Sponsorship: From Uninspiring To Really Mattering

2014.03.21_130424 Image of Positive Mindset Affirmations on Making a Difference

When attendees interact with your sponsors, do they feel marginalized or like they really matter?

Are you forcing your sponsors’ messages on your conference attendees or helping sponsors offer insights that attendees may actually value?

Remember That Last Event You Attended

Think back to an event that you attended. Quick: Do you remember any of the sponsors? Who were they and why do you remember them? Did you get something unexpected, participate in something memorable, or were you entertained?

Why not offer more of the experiences that matter to your attendees and ensure a triple win — your sponsors, your organization, and your attendees.

Six Attendee Emotions Sponsors Strive To Achieve

Big consumer events, like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and Spring Break are incredibly successful at providing sponsors that matter. Borrowing a page from the B2C sponsorship playbook, here are six attendee outcomes or emotions they strive to achieve:

1. Entertain, educate, engage, and/or provide joy.

Everyone likes to be entertained and to have thought-provoking moments. Offer sponsorships that bring fun, interactive learning, and entertainment. Super Bowl Boulevard is a great example. This year it included a Toboggan Run. I mean, who doesn’t want to slide down a six-story slide in the middle of Times Square? Sponsors of conference keynote speakers and education tracks will be valued when they are tied into a great attendee experience.

2. Utility.

What do your attendees need? Is it hot? Are they hungry? Do they need Wi-Fi or a charge for their mobile phone? Your sponsorships should meet and exceed their on-site needs. Australian Gold was a hit on the sunny Spring Break beaches because it offered free sunscreen.

3. Surprise.

Create sponsorships around something unexpected, something exciting. Even small niceties go a long way. Gillette made a splash at Spring Break destinations by sponsoring beachfront lounges and in-room samples of their products. The association SHRM provides Random Opportunities of Conference Kindness to its conference attendees.

4. Help.

Create sponsorships that help your attendees on a personal or professional level. The Army National Guard sponsors an obstacle course on the beach during Spring Break with the goal of helping students with career options while attracting new recruits.

5. Connexity.

Create community and connections through your sponsorships. Meeting new people and connecting on a personal level can be tiring even for outgoing personality types. Create sponsorship opportunities that help people meet someone new in a fun environment. Olympic pin trading is something everyone can medal in, and most sponsors distribute their own Olympic pins. The trading tents create great opportunities for connecting with fellow enthusiasts.

6. VIP.

Create a sense of feeling special. Sponsors can offer preferred seating, special gifts, or access to the keynote speaker for a limited number of your attendees. Olympic sponsors do this well with hosted trips to the games, private parties, and VIP seating and transportation.

The sponsorships that work all the way around are the ones that make attendees look forward to participating or engaging with them. And that sponsor is remembered and appreciated in return.

What are some examples of sponsorships you recall from a conference that aimed at one of these six emotions? Why do conferences continue to promote interruption advertising?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2014.

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