Helping Sponsors Turbocharge Through Activation

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Activation (or leverage) is the most misunderstood, yet most critical, success driver for sponsorship ROI.

Savvy marketing professionals totally get activation. But most of our profession doesn’t. This is why many of us continue to sell non-emotional promotional opportunities and incorrectly call them sponsorship.

We need to capitalize on this golden opportunity. Consumer events are kicking are butts. Yet most professional conferences have a leg up on target market concentration and buying power.

Sponsorship Activation Defined

According to Kim Skildum-Reid, author of The Sponsorship Seekers Toolkit 4th Edition,

Leverage – also known as activation… is what a sponsor does with a sponsorship after the deal is done and is the most critical factor in getting a good result from an investment.

Skildum-Reid advises sponsors to focus on the event experience not the event. The event–your conference–is finite. The conference experience, however, begins at the time of consideration and continues weeks after your big close.

Activation Built On Attendee Touchpoints

Progressive conference organizers will learn from, and coach, their sponsors on how to leverage their support beyond a few days.

Activation plans are owned and primarily funded by sponsors. And they can be greatly enhanced with proper use of the conference organizers assets. Successful activation elements will often incorporate two threads:

  • One carried out by the sponsor in support of your conference participants.
  • The second, collaboratively carried out through your owned assets.

Trust and collaboration, with a focus on the paying attendee, is key to stacking the deck for results.

Start by sharing your event timeline with sponsors, including pre- and post-event touchpoints. Brainstorm together to identify the best opportunities to interact with, and improve the participants’ experience. Pinpoint crescendo moments where sponsors can change and leverage those opportunities.

Beyond Your Turf

Sometimes we focus so intently on activation as it applies to our conference that we miss opportunities to ride the coattails of our sponsor’s marketing assets. And we miss the chance to engage the audiences our investors have built or the trust they’ve earned.

Do your homework to understand these assets and consider the ones that can aid your conference experience or reach.

1. Content Marketing

Do they embrace content marketing? Will they consider talking about or mentioning their involvement in your conference?

2. Prizes

Do they have access to products that can be used as prizes, giveaways or sampling?

3. Communications

Does it make sense for them to develop communications that mentions your conference or show?

4. Talent Access

Do they have access to talent, celebrities or thought leaders that would be valued by your participants?

How Much Should Sponsors Invest in Activation?

Activation investments vary greatly, depending on the sophistication and integration of the sponsor’s other marketing initiatives.

Skildum-Reid says best practice sponsors spend as little as 10%-25% of the rights’ fee, incrementally, to leverage sponsors. Less sophisticated or siloed sponsors will need to spend quite a bit more to activate.

In today’s competitive business environment, creativity and empathy will be key drivers for successful activation.

Which of your sponsors does the best job in developing and executing their sponsorship activation plan? Which ones have a history of having a negative impact on the fan (attendee) experience?

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