5 Ways to Drive Greater Value for Virtual Event Sponsors

April 3, 2020

Nicole Bojic

Nicole Bojic is senior vice president of strategic solutions at InVision Communications, an engagement solutions agency that specializes in integrated brand experiences, events and communications programs. A marketing strategist and change catalyst, Nicole has a reputation for igniting growth, accelerating evolution and leading major transformations in the experiential space.

Brands sponsor face-to-face events because they want to connect with key audiences. They want to increase brand awareness and improve brand perception. They want to generate leads and drive sales. And every single one of these goals remains relevant and achievable, even now that coronavirus has driven face-to-face events into the virtual sphere. 

Consider these best practices to seamlessly integrate sponsors into your virtual experience and maximize the value you deliver.

Put attendees’ priorities first.

Concentrating on the wants, needs and emotions of your audience is always a wise thing to do — but never more so than when that audience comprises an anxious populace facing a global pandemic. As you design sponsorships, be empathetic to your attendees. How can your brand organically provide value? Is there a tool or resource you can offer free of charge, or something you can send attendees to make their home-office experience more efficient or joyful?

Also consider how your sponsorship might make a positive social impact. Aside from doing good for the sake of doing good, attendees will associate your brand with the positive feelings your good deed provoked. Remember, though, there’s a clear line between relevance and opportunism. Stay on the right side.

Get your name out there, holistically.

We’d never advise just slapping a logo on the wall — or on the screen, for that matter — but exposing attendees to your logo has undeniable value. Indeed, the mere exposure effect proves that the more often a person is exposed to a certain stimulus, the more they like it.

There are simple ways to achieve this online, such as:

  • Including branding elements in the physical sets from which the virtual event is being broadcast. Picture, for example, your logo in front of a podium, on a microphone flag or affixed on the back of a presenter’s laptop.
  • Framing the virtual scene with your branding. That could take the form of banner ads, news-style chyrons or a full-screen slate at moments of transition.
  • Setting the stage with short commercials that air while attendees are waiting for a session to begin. Run advertorials as interstitial content, and fill space with logo loops during breaks.

Leverage data.

A widely cited benefit of virtual events is the glut of data made available by attendees’ digital footprints. Use what you know about your attendees to tailor sponsor activations effectively, targeting the right people at the right moments, generating leads and inviting people to opt-in for follow-up content.

Then, after the event, use your data set to deliver hyper-specific insights to your sponsors and also to provide hard evidence of the return on their investment. Thanks to the data virtual events afford, you’ll have no problem quantifying key metrics like number of attendees, dwell time, and engagement. (And that in turn will lay the foundation for future sponsorships, both live and virtual.)

Drive continual engagement.

A virtual event is a moment in time – but audiences don’t form perceptions about your brand in just that one moment. Their overall online experience with your brand and your message starts well before the virtual event and continues long after it ends.

To maximize results for your sponsors, create opportunities for them to engage with your audience continually. It’s not about simply giving them a list of email addresses and hoping they do something productive with it, but rather helping them to develop a comprehensive communications architecture where the virtual event is one of many important touchpoints. Others might include surveying attendees, executing pre- and post-event contests, offering quarterly webinars, syndicating thought leadership or producing on-demand product demos.

Participate like a person.

Experts agree that we should reframe “social distancing” as “physical distancing.” While we do need to keep our distance in the name of public health, inter-personal connections remain vital.

To that end, help your sponsors build connections with humanized digital activations. For example, you can host a series of chat rooms where sponsor companies’ subject matter experts engage live with event attendees. Offer one-on-one mini consultations. Promote pre-recorded product talks, tapping into sponsors’ desire for speaking opportunities.

Your sponsors will find that with a blend of agility, strategic integration and human-centric design, virtual sponsorships can be as powerful as their face-to-face counterparts.

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