Sponsorship in the Digital Age: Get Outside the Traditional to Creatively Expand your Sponsorship at Meetings & Events
Director of Marketing and Communications, Convention Industry Council
No matter what the core goal or objective of your meeting or event, a successful result will inspire, engage, bring together, and educate your attendees. If you are organizing the U.S. Open, a city-wide convention or a corporate event, securing sponsorships not only brings in added revenue and the ability to enhance the overall attendee experience but also can increase value and opportunity for both the sponsors and participants alike. With the ever-increasing pressure to increase revenue and lower expenses, meeting professionals are continually looking for creative ways to leverage sponsorships.
Before setting out to develop your sponsorship plan, you need to understand the type of audience you are reaching at your event. Do your attendees or stakeholders represent a certain niche? Are their companies or products that you can tap into that want to get in front of them?
Regarding your target list, yes you are going to start with the obvious, including past sponsors and your external connections but push yourself to think beyond that. At a recent MPI Tampa Bay event, MPI brought in John Hancock Retirement Services. While retirement services are not unique to the meetings and event professional, most certainly everyone needs a retirement plan!
Garnering a successful sponsorship portfolio for your event not only involves identifying a quality list of targets to contact but also developing unique and compelling sponsorship packages. There are often many competing events with the same audience and limited sponsorship dollars. A compelling package should highlight data about your attendees specifically related to what is appealing to your sponsors directly. Show how your audience aligns with your sponsors target demographics as well as highlight any previous history on how former supporters have seen success from your show. In the end, it’s all about ROI, right?
Now on to some ideas for additional sponsorship opportunities to add to your arsenal.
Digital content platforms offer easy ways to push products and add to your portfolio of customizable options without a lot of additional costs. As mobile apps are ever increasing as the mainstay at meetings and replacing onsite printed programs, they offer easy ways for sponsors to push content directly to attendees in various forms, such as direct messaging, video or special promotions. QR codes and gamification activities for participants can also be implemented within the mobile app.
Another digital option is a social media feed takeover, where a speaker or business leader may be looking to spread their message further or even increase their organization’s social presence or a personal following. I follow many bloggers that do this, and I will make sure to follow their feeds if they take over a brand I like for a specific day. Social takeovers can work at pre, post or even during a conference. For best results, the speaker/celebrity taking over the organization feed or vice versa would need to be aligned with the audience and organization values and follow any of your organization’s social media guidelines.
Specifically targeting certain social media platforms such as Snapchat can also be an added benefit. Custom filters are getting increasingly popular and accessible, and as the reach of these platforms increase, there is an opportunity for additional sponsorship. Specific examples include selling upgrades to have the sponsor's logo be included in the event filter, gaining exposure by connection with the event and attendees followers.
If all else fails, you can always fall back on exclusivity or the element of surprise. The meetings and events industry is excellent at being creative with sponsorship and exhibits by capitalizing on what makes their venue or destination unique. I mean who doesn’t stop at the Germany booth at IMEX for the traditional beer garden experience?
Lastly, make sure always to be open to adjusting and adapting on the fly. At the most recent MPI WEC in Atlantic City, during the opening session a new sponsorship presented itself and they immediately captured it. They had a circular stage, so the master of ceremonies had her behind facing someone’s direction at all times. MPI took this as an opportunity to incorporate humor by selling add space on the very accommodating MC’s backside for $4,000 apiece. This type of advertisement was a highly visible opportunity for the eager sponsors and memorable for attendees. I still cannot get the images of Reno and NOVA on the speakers behind out of my head.
No matter your audience or budget, take the time to look at your options and understand your audience. What can you digitally promote? What may work better visually on the site? Put yourself in the shoes of your attendee and follow their journey starting before they even start to travel to your event. Each step along the way offers a new way to showcase a potential sponsor.