Traditionally, live event sponsorship is straight-forward, with in-person branding opportunities and product demonstrations as two of the most popular tactics. In the age of virtual events, it is important to consider all the adjustments that make the virtual experience just as fulfilling as the live experience.
Event professionals are becoming more creative with how they effectively monetize through sponsorship opportunities. The online setting opens up the conversation for new ways to incorporate sponsor engagement virtually and to ensure that sponsors are getting solid face-time and value in front of the audience. Check out these ways to incorporate sponsor engagement in a virtual setting.
Actively Promote Your Sponsors’ Brands
Companies choose to sponsor an event to ensure that their name and brand message is reaching the targeted audience consistently, before, during, and after the event. Because this is at the forefront of the event sponsorship value proposition, keeping this in mind is just as critical during a virtual event sponsorship. There are many different virtual considerations before, during, and after the event that allow for brands to have more face-time and value in front of the attendees.
Before the Event
Begin by clearly and concisely announcing the sponsors. On the registration page for the event, make sure to include all sponsor logos and trackable website links for additional sponsorship value. If space allows, include a brief message from each of the sponsors.
It is important to be clear in distinguishing who are the organizers and who are the sponsors to avoid confusion from the attendees. A good way to do this is by keeping your messaging consistent. For example, you could always refer to a sponsor’s offer in messaging as “sponsored by (SPONSOR NAME.)”
Another way to amplify pre-event awareness of sponsor brands is to promote sponsored content leading up to the event. Consider planning guest blog posts, social media features, or social channel takeovers with your sponsors. By including logos and consistent brand messaging in all communications to attendees, the sponsor will be getting the most out of your partnership.
Event professionals may also want to consider sending out a physical, printed program leading up to the virtual event. This will help to make your event stand out and get virtual attendees excited for the event as well as familiarizing the attendees with the sponsor.
During the Event
Once the audience is familiar with the sponsor before the event, it is important to consistently reinforce the same branding throughout the event. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. At the very least, the sponsor’s logo should be naturally incorporated throughout the event by strategic placement in branded digital banners, on-screen wallpapers, presentation materials (if relevant), and by using the sponsor’s color scheme in these areas when possible
Beyond raising overall brand awareness throughout the event, your event’s format and technology might naturally make for unique event sponsorship opportunities. If there are multiple parts to your event, sponsors can include promotional video content during transitions or breaks. Most event software allows push notifications or pop-up ads that offer information or event-exclusive deals and discounts. This can be a seamless way for sponsors to engage with the audience. As a general reminder, keep text to a minimum and rely on pictures for stronger visual effect and engagement value.
After the Event
Brand exposure does not end when the event ends! Event professionals and sponsors should be coordinated in fostering continued engagement with attendees. If your event is recorded and distributed to the audience prior to the event, add promotional videos before the recording or during natural transitional periods throughout the recorded event.
With post-event communications, include sponsor branding in emails, social media, or newsletters. Event professionals may also decide to expand the partnership with the sponsor by collaborating on future marketing efforts, like launching a guest blogging series, featuring in an upcoming panel discussion, or by writing co-created content. Event professionals should be able to easily direct potential customers to the sponsors if they have any questions or would like to sign up for a time slot with someone from the company to learn more.
Sponsored sessions are a great way to easily incorporate event sponsorship engagement virtually. Depending on the format of your event, consider these options:
Branded Waiting Rooms
You can incorporate a branded waiting room where sponsors can engage with the attendees. Allow for some time for attendees to join and settle in before starting the event. This can serve as a great way to welcome attendees and familiarize them with their products.
Consider incorporating a sponsored keynote. This can come in many different forms. A sponsor may choose to highlight someone from their company to talk briefly about their products or give a demonstration. If the event planner prefers for the marketing to be more subtle, sponsors can choose to present a customer case study, in which a customer speaks on behalf of the sponsor, offering a strong testimonial and educating the audience at the same time.
Sponsored Q&A Sessions
Sponsored Q&A sessions are an effective way to develop a relationship between the sponsor and the attendees. Sponsors may choose to also incorporate poll questions to ease audience members into engagement, and then use the answers as a jumping-off point for questions.
Sponsored Breakout Sessions
Sponsored breakout sessions allow for more interaction between the attendees, which will leave them feeling more connected to each other and the event itself. With smaller groups, attendees can get to know each other and form networking connections. These sessions can be either moderated by event staff or unmoderated, allowing attendees to drive the discussion. Start off with general icebreakers and slowly move into question prompts that relate more to the sponsors and/or the event itself. Oftentimes, event professionals and sponsors may choose to partner on breakout sessions so both parties are represented and can gain valuable insight.
Sponsored Entertainment Break
A unique angle to the sponsorship opportunity is to add value by inviting a celebrity to speak, answer questions, or perform for attendees. Name recognition can add a great deal of value to an event’s lineup, and incorporating relevant branding will help the sponsor through association. This tactic also has the added benefit of driving greater registrations, using the celebrity name to draw in attendees. Sponsors should also include a social media call to action where attendees can post about their experience through a consistent hashtag.
Sponsored VIP Session
Create an exclusive experience by pairing sponsors with targeted attendees for meetings during your event. By creating a VIP experience, you are providing sponsors an opportunity for highly-targeted outreach with potential customers. Attendees will appreciate being included in a VIP experience that provides answers to more direct questions and allows relationships to build.
Virtual Trade Show
If you are looking to convert your trade show to a virtual format, it is important to create an optimal selling environment. Help customers become comfortable and familiar both with the setup and with the brands involved by creating a pleasing visual experience. Strategic design elements can allow attendees to feel like they really are in a physical place, interacting with sponsors, even when they are tuning in from home. By allowing attendees to virtually “walk the show floor” and visit booths or kiosks, sponsors can incorporate techniques from traditional live events by offering demonstrations and answering questions.
Even though the event is virtual, there are still ways to integrate traditional sponsorship deliverables. When an attendee signs up for the event, make sure to capture their full mailing address at the registration point so that they receive whatever deliverable the sponsor may offer.
Swag bags can be a great way to leave attendees with something tangible that reminds them of the sponsor. This can include discount codes, branded items, local souvenirs, and more. Sponsors can choose what makes sense to when to send these items to their attendees. If the swag bags are sent before the event, attendees can show off their new swag during the conference. You might also want to incorporate swag into a contest where if they wear an item, they get entered to win a prize. Encourage attendees to share their swag pictures on social media, using the event hashtag of course. If the sponsor chooses to send the swag bag after the event instead, they can utilize some of the data they gathered during the event to personalize the swag bags for attendees based on their needs.
Sponsored Meal Delivery
Although catering and happy hours can’t occur in-person, there are some creative ways to still provide food and drink options to attendees. Through GrubHub or UberEats, sponsors can set a lunch budget for attendees to enjoy a free or discounted meal on them. Encourage attendees to order from local businesses to help their own communities. Sponsors can also include a “drinks on us” sponsorship where attendees receive a voucher to purchase their own BYOB happy hour drink. These little touches will go a long way in creating positive associations with the sponsor and the event as a whole.
Virtual Value Offers
One of the best ways to connect with potential customers is by introducing them to the sponsor’s product in an inclusive way. Sponsors can encourage attendees to set up a free demo or orientation prior, during, or after the event to familiarize them with the product. If the event is paid, sponsors may give out a certain number of free tickets in exchange for engaging in a demonstration session or sponsored session. Take this a step further by offering free trials, coupons or vouchers, online courses, gift cards, or other digital goodies depending on the product itself. Because many are still working from home, discounts to streaming services, home workouts, or professional development courses may be particularly popular.
Incorporating games or activities can be a fun way to engage with attendees! Consider setting up raffles, scavenger hunts, or quizzes at your sponsored station or throughout the event to increase brand awareness and to motivate attendees to engage. Sponsors can choose the format that works best for them and what they are willing to give away as a prize. Whether through themed trivia, an auction, or giveaway contests, or any other creative ideas you can think of, these techniques will help draw in potential customers for the sponsor. Event professionals and sponsors should communicate to assess what the event platform will allow and then work together to find natural ways to incorporate these games or activities.
Sponsored Social Responsibility
Many brands hope to be socially responsible, and encouraging social responsibility is a great way for sponsors to give back by promoting social change. Sponsors may consider partnering with a non-profit and giving a portion of their profits to them following the event. They could also set up donation matching, which would encourage the attendees to give back knowing their contribution is helping those in need.
Although sponsors may need to shift their perception of what it means to be an event sponsor, there’s no question that there is value to be gained and connections to be made by sponsoring a virtual event. By assessing the audiences’ needs, considering the format of the event, and thinking creatively, sponsors can still leave a strong impact virtually.
If you’re looking to make your next event stand out with an amazing speaker or entertainer, contact us, and our agents will help you put together the event of your dreams!