Whether you’re planning an in-person or virtual program, gaining sponsors is crucial to any successful event. And for virtual event-planning in particular, you need additional tools to connect online attendees from your business to those sponsors.
If navigated properly, sponsorship can give both event hosts and sponsors access to previously untapped networks, help them generate leads, and present opportunities for branding, promotion, and future collaboration. Let’s explore how you can attract and keep sponsors and ensure your relationship is a mutually beneficial and lucrative one.
Offer diverse sponsorship packages
If there is anything the pandemic has taught event planners, it’s that just about any kind of event can go virtual with enough creativity and planning. That being said, it might be more difficult to entice event sponsors for events that aren’t held in-person. This is why it’s important to offer diverse packages for sponsors, particularly focused on virtual event sponsorship.
When it comes to planning fully online programs, it’s important to think outside of the box and offer something unique. Virtual networking and conferences have their place, but hours of live Zoom sessions are not always as engaging as in-person interaction. Instead, consider offering fun and interesting sponsorship packages like virtual games, wellness sessions, or entertainment.
Businesses might be more interested in sponsoring an online scavenger hunt or concert than a simple networking event. Plus, other aspects of your packages like sponsored merchandise can sweeten the deal. And once you’ve reeled in your sponsors with interesting packages, it’s time to focus on cultivating a relationship from which you can both benefit.
Build a mutually beneficial relationship
A strong partnership should always be a two-way street, and event sponsorship is no different. Both the event host and the sponsors should be able to promote their businesses and gain leads from a well-curated online event, and not one or the other. Consider these tips for before, during, and after your event to make the sponsorship mutually beneficial.
Ask sponsors what they need
Once you find your sponsors, you need to make sure they stay happy so they want to work with you in the future. The best way to do this is to discuss expectations for the sponsorship in advance.
The reasons which businesses sponsor events can vary. Some hope to increase brand awareness, show their commitment to certain causes, or make connections with potential clients or other businesses. In a way, this makes you a type of matchmaker between businesses or networks and your sponsor. In turn, they can hopefully do the same for you by connecting you with their industry partners.
Business KPIs change based on what a company values and what their goals are for a particular event or campaign. Particularly for online events, you must adapt KPIs for virtual lead generation and ask your sponsors how they measure success. Knowing your sponsor’s motivations will make them feel valued and help you both get the most out of the relationship.
Tailor your event branding
Since your sponsors contributed financially to make your event possible, they should be recognized. But the way you do this can have greater benefits than simply thanking them publicly for their contribution. As you’re crafting your promotional campaign and designing your graphics for the event, consider incorporating your sponsors into the designs.
Event banners and logos, for example, can feature a combination of your company logo and your sponsor’s. You might also consider creating a branded mobile app for your events to give guests more information, a place to register, etc.
When designing your event branding materials, be sure to hire a professional who understands the importance of featuring your partners. You can expect to pay at least $25 an hour for an experienced freelance graphic designer, and it will be well worth it. In comparison to hiring in-house marketing staff, freelancers can be just as effective but with lower fees and greater flexibility.
Integrating your and your sponsors’ brands into your promotional campaign can show cohesion in your professional relationship, as well as letting followers know who will be involved in the event. This might earn you some attendees that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise if some prospects are particularly interested in your sponsor's products.
Make the sponsor part of the program
Once you’ve discussed with your sponsor what they want out of the event, you can adapt the program to feature them in some way. The form this takes will depend on your sponsor’s needs, but in general, this should be more than just a shout out or thank you.
One way to get your sponsor involved is to offer branded merchandise from their business. If you’re planning to send out physical gifts to your online attendees, consider making them tech-related for your virtual program like webcam covers, headphones, or USB drives.
You can also fill virtual “goodie bags” with ebooks and other digital resources, gift card codes, or free trials of products. If your sponsor is a software company for example, they might want to offer a free trial of their product. This strategy can generate leads for their company, and it’s a generous giveaway for interested attendees.
Another way to feature a sponsor is to have someone from their organization speak at the event. Particularly if your sponsor is a known industry expert, this can be a great way to get attendees and to promote your sponsor. If your sponsor doesn’t want to provide a speaker, still consider involving them in a Q&A session.
A Q&A session is an important way to increase audience engagement at virtual events because it gets people thinking about your message and encourages them to interact even though they can’t talk to the people next to them. And with your sponsor featured in this way, it will offer added value to both your attendees and your sponsor.
Ensure you have a strong web presence
Hopefully both you and your sponsors are promoting the event and each other’s business as part of your professional relationship. But this need not end when the event ends. Consider continuing your cross promotion with guest blogs from sponsors, social media shout outs, and working together on future events.
You should ensure your business has a strong web presence to make sponsors more likely to want to work with you. If big names in your industry know that you are getting a lot of traffic, they will be motivated to collaborate with you on future events. That way, their followers can become your brand influencers, and vice versa.
Your website is likely the first thing prospective clients and sponsors see, so make sure it reflects your brand and business values. With the number of easy-to-use platforms out there, you don’t need to hire a web developer to build your online presence. According to software developer and online marketer Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada, the website building services of today make it much easier to build high quality websites.
“A website builder interface is a what you see is what you get experience,” says Stevens. “That means that as you drag-and-drop elements around on the screen you see a representation of your website. To the human brain, this visual aesthetic makes us feel happy and in control of our environment.”
There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed how we plan events, likely for the better. More events than ever are moving fully online, and event planners need to focus on curating engaging virtual experiences for their followers. With diverse sponsorship packages putting the focus on virtual sponsorship, tech forward companies will want to get on board and promote themselves this way.
From advertising to converting leads from the attendee list, clear communication is critical in event planning. This is especially true when working with sponsors, so make sure you map out an event journey with your sponsors and think about what each of you can get out of each step of the process. By following these tips, you can be sure your next sponsorship will boost your company and your sponsor’s.