Experiential marketing: Showcasing value and retaining event sponsors

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Events live and die by the success of their sponsorship strategy. Succeed in attracting brands with big ideas and even bigger budgets and your event will grow and attract the right audiences. That’s the dream, but the reality is usually rather different.

Recent research has shown that finding and retaining sponsors is an ongoing challenge for event organizers. Over 90 percent said that retention rates stayed the same or decreased in 2018. 

Winning over experiential sponsors introduces an extra layer of complexity. By its very nature, experience-driven marketing doesn’t have a return on investment that’s easy to calculate—at least on the surface. Take, as an example, the Spotify House at SXSW. There’s no selling, just an invitation to come along and have a good time. A lot of positive press coverage will follow, but that alone isn’t enough for event managers under pressure to defend their budgets.

Experience driven marketing doesn’t have a return on investment that’s easy to calculate—at least on the surface.

In order to truly prove experiential marketing ROI, all available data needs to be combined to draw a complete picture of what success will look like for a sponsor. Whether it’s to attract new sponsors or retain existing ones, data holds the key to showcasing experiential sponsorship value.

Integrated, smart technologies

The investments you make in technology will help to generate the data you need to prove value to experiential sponsors. Beacons, smart mats, and other unobtrusive technologies can be used to collect data from critical areas at your event. With known traffic numbers and accurate, real-time data, sponsors can make better-informed decisions about whether they should partner with your event.

Understanding traffic flow and dwell time will be top of mind for potential sponsors. Image from    Nutshell   .

Understanding traffic flow and dwell time will be top of mind for potential sponsors. Image from Nutshell.

An integrated tech stack will also make showcasing value an easier task. Being able to attribute closed business that originated from an event lead is a common ask. Solutions like TurnoutNow, Airship, and Eventbase integrate with event tools and can help you consolidate your data – and most importantly, make it actionable for you as well as sponsors. 

Attendee-generated content and data

A large part of the value an experiential sponsor will get from your event comes down to attendee engagement. Experiential sponsors will want to maximize user-generated content (UGC) because of its impact on buying behavior; 86 percent of millennials generally believed that UGC they saw online was a good indicator of brand quality.

Eighty-six percent of millennials generally believe that user-generated content is a good indicator of brand quality.

To showcase this part of sponsorship value, put UGC front and center. Were there any event moments that went viral? Show prospective event sponsors what that looked like by compiling social media content alongside metrics like the number of engagements and impressions. Taken together, these numbers tell the story of how experiential marketing can influence an online audience far beyond the confines of the event space itself.

Bumble hosted The Hive at SXSW 2019, a cafe with a graphic wall perfectly setup to promote the creation of user generated content. Image from    Adweek   .

Bumble hosted The Hive at SXSW 2019, a cafe with a graphic wall perfectly setup to promote the creation of user generated content. Image from Adweek.

As well as what’s posted to social media, you can also share attendee insight and feedback from surveys. Including this inside scoop from previous events helps to build long-term partnerships with sponsors as you can iterate and improve on previous events together.

Personalized sponsorship packages

Whether you’re retaining an existing experiential sponsor or pursuing a new one, it’s vital to remember that event organizers and creative visionaries live and breathe experiences. As much as possible, you need to sell the vision of your event. Wherever possible, show rather than tell them what success will look like. Third party validation like media coverage is important, but remember to combine it with inspirational images and statistics to give a healthy dose of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Personalization is key, too. Your sponsorship packages should be unique to your target buyers and should show only the numbers that matter to them. Highlight the audience data that says loud and clear: the people you need to speak to are here. Combine that with high dwell times, impressive engagement rates, and easily integrated technologies and you’ll find you have a compelling offer for sponsors.

It can cost up to five times more to win a new customer than keep an existing one.

Finally, it’s worth putting this extra effort in early on. Research has shown that it can cost up to five times more to win a new customer than keep an existing one. So focus on understanding your data, using it to craft the story to build lasting partnerships that will bring sponsors back again in the years to come. 

To read more about what value means for experiential sponsors, download our eBook Experiential Marketing Trends from SXSW.