For the most part, all events depend on sponsorship for a significant chunk of their funding. At the same time, organizations have been pretty eager to sponsor events to increase brand awareness and engage better with their target audience. Now, with virtual and hybrid events on the rise, event organizers have a lot of new opportunities to provide sponsors with more value and get their support.
Also, as many virtual events are still being offered for free, sponsors are one of the most dependable sources of revenue for event organizers. So much so that a 2020 report by EventMB states that 23 % of virtual events consider sponsorship to be their primary source of revenue. This is a huge difference from previous years (when onsite events reigned popular) where sponsorship along with merchandise, food, and drink sales amounted to less than 20% of revenue.
In this post, we talk about nine sponsorship ideas that you can include in your virtual events.
Giveaways and contests
According to a study by EventMB, 74% of event planners believe social media is the most effective channel for event marketing and promotions. One way you can spread the news about your event and build excitement is by conducting giveaways and contests on social platforms prior to your event. Similarly, if you’re using gamification in your event, you can get your sponsors to provide the prizes for people who top the leaderboard. Alternatively, you can include sponsored games—bingo, quizzes, puzzles, and trivia—as part of your breaks to make things fun and avoid virtual event fatigue.
Sponsored event activities
Sessions, break-out rooms, networking games, the after-party—you can make all of these activities and more sponsored activities. Give your sponsors the option to choose which session they’d like to be associated with and add their logo and branding to that session. You can also allow them to get involved in those sessions either as a host or moderator where they can introduce the performers or speakers. If it’s a panel or interview, they can also be the interviewer. If your virtual event solution has the option to add a lower third, you can add their name and organization there so even attendees who join mid-session know who they are. Another idea is to include sponsored polls during sessions.
We’ve already seen how popular swag is at in-person events, and adding them to your virtual event will be a sure win with your attendees. A study by Inkwell Global Marketing says 85% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company after receiving a promotional product from them. This means promotional swag from sponsors is a good way to promote them amongst your attendees. Common options for event swag include t-shirts, books, coffee mugs, handmade chocolates, and candles.
Sponsors can also send a gift bag in addition to the main goodie bag. It could include digital gifts like coupons and gift cards or a physical one that ties with their session. For example, if they’re hosting a cooking workshop, they can send attendees a box with all the ingredients. This would also get attendees excited about their sessions and increase attendance.
Content sells, always. If you think your sponsors have something of value to share with your audience (something they can relate to or will be interested in exploring further), you can allow them to send periodic emails to attendees before and after the event. These can be anything from a set of articles to videos or even online courses. However, make sure to add an “Unsubscribe” link to all emails so you’re in line with the latest data privacy regulations. If your virtual event solution has the option, you can also get your attendees’ consent for sponsored emails when they register for your event.
Similarly, you can provide your attendees’ email addresses to sponsors so they can get in touch with them after the event. They can then consider your attendees their leads and engage with them. Here again, make sure you inform your attendees beforehand that their email addresses will be shared with sponsors.
Digital branding opportunities
Just because you don’t have an actual venue doesn’t mean you have to miss out on branding. Give your sponsors the option to add their banners, messages, and logos in high-traffic places. These include:
Virtual lounge or reception area
You don’t have to just stick to posters either. Based on the options available with your virtual event platform, you can include pop-ups, splash screens, or even push notifications to promote your sponsors throughout your event.
There are many ways you can include freemium offers in your virtual event. The first way works pretty much the same as promo codes. Only here, they get the discount if they watch a sponsor ad, agree to attend sponsor sessions, or something similar.
In the second way, you provide sponsors with a unique promo code that they can use to promote your event. Attendees who sign up with that promo code will be offered a discount. Also, data from both these offers can be used to gauge attendee interest in a particular sponsor.
Finally, freemium offers can also come from your sponsor’s side. Here, they give you a few coupons that attendees can use to sign up for their service at a discount.
Virtual sponsor booths
A virtual sponsor booth is an easy way for sponsors to connect with attendees. A virtual trade show is similar to a live one—attendees will be able to visit these booths, interact with sponsors, watch demos, request a meeting, and download brochures, videos and other material. One of the biggest advantages of hosting these booths virtually is that every point of interaction between the sponsor and attendee can be noted, resulting in more data and analytics and consequentially a better understanding of the booth’s success in engaging and converting leads.
Also, depending on the software you’re using, your sponsors will have various options to design and brand their virtual booths. You can offer booths of different sizes and branding options for sponsors in different categories or price each booth at a different cost.
Run short commercial advertisements from sponsors during session breaks, before sessions begin, or during the closing credits. You can also run these sponsor ads during periodic intervals in your on-demand sessions and pre-recorded sessions. Keep ads to a maximum of 10 seconds and include one ad for every 10 minutes of the session at most. Also, it might be a good idea to show ads that are relevant to your session’s content instead of random ones.
Finally, when getting the video file from sponsors, give them the right specifications—ratio, length, format, and size—so they give you a file that’s compatible with your virtual event software.
1:1 meetings and AMA sessions
Unlike sponsored sessions, where the focus is on the session, here the focus is the sponsor. These sessions and meetings are essentially a way for them to interact directly with members of the audience. Create networking rooms where sponsors can talk to attendees and find out their expectations. Attendees can use this space to get their questions answered and learn more about your sponsors. Interested attendees can also schedule 1:1 meetings with sponsors where they can get demos and evaluate if the product or service would suit their needs.
You can also host sponsored “happy hours” or “coffee breaks” where attendees can meet the sponsor over coffee between sessions. Want to take this a step further? Send attendees a “happy hour kit” with the necessary fixings—whether coffee, wine, or even something exotic like kombucha.
Finally, you can use gamification to incentivize attendees to network with sponsors. It can be something simple and upfront like points on the leaderboard or more nuanced like bingo, where talking to sponsors is one of the activities.
We hope you found these options useful. Finally, whatever sponsorship ideas you’ve got for your virtual events, here are two tips to ensure your sponsorship package is just right for your sponsors—add variety to your options and consider allowing them to choose which options they’d like to add to they’re package. This way, both you and your sponsors can make the best of your virtual event.
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