How to Activate Sponsorships

By Guest Author, September 15, 2014

Nearly every organization’s sponsorship package comes with a list of benefits: logo on the website, banner ad on an email blast, a table at the trade show, signage at the conference, etc. But these benefits don’t get sponsors remembered.

Sponsorship is an opportunity to establish meaningful connections that benefit the organization, sponsor and attendees. That happens through activation. Sponsorship activation is the art of getting attendees to remember who the sponsors are and incentivize them to buy something from them. In other words, it’s about engagement.

Activation is bringing those benefits to life and using them to build a mini-marketing campaign that resonates with the audience. When you’re creating sponsorships, focus on the attendee. What do they want, need and aspire to? Where do they go? Why are they there? How can the sponsorship develop greater engagement with them?

While the role of activation lies in the sponsor’s hands, smart organizations build activation into the benefits or offer it as an add-on. According to sponsorship consultancy IEG, sponsors reported spending an average of $1.70 in activation for every $1.00 they spent in benefits and rights fees in 2014. Here’s how some creative sponsorships were built around attendees’ needs.

What Attendees Do
Look at your conference. Watch attendees, see what they are doing (or would like to do), and build sponsorships and activations around that. At MPI’s Southeast Educational Conference a few years ago, a lot of hugging took place. The organizers capitalized on that by creating an entirely new sponsorship offering: the “Official Sponsor of Conference Hugs.” Years later, attendees can still tell you who that sponsor was.

What They Need
Visit Syracuse used its sponsorship at one event to give attendees something everyone needs for networking: good breath. Large containers of mouthwash were placed in every bathroom in the conference area bearing the CVB’s branding on the containers.

Why They’re There
Many guests at International Confex 2013 were looking for jobs. So the organizers created a sponsorship opportunity that put a spin on NBC’s reality show “The Apprentice.” In “The Eventice,” job seekers competed to earn a position with the sponsoring companies. The title sponsor was a hospitality recruiting firm, and the partnering sponsors engaged attendees by creating challenges for the competitors. The sponsorship was a huge success for all. The sponsors were showcased live at the conference, the attendees were entertained, the organization got a ton of social media coverage and two talented job seekers got hired.

What They Aspire To
Adobe found success with its sponsorship at MAX: The Creativity Conference. Adobe’s goal was to get attendees to use its software and showcase what its programs could do, so they held a contest for attendees to create custom art, then used the winning entries as the backdrop for the entire stage set of the conference. The conference got inspired decor for free, and the winners got their artwork displayed in front of potential customers.

Where They Go (or Want to Be)
Would your attendees prefer sleeping a little longer instead of attending another breakfast? Take a lesson from Tourism Montreal and Quebec City, which sponsored breakfast in bed at a major industry conference. The CVB’s goals were to put Montreal on planners’ radars, to meet every planner at the conference and to build its database. It took the basic breakfast sponsorship and activated it perfectly. To get breakfast in bed, attendees had to stop by Montreal’s booth to register their name and room number. Tourism Montreal achieved two of its goals during those interactions, and the attendees loved it. Many guests tracked down Montreal representatives afterward to thank them for the sponsorship.

If you are an organization selling sponsorships, be proactive. Make it easy for your sponsors by designing packages that have built-in activation and engagement strategies. The goal is to build win-win-win packages, where the attendees, sponsors and organization all receive value from the sponsorship. Bringing the sponsorship to life will ensure memorability and ROI for all.

Educating Sponsors
Hold a “Sponsorship Strategies of the Big Guys” workshop or webinar. Teach sponsors how to make the most of their sponsorship. Walk through the benefits your sponsorship offers, and share ideas on how to maximize the potential of each one.  Provide a forum to share ideas on how sponsors might partner with each other to create extensions.

Remind attendees that sponsors make your event and its special activities possible. Encourage your attendees to thank sponsors they meet at the event. You might include a note in your program, too.

Sharon Fisher is chief idea sparker at Play with a Purpose, a company that believes work should be fun. She consults with organizations on bringing more interaction, learning and fun into meetings. Contact her here.

Catch Fisher’s education sessions on CSR and making meetings fun at Rejuvenate Marketplace, Oct. 28-30, in Atlanta.

Photo credit: Adobe MAX: Creativity Conference

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