is another critical factor. Sponsoring allows your brand to benefit from the collective networks of all sponsors involved, as well as the extensive reach of the hackathon organiser. This is particularly beneficial for targeting audiences in geographies beyond your usual operational scope. If broadening your network is a priority, aligning with hackathons that cater to your target demographics can be a strategic move.



Organise if you seek exclusive interaction with participants
The level of engagement you can expect varies greatly between running your own hackathon and sponsoring one. Organizing your event puts you at the center of attention, ensuring all eyes are on your brand and your challenges. This exclusive focus is invaluable for companies looking to forge deep connections with developers and innovators, making self-run hackathons particularly suitable for those seeking intense, focused interaction.

Sponsor if you are open to collaborative opportunities and a wider participant pool.
In contrast, sponsoring a hackathon may not bring you as high engagement levels due to the presence of multiple sponsors vying for attention. However, this dynamic can actually enrich the event, attracting a larger pool of participants and fostering cross-pollination of ideas among different sponsors’ challenges. Viewing other sponsors not as competitors but as potential collaborators can transform the hackathon into a more enriching experience for everyone involved.



Organise if you want to you see hackathons as a long-term branded initiative
Running your own hackathon requires a more substantial investment. From planning and marketing to logistics and execution, the costs can add up quickly. However, for companies with specific goals and the resources to support them, the benefits of a custom-tailored hackathon can outweigh the financial outlay. This direct investment in your community can pay dividends in terms of brand loyalty, innovation, and developer engagement.

Sponsor if you prefer a cost-effective approach to hackathon participation
Conversely, sponsoring a hackathon is generally more cost-effective, as expenses are shared among all sponsors. This collaborative approach can significantly reduce the financial burden on any single entity, making it an attractive option for companies looking to maximize their impact while minimizing costs.


Brands That Have Sponsored Hackathons

A person delivering a speech to an attentive audience at a public event.

Heineken: Reaching out to Developers as a Non-Tech Brand

Heineken’s sponsorship hacksingapore with AngelHack exemplifies how non-tech companies can sponsor hackathons to engage with developers and innovators that they might struggle to reach by themselves.

Learn more about Heineken’s sponsorship story →


Tech innovators at a hackathon proudly display their AWS DeepLens rewards, celebrating achievement and collaboration in machine learning development.

AWS: Connecting with Developers Worldwide

You might think that a company as big as Amazon would not need to sponsor events, but there is something in sponsorship for them too. Sponsoring AngelHack’s Global Hackathon Series allowed AWS to tap into a worldwide network of developers, bypassing the logistical and financial complexities of hosting a global event. Moreover, this allowed them to reach communities in cities where they might not have such a strong presence.

Learn more about AWS’ sponsorship story →


Brands That Have Organised Their Own Hackathons

Black background image with blue logo, which addresses Master The Mainframe.

IBM: Running a Bespoke Program

IBM’s decision to run their own hackathon, particularly through their “Master the Mainframe” program, underscores the benefits of tailored hackathon initiatives for companies with complex, long-term engagement strategies. By organizing a bespoke hackathon, IBM was able to directly align the event with their strategic objectives, focusing on skills development, education, and deep engagement with the developer community. This approach not only facilitated a targeted exploration of IBM’s technology but also built a dedicated community around their platform, fostering loyalty and innovation. The “Master the Mainframe” program exemplifies how running your own hackathon can serve as a cornerstone for comprehensive developer engagement and education strategies.

Learn more about IBM’s bespoke hackathon →


Winning team at the AngelHack LA, sponsored by Consensys, celebrates their innovative Ethereum blockchain solution, showcasing talent and collaboration in technology."

Consensys: From Sponsoring to Organising

ConsenSys’s partnership with AngelHack demonstrates a strategic evolution from sponsoring to running hackathons. Initially sponsoring hackathons to gain initial traction and engage with the blockchain community, ConsenSys later transitioned to running their own events. This journey highlights how brands can start by sponsoring to understand the hackathon ecosystem and then, equipped with insights and experience, host their own hackathons to engage more intentionally with their target audience.

Learn more about Consensys’ sponsorship story →


Making the Choice: Sponsorship vs. Running

The decision to sponsor or run a hackathon depends on several factors, including your organization’s goals, resources, and level of experience in the hackathon ecosystem. Sponsorship offers a way to leverage existing platforms for brand visibility and community engagement with lower overhead, while running your own hackathon provides a customized avenue for deeper innovation and community building.

Whether you’re considering sponsoring a hackathon or organizing your own, AngelHack offers a wealth of experience and a global network to ensure your event is successful. By partnering with AngelHack, you can navigate the complexities of the hackathon ecosystem with ease, benefiting from our expertise in connecting brands with the global developer community.

Interest to organise your own hackathon? Learn more about what we can do here.

Looking for hackathon sponsorships intead? Check out our global hackathon series here