Many organisations offset the cost and share the marketing load of their event programs by attracting sponsors. But with traditional events rapidly shifting to virtual event formats to comply with social distancing requirements in a COVID-19-affected world, how can you build value for sponsors and develop your virtual event sponsorship revenue stream?
The sponsorship packages you may have created last year will need to be amended to attract brands to your virtual or hybrid event in 2020.
That doesn’t necessarily mean limiting your sponsorship packages. In fact, most sponsorship components for physical events can be translated to a virtual event program. And virtual events actually open up new ways for you to offer value to your event sponsors.
For a start, while virtual events may not quite offer the face-to-face connections a physical event can offer or duplicate the atmosphere in the room, they can improve the quality, reach and longevity of a physical event.
For example, one of our clients recently turned a physical conference with 70 attendees into a virtual event and registrations exploded – 800 people ended up registering for the event online, with 360 attending live.
And removing geographic barriers not only extends the reach of your event, it may also provide you with access to better speakers, either broadcasting live, or pre-recorded at a time of their choosing.
All of this means great value for your sponsors. But how do you leverage the benefits of virtual events to create compelling sponsorship packages?
Let’s assume you’ve done the event legwork already: you know your audience, you have your event theme, topics and speakers.
You’ve identified the needs and interests of your audience. And you know which sponsors align with that audience and your brand.
Now you need to discover what your potential sponsors are looking for from an event sponsorship.
We recommend you shortlist and research your potential sponsors, starting with a list of about 10. What other events have they sponsored and what are they seeking: is it brand or corporate awareness, or are they looking for leads?
Once you know this, you can create a sponsor prospectus containing your event overview, audience profile, attending companies, expected registration numbers, agenda and speaker list and event format.
You should also provide a list and breakdown of particular packages available to sponsors, the benefits provided in each, and the price.
But before you get to that, let’s explore the many ways you can build value for your virtual event sponsors in three phases: pre-event marketing and registration; during the event itself; and after the event via on-demand formats and post-event marketing.
A lot of work goes into the pre-event marketing, and your sponsors should be included every step of the way. This is just as true for virtual events as for physical events. Here are some of the key ways to incorporate sponsors into your event marketing:
- Event website and landing page
Include sponsor logos, have a sponsor section on your website or landing page, and if resources allow, create sponsor profile pages to explain to your audience who they are, what they do and their connection with your event.
- Banner advertising
Include key sponsor logos in your event banner advertising.
- Social media posts
Tag sponsors in your own social posts to promote them and their involvement with your digital event to your audience. Provide your sponsors with content so they can promote your event and their sponsorship in their own social posts
- Company newsletter
Include mentions, logos and links to your sponsors in your regular newsletters to customers and prospects. You may also wish to profile sponsors in the lead-up to the event.
- Event, reminder and last-chance to register emails
Mention your sponsors, include logos and provide links in all your event-specific email communications including event announcements, reminder emails, and last-chance to register emails.
- Registration confirmations
Once your prospects have registered, you can include sponsor logos, links and value-added offers.
- Sponsored email bundles
You may also decide to send a sponsored email to your registered delegates ahead of the event containing an exclusive delegates-only offer from a premium sponsor or a content bundle to download.
During the event
Regardless of the format of your digital event, there are a wealth of ways to create value for sponsors during the event itself. Whether you’re hosting a live studio broadcast, a panel discussion, or a full-day conference offering a mix of live-streamed speakers presenting from their homes, pre-recorded videos or other formats, sponsors can get involved in a number of ways. Most physical event sponsor benefits translate to the virtual event world and will help you create value for sponsors and cement their brand’s connection with the event in the mind of your attendees. Here are a few you may wish to consider:
- On-screen real estate
Explore branding and logo opportunities with your digital event provider. Can you include premium sponsor logos on-screen throughout the event with links, or have individual sponsors associated with particular sessions.
- Transition slides
There should always be a gap to allow for a quick test of the tech between sessions, which is a great time to feature your sponsors. Transition slides can feature sponsor logos with links, offers, competitions and other content during the down-time between sessions.
You may wish to offer sponsors the chance to record videos to run between speakers instead of holding slides. Short-form videos can not only fill dead air and make the transitions entertaining, they are a great brand-building tool. Encourage your sponsors to create a video for the event itself to ensure it’s relevant.
- Polls, competitions and surveys
Virtual events are much better than physical events when it comes to interactive elements such as ‘polls’, competitions and surveys held during the event. Attendees are already online, and participation only takes a click or a quick comment. These can be sponsored, with results collated during the event and presented live, building engagement between sponsors and attendees.
- Social posts
Before the event, write and schedule the social posts you want to run during the event, and include sponsor mentions. Link to the event if you can accommodate late joiners.
- Special offers via a Resource Library
Digital events are also a great way to present attendees with a call-to-action for a sponsor offer: such as an on-screen button they can see and access while sessions are in progress. Most providers will have a Resource Library within their platform which will allow your audience to access a range of uploaded material or links.
- Digital event bag
For hardened conference-goers, the delegate bag is all part of the fun of attending events. In the virtual world, this can be replicated in an online format. Create a web page or use the call-to-action option above to give delegates access to a range of special offers from sponsors. These may be provided online or posted later, creating added engagement between your sponsors and your attendees.
- Networking and sponsor meetings
If you’re experienced in the art of virtual events, you may wish to explore more advanced options in place of physical sponsor benefits such as networking via event chat rooms, or one-on-one meetings between sponsors and speakers or delegates. Ask your digital event provider about the options on offer.
- Online exhibition booths and trade halls
Similarly, your sponsors may previously have taken a booth on your physical event’s exhibition floor or trade hall. Your virtual event sponsors may benefit from setting up the digital equivalent of a trade booth, with live online chat, online brochures, pre-recorded video, special offers, product demos and so on.
Unlike physical events, virtual events can live on, online, for up to a year, attracting views, building engagement, informing audiences and promoting sponsors. They are also a great source of video content for your own brand and for your virtual event sponsors. Here are a few formats to explore to ensure your sponsors can continue to leverage their investment in your virtual event:
- On-demand content
Your virtual event can live on for many months online in various formats, available to be viewed on-demand online. Explore the same options for on-screen real estate that you provided your sponsors during the live event, such as on-page logos and links and evergreen content offers.
- Post-event emails and social
Don’t forget to acknowledge your sponsors in your post-event emails with mentions, logos and links. And if your sponsors provided speakers or participated in the event, you may wish to feature them in newsletters and blogs exploring the highlights.
- Video snippets
Digital events can be packaged up into highlight reels, individual sessions and short-form video snippets. These can include sponsor acknowledgements such as opening and closing slides with logos and links.
If you have good audio from a speaker session or Q&A you may be able to repackage that content into a podcast after the event. Top and tail the event audio with a new intro and out-tro and include a mention of your sponsors as relevant.
Agree before the event on the data you’ll provide your sponsors. With the right permission from your attendees, it may include delegates lists, attendee titles and company names, as well as the responses to polls or surveys.
Talk with your digital event provider about tracking attendee registrations, and event engagement, as well as viewership of particular sessions and where this may have peaked or tailed off. It’s great information for your next virtual event as well as for your sponsors.
Have a meeting with your sponsors after the event and present the results to them, to ensure each sponsor is aware of the full value your virtual event delivered.
Explore these options for building value into your virtual event sponsorships and it’s a safe bet your sponsors will be as happy with your online event program as you are! And when your virtual event is over, don’t forget to keep your sponsors in the loop for the next one you’re planning!
For more information, please download our Sponsorship eBook.