Virtual events are the new normal, and we expect them to outlive the pandemic by far. With that in mind, sponsorship for online events is more important than ever. Because businesses are still adjusting to a virtual culture, winning sponsorship can be a little challenging. The main question potential sponsors will want answered is, “What’s in it for me?”
Offer an Immersive Experience
Potential sponsors are used to being able to interact directly with products and services. You may be wondering if virtual booths can possibly make as powerful an impression as live ones. We’re here to tell you that an engaging online exhibit with easy-to-use interactive features can be just as effective as a live booth. Show would-be sponsors that your platform makes it easy for potential customers to interact with them and their products. Many platforms allow for booths with exhibitor branding, and others even help you customize your booth. The more unique the experience you create, the more likely sponsors are to see you as a brand that can reach their customers.
And you have a unique advantage at this unprecedented time. Remember, we’re all adjusting to a more virtual and hybrid industry climate- your potential sponsors included. If you show them that you can offer them unique ways to connect with their customers online and build their audience, they’ll be intrigued. Since everyone is rebranding right now, sponsors can greatly benefit from what you have to offer them.
Your potential sponsors know their audience best, so you might want to give them the option to create their own booths in your exhibitor hall. Many platforms offer easy build-your-own booth services that allow exhibitors to customize theirs. You can link a virtual exhibit page to your website where sponsors can create their own. Exhibitors can also provide hyperlinks that allow attendees to interact with them live, schedule sessions, or learn more on their website.
During your event, you may even want to have a product feature theater or space where sponsors can showcase their specific content. Zoom is a great platform for live Q & A sessions where visitors can connect with you and your sponsors. You can further incentivize sponsorship by offering to extend access to their exhibit via your website post-event. In this way, you’re extending the mutual benefits of sponsorship beyond a one-time experience.
Encourage Attendees to Interact with Exhibits
If your exhibit hall features interactive product demos, this goes a long way toward attracting sponsors. Don’t be afraid to have open conversations with potential sponsors and ask them exactly what their goals are. Is their priority to generate product sales, increase traffic to their website, or reach a new target audience? Tailor your services to their needs.
For example, if your sponsor is trying to generate sales of a new product, offer to create an animated product demo in which your attendees can interact with your product. For example, some makeup demos use augmented reality to allow customers to try on different products in real time. An image of the user’s face appears on the screen, and there is a color palette to choose from; the user just clicks on a product and shade, and gets to see what it looks like on their face. This “try before you buy” experience usually requires viewers to download an app before they participate, so you’d want to make sure everyone has access to it in the weeks before your event. The same has been done with sunglasses and clothing- think a virtual dressing room with better lighting!
If this type of product demo doesn’t fit within your budget, you can also do a live product tutorial in which customers can watch you use the product, and ask questions throughout the process. Live video tutorials and AR-inspired demos can be done with minimal effort for a range of different products. Think clothing, makeup, electronics, art products, computer software, furniture, and just about any app.
Promote, Promote, Promote!
We don’t need to tell you that building strong customer relationships is one of the most important steps to getting the most out of your event. That said, you’ll want to offer your sponsors the same opportunity. Offer to hype their brand, products, and services during all of your promotions. As we suggested earlier, it’s a great idea to offer to house their exhibit on your page before and after your event. But you can also feature short promotional videos or product testimonials of your sponsor’s products or services on your website and social media. Do this prior to your event to build excitement and create opportunities for your audience to interact with your sponsor ahead of time. This way, when your event comes around, they’ll be well-informed- and more likely to feel ready to make a purchase.
Another way to maximize sponsorship benefits is to feature their brand in a guest blog on your registration page. This way, even if some of your attendees haven’t been following your social media posts featuring your sponsor, they have the opportunity to learn more while signing up for your event. Again, the more pre-event exposure (without throwing your sponsor in people’s faces by reposting all their posts every 2.5 minutes), the better. (With advertisement, there’s always a thin line between interacting with your audience and shoving messaging down their throats, which is not well received). In addition to sharing their messaging on social media posts (in moderation), it’s a good idea to add your sponsor’s logo to emails.
Word of mouth travels a long way, but word on the internet travels even faster. Chances are, your sponsor offers a product or service that would be relevant to your audience. So offer to talk up their brand with your customers on social media before and after your event. This way, you’re also driving traffic to their website and social media pages. It’s a win-win. Just be sure their exhibit or interactive links are easy to navigate from your page.
Let Your Sponsor Speak
As with in-person events, the most impactful brand interactions are often direct. If their brand wasn’t aligned with your message and audience, you wouldn’t have sought out your sponsor. With that in mind, why not offer them the opportunity to speak at your event? Invite them to serve as part of your expert panel or host a Q & A session where attendees can interact with their brand. Don’t be afraid to ask them to provide moderators and polling questions- they stand to gain as much as you do or more from letting your attendees get to know them. And if your sponsor can help you co-create content, the relationship grows from the experience, and is more likely to continue into the future.
And if your sponsor has connections to a celebrity or influencer whose message is aligned with your message, don’t hesitate to inquire about it. You can simply ask if they think so-and-so would be interested in making an appearance at your event in the future. Many popular influencers have to hire staff to manage event and sponsorship requests- and in that case, they may be so inundated with messages that they don’t get to yours. Having an inside connection is often one of the best ways to book a big name in your industry.
That said, don’t be afraid to start smaller! Influencers with moderate followings are more likely to interact with brands directly and be available to work smaller scale events. Sometimes it’s not overwhelming popularity that intrigues your attendees; it’s specific content, knowledge, and experience pertaining to their area of interest. So when it comes to booking industry names and influencers, shoot for the stars- the worst that can happen is you get rejected and have to pursue other options, which there always are if you’re resourceful and persistent. But if you think a less popular choice is more viable or a better fit for your brand, be discerning. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better…but an insider connection via your sponsor is always a positive.
With algorithms, that is! One of the biggest benefits of virtual events is the greater access to data they provide. When your attendees sign up, they provide plenty of useful demographic- and maybe even psychographic- information. Use this information to match exhibitors up with their target audiences.
Put Your Swag in a Bag
Sure, swag bags are traditionally given out on the day of a live event. As you know, including freebies from your sponsors in your goodie bags gives your sponsors the gift of post-event exposure. But you don’t have to skimp on the swag just because your event is digital. To the contrary, you can send your event swag out in time for it to arrive the day before your event. You may also encourage your sponsors to offer free trials or services to your attendees in the weeks before your event. This way, you’re already creating a buzz around your sponsor’s brand, which is a gift that keeps on giving.
Remember, virtual events are usually recorded for those who missed it live. That presents an opportunity to continue to provide sponsor exposure via brief videos that play throughout your event. You know the ads that pop up before you watch a video on Vimeo or Youtube? Well, you can create your own little snippets featuring your sponsor and play them before and after event sessions. Similar to ads, they work to give your sponsors a boost of added exposure.
We probably don’t need to tell you how important it is to keep the line of communication open between your sponsor and attendees. You can do this post-event by inviting attendees to free live Q & A sessions featuring your sponsor the next day or week; you might even want to ask your sponsor if they’re interested in extending the offer of a free trial to anyone who attends. Relationship-building is key, so integrate your sponsor into future social media campaigns, newsletters, or other projects that engage your audience.
As you can see, there are many innovative ways to leverage virtual event sponsorship. You just have to get a little creative- something event planners are lucky to be naturally good at. Most of all, don’t be afraid to think a little bit outside the box. During these unprecedented times, virtually all brands are struggling to adapt to a changing culture (no pun intended). That requires taking some risks, including collaborating with other brands that are aligned with yours. Although digital sponsorship can be challenging, it’s also an opportunity to grow your brand and reach new audiences. So happy sponsor-searching!