Earlier this year, the New York Times quoted Mike Federle, chief operating officer of Forbes Media, in an article about the growth and value of conference events, “As the world is more connected digitally, it only seems to accentuate the need for personal interaction, so conferences are enjoying a real surge.”
To capitalize on this trend, sponsorships for executive conferences often begin at $50,000 and skyrocket as high as eight-figures for events with mainstream consumer exposure, leaving many organizations to question how best to plan and activate their event sponsorships to deliver value for the business.
GroundFloor Media regularly works with clients to address these questions and create activation plans that set clients apart – not only from the competition, but also from fellow sponsors. A few key considerations guide our work to identify which events deliver the best fit and value to achieve our clients’ business goals.
Question #1 – Purpose: What is the primary purpose of the event sponsorship? Brand visibility? Networking and sales? New product launch, demos or sampling?
Take time at the outset to identify why a given event or series of events is being considered. Doing so, will not only help to negotiate the right sponsorship package and price, but also ensure that you have buy-in early in the process from the appropriate internal stakeholders, who will likely influence how to activate the event sponsorship later on.
Question #2 – Timing: Does the event offer the right fit for the business at the right time?
An event may offer a keynote speaking opportunity along with a prime location for an exhibit booth, but these benefits will fall flat if the timing competes with other business priorities, such as a merger, board meeting or other commitments that may cause significant distractions. An event is only as valuable as the ability of the business or organization to get behind it and ensure the right people (with the right titles) are in the room to take full advantage.
Question #3 – Presence: Does the event offer the right presence to highlight your business and place you in the room with your target audience?
This is likely the most fun part of event planning and execution – how do you “activate” or make your event sponsorship investment come alive? Sponsoring events doesn’t stop once the contract has been signed, check sent and booth confirmed. In fact, that’s when the work begins…
Particularly as budgets have become more constrained and highly scrutinized, the importance of expanding the reach of sponsorship dollars has become crucial. In addition to brand visibility on signage and programs, as well as online via social media and website mentions, does the event offer additional speaking opportunities and media access? Do they host sponsor parties or create opportunities for sponsors to secure speakers and other high-profile guests to attend events outside the main agenda? Oftentimes, these efforts carry additional costs beyond the sponsorship itself, but the investment is well worth the expense to ensure the event offers more than a one-time boost with the finite audience in the room.
Question #4 – Communications: How can your organization capitalize on its presence at the event through additional communications channels?
Does your business have the resources to capture photos and videos during the event to post via social media? Can you host a webinar and contribute a blog post to share best practices with your employees and/or customers during or after the event? Is there an opportunity to engage employees in the event in the months leading up to and/or following the event? Taking content and enthusiasm from the show floor and sharing it in real-time with your target audiences is an important next step when planning events.
Question #5 – Momentum: Does this event build on momentum established through other events or outreach initiatives throughout the year ?
Pursuing event sponsorships that reinforce existing outreach efforts and brand attributes is key to developing a sponsorship program that will deliver results. An event may offer a solid sponsorship package, but if it doesn’t obviously align with your brand and/or business goals, the sponsorship may not make sense.
Additionally, as you consider a series of events is there a theme that ties your sponsorships together? For community sponsorships, this may include a focus on youth, education or homelessness; whereas business events might focus on a specific vertical market such as health care or green energy. Doing so will create a strategic link between your business and its sponsorship investments.
Once you’ve considered each of these questions in the context of your overall business and outreach goals, budget, timing and resources, you’re bound to develop an event sponsorship plan that will deliver the highest value possible for the business, potentially encouraging ongoing sponsorships for years to come.