7 Unique Sponsorship Ideas You’ll Wish You’d Thought Of

December 13, 2014

David Saef

David Saef, the executive vice president of MarketWorks and strategy at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events and trade shows.

Sponsorships are a great way for exhibitors and corporate marketers to be seen and experienced by their target audience, but with the influx of marketing initiatives, it’s becoming harder and harder for companies to stand out and connect with their consumers. Companies invest in sponsorships because they recognize the value of connecting with their segment of the market. But it’s time to look beyond the logo placement and reexamine what connecting really looks like.

We recently compiled a database of all sponsorships offered by the top 250 U.S. trade shows, the top 50 Canadian trade shows, and the top 50 medical meetings to identify key sponsorship trends. While there was much overlap in the sponsorships offered, we also found some unique and exclusive offerings that can really help sponsors connect with their target audiences.

Here are seven innovative sponsorship opportunities that you should consider:

1. Guided Trade Show Tours

Attendees who are interested in specific products or innovations are taken on a tour to visit related exhibitors. Each sponsor is allotted uninterrupted time to present its brand and expertise. The guide facilitates discussion and provides added value by comparing and contrasting the various offerings in the space.

Attendees love it because it helps them filter through the noise and get to the core of what they’re actually interested in. And it’s a great investment for sponsors because they get to connect with the potential customers who are the most likely to get on board with what’s being offered.

2. Answers on the Hour

What better way to speak to your target audience than to actually speak with them? In this scenario, attendees are invited to join company representatives in an open Q-and-A forum. The Q-and-A session can take on any number of formats, but the format isn’t as important as the quality of your answers and your ability to leverage your time with attendees. This is a great opportunity to build rapport and strengthen the narrative around your brand.

The Golf Industry Show does a good job of capitalizing on this opportunity. It holds an “Education on the Trade Show Floor” during which sponsors discuss relevant topics and answer questions.

3. Branded Segways

You can put an ad on anything, so get creative. Segways add dimension, and representatives can hand out your literature or collect information from an interested passerby. The Sweet & Snacks Expo allows sponsors to display branded messaging on Segways, which are driven around the event by professionals who hand out materials and free product samples.

4. Juice and Smoothie Bar

Food is a common theme in sponsorship circles, but it’s also a great one with ample room for creativity. It’s not just about branded wrappers anymore. Have the servers wear your brand colors or logo, and create a custom menu that relates to your message and experience. Going the healthy route with fresh juices and nutritious smoothies will be a welcome change from traditional sugar-laden treats.

5. Branded Registration and Housing Confirmation Messages

Many organizations offer the opportunity to sponsor email or printed confirmation slips, which attendees often keep as mementos. Add a message about your show experience, upcoming speakers, or event. This will ensure you’re the first company to interact with registered attendees.

This option is offered at the ASCO Annual Meeting. Attendees can familiarize themselves with different sponsors’ basic information before the event and keep them top of mind as they experience it.

6. Games Lounge

Sponsor a table tennis or table hockey tournament, for example. It will encourage socializing and networking and give you a chance to chat with folks while they check out a game or wait their turn. This year’s MAGIC Market Week featured a game room sponsored by Haggar Clothing. It was filled with pingpong and pool tables and DIY stations where guests were asked to create their own unique designs.

7. Illuminated Smart Wall

Many companies have started using these impressive interactive walls for social media, data visualization, and anything else that helps them tell their brand’s story. Rain did this at GlobalShop, a retail design and shopper marketing event, to engage the audience and instill the brand’s message.

Beyond these seven sponsorship strategies, you could ask marketers to sponsor a group of trade show attendees, brand the event registration message, or host a focus group. Sponsorship opportunities run the gamut, but far too often, sponsorships seem to settle for similar offerings simply because the offer is there. For a spectacular sponsorship investment, it’s critical that you create a unique, customized experience that meets the needs of your exhibitors.

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Partner Voices

Until recently, the opportunity to have a celebrity attend an event, attach themselves to a name-brand or endorse a certain product or idea was untouchable. The thought of paying a person to promote a product was seen as something only Fortune 500 companies could afford. Social media has changed all that with brands and businesses utilizing celebrity influencers to connect directly with their demographics and increase sales and profits.