Sponsorship 2.0: The Next Generation of Trade Show Marketing

March 11, 2015

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.

It never ceases to amaze me how many hats trade show managers have to wear. We can’t just be good at what we do on a day-to-day basis.

We also need to stay on top of constantly changing trends in consumer behavior and sponsorship management, often making decisions that impact millions of consumers and business partners each year.

The latest challenge we face involves the growing use of technology — both by consumers and event sponsors. Attendees are glued to their smartphones and social networks at events, which creates huge opportunities for event sponsors to serve up increasingly personalized marketing and use that data to tweak their efforts and measure ROI for each event. 

I recently had the opportunity to brainstorm with some trade show professionals working on the bleeding edge of event marketing in preparation for my presentation at Large Show Roundtable, a one-day strategic forum for managers of large shows.

During these brainstorming sessions, the solutions that emerged were so different from traditional event marketing that they can only be described as sponsorship 2.0: an approach to trade shows that allows each sponsor to stand out on a grand scale while delivering highly personalized marketing messages to attendees. These sponsorships deliver tangible benefits and dig a little deeper than “Congratulations, your message reached 1 million trade show attendees!”

Here’s a look at five ways you can embrace sponsorship 2.0 to create more engaging and effective trade show sponsorship opportunities:

1.      Skip wide-scale marketing in favor of data-driven messaging. Traditional event sponsorships tend to be big on loud and proud advertising: huge banners that span the entire space and tons of logo-covered swag. But this kind of wide-scale marketing simply doesn’t appeal to consumers anymore. Why take that approach when you have access to an unprecedented amount of customer data?

Sponsorship 2.0 marketing taps into the data your customers have already given you through event accommodations, registration, education sessions, and lead capture forms to deliver more customized and relevant engagement opportunities.

2.      Use location-based technology to personalize marketing by location. Fifty-eight percent of American adults use a smartphone, and 91 percent of users keep their phone within arm’s reach. These statistics represent a huge opportunity to use geolocation tactics to catch attendees’ attention with timely and relevant messaging as they enter an event, a keynote session, or a product theater.

3.      Consider attendees’ holistic event experience. Traditional event sponsorships focus on what happens during the trade show. Sponsorship 2.0 takes attendees’ event engagement to a whole new level before, during, and after the event. Using available social platforms and planning apps, successful trade show managers will view each event as a cyclical, cohesive experience that includes specific steps to build excitement, engage attendees on the premises, and follow up with a clear purpose.

4.      Accent with sensory technology to enhance the human connection. Sponsorship 2.0 engages consumers in a way that online webinars simply can’t replicate. But the most powerful experiences will come from a combination of impressive sensory technology and human connection. Use innovative digital smell technology to trigger the senses and provide immersive video and sound experiences to capture your audience’s imagination. Follow that by using the power of real human connections to cement the relationship.

5.      Capitalize on real-time data. Today, marketers have access to an unprecedented amount of data, but many are wasting the opportunity. Sponsorship 2.0 captures and reports meaningful data that sponsors can use to deliver a memorable customer experience and a powerful ROI.

Use these engagement opportunities to collect hard data (think demographic information and purchasing behaviors), as well as “soft” data, such as customer preferences and ratings. If you can organize and digest this information quickly, you can use it to inform your marketing efforts in real time.

With the rapid progression of technology, trade show professionals must be prepared to continually adapt to the evolving landscape and use all the tools at their disposal to create more impactful events. By approaching your next trade show with a sponsorship 2.0 mentality, you can engage attendees on a deeper level, use data to gain unprecedented insights, and deliver a clear ROI to event sponsors.

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