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3 tips for reinvigorating your event sponsorship program

two people talking over an iPad
two people talking over an iPad

Sponsorship sales make up a significant chunk of the production budget of most enterprise events. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that sponsors have a good experience at your event and return year after year.

In essence, sponsors are your customers and it’s important to do everything you can to keep them. After all, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. However, with increased competition in the space, it’s more difficult than ever to attract and retain new event sponsors. Over 90 percent say that sponsor retention rates are static or decreasing — a worrying trend that event marketers need to pay attention to.

The good news is that the attendee demand for exhibitors is still high. According to Forrester, 45 percent of global B2B technology decision-makers rely on conferences and trade shows to make technology decisions. And as long as attendees show an interest, your sponsors will too.

There are some strategies you can try in 2020 to help breathe new life into your sponsorship programs that capture sponsors’ imagination and attendees’ attention.

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Here are three innovative ways to breathe new life into your sponsorship programs:

1. Offer new forms of digital sponsorship

The advances in event technology over the past decade have opened up a realm of new opportunities for your event sponsorship program.

The event app is a great place to start. As well as sponsorship of the entire event app, event marketers can offer in-app advertising that opens up opportunities for more than one sponsor. For example, a sponsor could pay to promote their speaking session or their exhibitor booth location. They could also pay for their ads to run for one day or to have them appear throughout the entire event. There are so many possibilities to suit every sponsor's budget.

Wifi offers another exciting sponsorship opportunity. Event wifi is expensive but necessary — every event attendee uses it at some stage. Sponsors have an opportunity to gain great exposure by having their brand associated with a convenient wifi solution.

Showtime sponsors the entire SXSW event app
Showtime sponsors the entire SXSW event app

2. Innovate to drive more traffic to the exhibition hall

There are several ways event marketers can change the layout of their exhibition halls to drive more foot traffic to increase the connections attendees make with sponsors and partners.

One way is by strategically placing the exhibition hall directly in front of the keynote session hall. Naturally, this will be venue-dependent so event marketers should keep it top-of-mind when they’re researching and selecting their event space.

Microsoft Ignite 2019 demonstrated a great example of this — they encouraged footfall in the exhibition area, offered a better experience for attendees, and delivered a great ROI for sponsors.

“It’s a little bit different, rather than just sitting in a room we’re distributing the keynote across the entire expo area.” — Bob Bejan, Head of Global Events, Microsoft

Keynotes are distributed across the entire expo area
Keynotes are distributed across the entire expo area

3. Provide experiential sponsorship opportunities

Experiential marketing is a new and exciting event sales opportunity and event marketers should be capitalizing on this.

Unlike traditional tradeshow sponsorship sales, experiential marketing opportunities have multiple buyer personas, opening up entirely new audiences for event marketers. These buyers include typical event managers, brand managers, customer experience managers, and experiential agencies hired directly by corporate brands or indirectly by larger PR firms.

These non-traditional event buyers have big ideas (and the budget to match). They want — and expect — more flexibility to activate their brand than a 10x10 booth space allows.

Event Marketer described how Twitter created an exciting brand activation as a sponsor at Cannes Lions in 2019. The team created two energizing spaces — one to encourage high-level, top-down meetings with key advertisers and partners and another at the Plage du Festival.

Both experiences were in casual, relaxed settings for attendees to unwind, sit back, and enjoy the views. The spaces changed throughout the day and included panels and discussions based on what they’ve seen emerge at the event.

“We continue to lean into being that oasis at large conventions and spaces like this, but also, we continue to get better and better about our programming and the spectrum of things we’re offering, so that even if you’ve been to Cannes Lions and Twitter Beach before, it will feel different every year.” — Helen Stoddard, Head of Global Events, Twitter

Twitter's experiential activation at Cannes Lions encourages an in-person representation of their brand - lots of casual networking and overlapping conversations
Twitter's experiential activation at Cannes Lions encourages an in-person representation of their brand - lots of casual networking and overlapping conversations

For these experiential sponsors, you can adopt a value-based selling approach and act as a partner and trusted advisor in bringing their activation to life.

Not only will this impact your sponsorship sales positively, it will also enhance the overall event experience for your attendees.

To learn more about how you can breathe new life into your event sponsorship programs and to read about other event trends to watch in the coming year, download our eBook Event Trends 2023.


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