Logos hanging from the ceiling at the tradeshow.
Ads covering windows, elevator doors and escalator ramps. Symbols, signs and emblems stuck to the floor, carpet and wrapping columns. Logos on lanyards, room keys and conference bags.
All of these are the traditional ways conferences approach sponsorship. And the majority of them have little value or ROI. Most of them are the wrong way to approach conference sponsorship today.
Sponsorship Disruption Through Experiential Marketing
Sponsorship is undergoing radical change.
Major brands have embraced experiential marketing. They expect that their sponsorships will engage potential customers in new ways.
These brands seek to make the right connection with the right consumer. Their goal is to generate a conversion. They want to make connections, increase affinity and drive sales. Sometimes this means they have to change potential consumers’ perceptions to change their behavior.
Ad Placement Not Enough
Too many conferences use an old school method of offering ad and logo placements in exchange for sponsorship dollars. The premise is that the more a potential consumer sees a logo, the more familiar they are with it, and the more likely they will buy from that brand.
But logo placement and interruption advertising has lost ground in the past couple decades. With all the conference sponsors vying for the same attendee’s attention, the battle just escalated.
The result is a tragedy of commons.
With all the sponsors trying to get attendees’ attention, the attendees ignore all the logos and ads. Nobody wins.
The Way We’ve Always Done It
Often those responsible for conference support only know one way to offer sponsorship: they way we’ve always done it.
They create a cafeteria list of options from food and beverage functions to logoed promotional products. Each item falls within a specific funding category from high to low. Potential backers can choose which level of funding that want to offer and a corresponding sponsorship menu item.
We’ve all seen the gem and metal sponsorship lists. Items range from top dollar for sponsoring the opening reception to lower levels for having your brand name on the conference bag.
For the most part, these traditional menu lists offer very little in making the attendee experience better. Most of the items are ways for the conference host to cover costs or gain additional revenue streams.
The Better Approach
Brands have become smarter and are expecting more from their sponsorship. Event marketing is driving this trend.
Smart, savvy, sponsors are looking for three primary things:
- Making attendee engagement easier
- Making the attendee experience better
- Providing something that the attendee values
Why these three things? They have real ROI for the attendee and the sponsor.
Event Marketers 2014 Best Marketing Campaign Winners highlight how brands have evolved in the past decade. The biggest change is that the winning brands had all significantly improved the attendees’ experience by making the brands easier to engage, easier to share and easier to love.
The long time barriers to attendee engagement such as “pay to play,” surveys, difficult social sharing technologies and outdated ideas about logo bombardment are virtually gone. Brands are looking for ways to improve the attendees’ experience, provide something that matters to the attendee, increase their engagement with the attendee and subsequently track the results.
As Dan Griffis, VP Experiental Marketing and Alliances, Target says,
“…We also know that they crave interaction and remember more from a physical experience than they do from just reading or hearing something.”
It’s not just about logo placement anymore.
In the end, successful conference sponsorship developers are working with potential sponsors to create customized packages that improve the attendee experience, add something that the attendee values and results in real ROI for the sponsor.
What are some interesting sponsorship opportunities that you’ve seen recently? Where do you start when you want to reinvent your conference sponsorship program?
Donella Muzik says
After having built a very successful sponsorship program for my former association and consulting with others to revamp theirs, I definitely agree with the majority of this post — engagement and personal interaction with a brand are certainly keys to bringing value to sponsors. Time and again, this has been proven, and sponsors love it when you can proactively suggest and facilitate strategies for them to reach and impact attendees. At the same time, I do want to emphasize that some of the more traditional branding channels (banners, ads, etc.) are not yet dead.
The real ticket seems to be a sophisticated blend of opportunities that ensure that a company can interact meaningfully with the market segments that mean the most to them, while continuing an overarching blanket message of association support. I studied with IEG (www.sponsorship.com) and was advised that a 3:1 value-to-dollar spend ratio, particularly for high ticket sponsorships, is optimal. This can be a challenging ratio to achieve, but once you’ve established it, you’ll find your sponsors lining up!
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for reading and commenting. You’ve highlighted the real issue: ensuring a sponsor can reach their target market! We find that is the crucial need and associations must get better at offering it instead of trying to push a sponsor to be all things to all people.