The transformation of events to include both in-person and digital components has opened up new opportunities for sponsorship. However, because the old model of event sponsorship — selling generic, prepackaged opportunities based on tiers — never delivered much value, the time is especially right for a new model to emerge.
Boost Your Skills for Hybrid Sales and Design
In the new sponsorship model, selling and designing for hybrid events requires a higher level of expertise than for in-person-only events. Managers need a team that can:
- Design sponsorships that leverage the best attributes of in-person and digital events
- Move fluidly between selling in-person event sponsorships (an on-site hackathon, for example) and digital event sponsorships (post-event video clips, for instance)
- Understand the event’s virtual platform features well enough to design effective digital sponsorships
Choose a Platform that Enables Lead Generation
The ability to monetize virtual event sponsorships depends in large part on the virtual event platform’s capabilities. It has to feature multiple opportunities for attendee engagement and be flexible enough to allow customization. Some of the most pertinent features include:
- Attendee tracking — options to identify individuals who opt into receiving content and offers and track their behaviors across the platform
- Attendee engagement — opportunities to interact with prospects through virtual booths, sponsored breakout sessions, Q&A, chat, gamification and/or matchmaking
- Content distribution — chances (potentially through advertising) to disseminate content (white papers, ebooks, videos and email subscriptions) in exchange for lead information
Attract the Right Audience With Quality Content
In the hybrid event era, event organizers have to know their stakeholders better than they ever have before. This means not only collecting the right demographic information for more sophisticated segmentation analyses, but in particular, obtaining more psychographic information to better understand their needs and wants. The resulting, more robust profiles are indispensable for developing content and programming.
Sell Sponsorship Services — Not Products
Slapping logos on objects at in-person events can work just as well for a digital event: Simply replace the lanyards, tote bags and escalator steps with websites, chatbots and virtual backgrounds. But these sponsorship-as-a-product opportunities, while easy for sponsors to digest, are typically not as effective for lead generation and are less lucrative.
In contrast, customized sponsorship-as-a-service offerings, which deliver the right combination of strategy (meeting the sponsor’s objectives) and tactics (making it easy and compelling enough for prospects to engage), can generate more revenue and sponsor retention. And effective and meaningful sponsorships will lead to more innovative sponsorship solutions.
Despite the critical need for sponsorships to evolve, the old model will continue to linger and stumble along, primarily because folks are resistant to change. But these efforts will continue to see diminishing returns. It may take them years to reach pre-Covid levels, if indeed they ever do. Now is the perfect time to embrace change.
Sponsorship is only one aspect of delivering digital and hybrid events. To learn more, download our free resource, “A Planner’s Guide to Digital and Hybrid Events.”
John Nawn is the cofounder and chief strategist for The Event Strategy Network, a diverse group of trusted advisors dedicated to unleashing the full business potential of events.