Event sponsorship can provide valuable opportunities to companies wanting to engage their target audience and drive business, however often sponsorships are under-utilised.
After hosting nearly 100 events for marketers in the past 8 years and having worked with many sponsors throughout this period, we have put together this guide to share key learnings on the techniques that sponsors need to implement in order to get the optimal return on their investment.
Ultimately, most sponsors want the three core outcomes when they sponsor an event. Firstly, they want to know that they can reach their target audience. Secondly they want to get tangible outcomes from their involvement. Thirdly, they want sales.
In today’s market, many companies sponsor events and do not get these desired outcomes - for a number of easy to fix reasons. This guide has been created to assist sponsors to identify and implement the steps needed to effectively leverage sponsorship of an event and drive measurable results.
# 1: Have a plan
Sponsorship is a lot more than evaluating proposals, getting sign off and sending across a logo. This is just the beginning. You need to put a plan in place as to how you are going to interact with the delegates at the event, what your key messaging will be, the campaign you will run to acquire customers and what your follow-up will look like. It’s highly recommended that you discuss your goals and objectives prior to committing sponsorship dollars and to put a plan in place for these items. A documented plan will make a world of difference to your outcomes. Sponsoring an event is one step in the acquisition process and should have a core function of moving your target audience on to the next step in becoming a customer.
# 2: Ensure there is a team member taking ownership
Sponsorship usually requires multiple people across an organisation to be involved. You may have a subject matter expert speaking, some sales team members attending the event and marketing might guide the strategy, collateral and delivery. It is recommended that you allocate a team member to take ownership of the project and be ultimately responsible for pulling everything together, liaising with the event managers and meeting the desired targets. This may be you, but if it’s not and no one person takes responsibility, your event presence won’t be seamless and opportunities will be missed.
# 3: Allocate an implementation budget
Once you have committed to sponsoring an event, you also then need a budget to implement that sponsorship. Otherwise it’s a little like spending money building a website and not having any money left to tell people it’s there! At the very least we recommend thinking about how you will be represented at the event and how you will deliver on what you have committed to in your package (things like banners, flyers, giveaways etc.). Your budget doesn’t need to be huge, but you will need some money to implement and follow through on the spend. If you are simply planning to re-use things that aren’t a good fit and don’t match the key messages for this audience, your investment value is immediately lessened.
# 4: Get the right people involved
Put some thought into who can represent your organisation at the sponsored event. Don’t choose the people who are closest and available if they aren’t a good fit for your messaging or brand. You want to send team members who will proactively interact with delegates and who will achieve the desired outcomes. It is also recommended that you have guidelines for staff attending on the company’s behalf as to what they should be doing and what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour for a sponsor at the event. Ultimately you need to value your investment by sending the people who can best leverage the opportunity, both on the day and beyond.
# 5: Invite your customers
When you sponsor an event, it is likely that you will get some free tickets and potentially some discounted tickets too. Leverage the sponsorship as an opportunity to communicate with your existing clients and to invite them to attend the event and see you there. Not only does this give you opportunities to reach out to your customers, but it demonstrates your commitment to them and your contribution to the industry. Plus, it means you will have advocates in the room who might help to spread the word about your offering. Sponsoring an event can also be an opportunity to invite prospects to attend and interact with you in a less formal way.
# 6: Add Value to Attendees
Adding value to attendees will help to make your contribution to the experience more memorable. Consider putting together an attendee-only-offer or a time-based-offer that you can communicate to people on the day or even in the lead up. Perhaps you can provide a white paper or an industry report or give away a strategy consultation. Regardless of the format, this component should be designed to be of value to the attendees and position your brand accordingly.
# 7: Capture Attendee Data
Depending on your sponsorship arrangement, you may or may not receive information on the delates attending. Regardless of what information you may receive in advance, it is important to consider how you can personally get permission to communicate with delegates on an ongoing basis. Perhaps you can offer them an information exchange and provide them something of value. You might have an interactive element on your stand or implement a more manual process. Regardless of how you do it, put some consideration into how you can capture attendee information and how this information will then be input into your existing systems and processes for prospects following the event.
# 8: Follow up, follow up, follow up
It is unlikely that you are going to sell a product at the event. Rather the event plays an integral role in generating awareness, evaluation and credibility in the purchasing process. This means you need to follow up. Whether it is a one-on-one follow up based on conversations or a targeted follow up campaign using details acquired via an at-event-campaign, it is important that this is part of the plan and that time is allocated straight after the event to do so. If there is no follow up, there will be limited results.
# 9: Ask for custom opportunities
If you have a specific idea of how you can leverage a sponsorship or if you have done something in the past that has worked well for you, be upfront and ask the event managers if you can incorporate it into your package. No one size fits all and there should be some flexibility in providing the best solution for your needs. We like to know as much as we can about our sponsors as it’s the best way to not only ensure the sponsorship package is the best for them, but it also enables us to make connections and recommendations amongst our network. In the past we have incorporated custom opportunities from pre-event delegate surveys through to interactive elements on the day that promote our sponsor’s capability. Find the person on the event team who might be helpful to you and keep them informed in ways that will help them to help you. You may even be able to identify additional points of mutual benefit.
If you are one of the very few companies who is already implementing all of these techniques when you sponsor an event, then you should be receiving the outcomes to match your effort. If you’re not yet following these steps, then there is an opportunity to really leverage events as an integral part of your marketing mix that serves your current clients, your prospects and your sales.
If you would like to be involved in a quality event for the digital marketing industry in Australia where you can leverage the techniques detailed above, then please get in touch.
Feedback, ideas or questions can be sent to Louisa@interactiveminds.com.