Event Sponsorship in a Hybrid World

Sponsors have never been easy to get on board, and going virtual at the beginning of 2020, has not exactly made things easier for event organizers. In the meantime, many have come to see that hybrid and virtual events have a lot to offer in terms of promotion. Studies now report that almost 80% of corporate sponsors are interested in virtual or hybrid events, provided that they offer some form of interaction.

In this article, I will talk about the advantages of hybrid events for sponsors and formulate a guide to help organizers make their offers to sponsors appealing. We have previously looked at the advantages of hybrid events for event organizers. Some of these advantages can work for sponsors too. Understanding which advantages will appeal to your sponsors, and how you need to present them to get sponsors on board requires a bit of thought and planning.

Before we delve into the specifics, let’s start with a few basics of event sponsorship.

Who you approach matters. If you’ve come up with a concept or topic for the event and know your audience, you will be able to immediately think of a few companies that could be suitable sponsors. Start your list with those. Further brainstorming within the team often gives great results. Each team member will have a different understanding of the event, and collating their input can generate new perspectives and thus, new ideas. Make sure you take the time to think this through and approach companies for whom you have something to offer. If you rush through this process and go for quantity over quality, you might find yourself wasting a lot of time with companies that, for good reason, see no value in sponsoring your event.

Dig a little deeper. Once you have a list of carefully selected potential sponsors, try to understand their needs and address those from the get-go. Going into meetings prepared with answers before the questions have even been asked will let them know that you’ve thought seriously about what’s in it for them. One thing that sponsors don’t like is to be treated like one of the many. I can’t stress enough how important it is to personalize your pitches and make it clear that you have thought about how your event can benefit their business in particular and not just businesses in general.

One of the foundations of a personalized sponsorship package is identifying the sponsor’s needs and addressing them. To be able to do that, you need to identify aspects of your events that match those needs. If your potential sponsor is in AI, offer them a banner or even a speaking slot within a panel discussion addressing AI-related topics. That way, you bring them right in front of the audience they want to reach and give them a platform to do so.

Here is where virtual and hybrid events have a lot more to offer than your traditional in-person events.

Data informs personalization. Personalized sponsorship packages have been taken to a whole new level in the past year thanks to the wealth of data that organizers have been able to gather about their audiences online.

Hybrid and virtual events have the great advantage that they provide organizers with a wealth of data that they can rely on in their pitches. More than ever before, you will be able to tell your sponsors exactly who your audience is and how they behave and interact during an event. You might even be able to help them figure out how to best engage with them. Because events create an environment that is very different from most people’s normal daily online experiences, event organizers gain access to insights their sponsors don’t have. Besides consumer habits, the data sets from online events tap further into interests, needs, and desires, and allow data analysts to learn about social interactions and behaviors that thus far have only taken place in real life. All of a sudden, event organizers have a unique source of knowledge that most sponsors are not able to get unless they organize their own events. Learning how to draw knowledge from data will help you and your sponsors engage with your audiences better. The better you know your audience, the easier it will be for you to back your proposal with numbers and facts. And who doesn’t like numbers and facts?

Wider audiences and diversity. It’s no secret that hybrid events have a wider reach in terms of audience. This is exactly what your sponsors want to hear. If your in-person event only gathered a few hundred people in real life, the online opens it up to the world and you can easily go to thousands of attendees per edition, instantly becoming a safer bet for any sponsor. Make sure your sponsors know about your investment in online advertising and your targets because ultimately they will also benefit from this. Chances are, even with minimal ad spend, your hybrid event will reach a much wider audience, from more diverse backgrounds, than your in-person event ever did. This alone is of great value.

Show sponsors the future-proof path. Hybrid events are the future and you want to stress this in your pitch. The sooner sponsors jump on this bandwagon, the sooner they will be tapping into the numerous opportunities it offers and the sooner they will start to discover new promotional channels. Whether it’s live streams, panel discussions, in-app or onsite banners, the hybrid format offers the best of both worlds. It’s not just about what you can currently do within a hybrid format, but about the exciting new opportunities that are sure to develop from it.

Post-event perks. Hybrid events do not end when the speakers leave the stage. This format allows for content to be easily made available on-demand and for audiences to keep networking on the platform even after the event. For sponsors, this means they don’t only show up for two hours during a keynote talk, never to be seen or remembered thereafter. Instead, they will pop up in front of participants every time they watch content on-demand. This makes for some of the cheapest forms of advertising in the online world. Make it clear that the one-time investment will have an impact beyond the dates of the event, and they are likely to see a return from it for a long time. This puts the initial costs into perspective and will make their decision to spend a lot easier.

Final note: Think long-term.

All the effort you put in at the start is likely to pay off in the long run. The best sponsors are those you manage to build a relationship with, those that stay with you for numerous editions, contributing to the success of your event year after year. This will help you build a portfolio of sponsors whom you trust, and who trust you.

Go the extra mile and create sponsorship surveys to learn from your current event partners for the future. Surveys are a good way to get great insights and show stakeholders that you value their opinions and input and that you strive to improve their experience at your future events.

And remember, sponsorships don’t always come cheap. This is one of the pitfalls of sponsorships. Organizers tend to think short-term and accept pretty much any support that comes their way. Putting all that effort into learning about your potential partners and your audiences is not simply so you can push the right buttons while pitching your event. Choosing the right sponsors and making sure they suit your audience is essential for your brand. If you associate yourself with a sponsor that your audience will not like, your branded community is likely to suffer. As a result, you might get their support one year, but this partnership is unlikely to last. Make sure your sponsor’s values are in line with yours and your audiences’. An audience-centric sponsorship strategy will ensure long-term success for you and your sponsors too.

This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.

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