For event organizers, recruiting effective sponsors has become very complicated. Cramming an event with hundreds of brands, each competing for the same audience, doesn’t work. Who wants to share their logo with 50 other brands jammed on a billboard?
Sponsors expect more; so do participants.
In a recent webinar about the “broken” state of event sponsorship, Julius Solaris, Editor of the Event Manager Blog, talked about what’s happening with sponsorship these days. During his presentation, he polled the audience on problems they’re having with sponsors. The biggest issue? Finding good sponsorships.
Here are ten of Julius’s recommendations to fix the state of sponsorships.
1. Show authority
The problem is not with events. It’s with their perceived value. As an event trying to create value for participants, content — the topics discussed and knowledge shared at your event — is your strongest weapon. For example, it can be tempting to assign speaker lots indiscriminately, but choosing speakers wisely is tactical. “Too often,” says Solaris, “we give away speaker slots. We don’t care about … making an effort to craft great content.“ A well-thought-out agenda with great content always leads to better events.
2. Ditch your collaterals
It’s easy to create one cookie-cutter set of sponsorship options, send it off to everyone in your database of potential sponsors, and expect the magic to happen. But as Solaris says, “Gold, silver, and bronze are words that should stay with the Olympics. They don’t belong to meaningful sponsorship proposals.” Instead, get to know your audience and match it up to relevant sponsors. Then create customized proposals for those sponsors that are unique to their (and your) needs.
3. Make proposals your own
Along those lines, your sponsors deserve personalized options. Consider creating a customized, a la carte menu with focused choices for each potential sponsor. Instead of making sponsors choose from a generic list of choices, talk to your candidates up front. Get a rough idea of their budget and commitment level. Then, offer options accordingly — ones that suit their needs, but also respect your bottom line.
4. Invest in tangible KPIs
Your sponsorship offer must be tangible to potential sponsors. “There’s no excuse for not offering a suite of analytics — specifically, KPIs (key performance indicators),” Solaris says. Events are still the most effective tool to market a brand, but if you don’t offer metrics, you can’t prove it. Sponsors investing in events expect the same level of tools that they get when they invest in online marketing.
Technology can be extremely helpful to you here — especially things like beacons (location-based Bluetooth transmitters), NFC (near-field communication), and RFID (radio-frequency identification). If you use an event app, your provider should be able to help you figure out the best way to gather and share analytics.
Picture an intimate atmosphere where brands are matched up to the audience in a way that just works. You can’t simply throw everyone in a room and expect the magic to happen. You must facilitate connection. And technology can help with this, too. Thanks to platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, you have access to advanced algorithms to help you assess which attendees will get value from which brand.
6. Invest in better meeting design
Rethink the tired old session format and create new, dynamic event experiences. The Amsterdam Motor Show was experiencing major budget cuts. Proactively, they decided to mix up the traditional trade-show model. Instead of offering different types of real estate to sponsors at different price points, they leveled the playing field and gave everyone the same type of booth space. They also insisted that all sponsors use the same types of branding materials in their booths. It was a tough sell, but the results were amazing: they maximized every sponsor’s results. Never be afraid to challenge the status quo. “It won’t be easy,” Solaris tells us. “But it’s worth it. It will be something sponsors will remember you for.”
7. Rethink your sponsorship inventory
Just because you’re a golf tournament doesn’t mean all your sponsors need to be golf equipment-makers. When medical-device manufacturer Stryker joined the PGA tour, it seemed like a weird fit. But when they created a special area of the event called the “Mobility Lawn,” it all made sense. There, they gave golfers advice on how to prevent the type of hip, knee, and bone problems most prevalent in that sport. The subject matter was perfect for the demographic, and the sponsorship was a huge success.
8. Don’t give away the farm
It might seem like an easy solution to find one big-bucks sponsor who will bankroll your entire event. But that doesn’t fulfill your objective of creating maximum value for your audience. At the end of the day, you give more value when you offer more sponsors, so diversify.
9. Find a community to support
There are plenty of communities out there just waiting to be “adopted.” Solaris gave a great example of a corporate event for B2B tech engineers that adopted Arduino Camp, a tech camp for teens. As he says, “We asked the community to come together for a launch, and they couldn’t wait. It was one of the best events they ever had — and later, they were able to launch one of the best social media campaigns ever.” Do your research, and enroll the right community.
10. Enable your sponsors to provide value
Think of your sponsors as the means to deliver a better event experience for your attendees. Case in point: the Intel Bloggers Lounge at Cebit was a dedicated place for tech bloggers to write and post to their publications right from the event. What do tech bloggers need? Reliable Wi-Fi, lots of power outlets, and comfortable chairs. If you create these sorts of VIP experiences, your audience will love you. The sponsors are just the means to the experience.
When you focus on your event experience, thrilling your attendees, and creating value, summoning good sponsors comes easily. Want to hear more? Watch the recording from the webinar, “Event Sponsorship is Broken. 10 Tips to Fix It.”.