A Quick Guide to Upgrading Your Event Sponsorship Sales

March 22, 2018

Lisa Van Rosendale

After retiring from Freeman in August 2023, Lisa Van Rosendale is currently consulting with a few of her favorite brands, including Veeva Systems and Freeman. She has worked in the exhibit and experiential design and agency side of the business since 1988, including 15 years at George P. Johnson and five years at Immersa Marketing, before it was acquired by Freeman in 2013. She is a founding member of Chief. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Digital transformation has changed today’s audiences. Consumers are more sophisticated and skeptical, preferring experiences over brands, moments over bargains. Legacy advertising and marketing no longer have that impactful reach. This consumer shift hasn’t just changed brand experience marketing – which makes events more personal and tailored – but also the way organizers approach sponsorship. More than ever, it’s crucial for show organizers to challenge traditional sponsorship programs and take those extra (nuanced and digital) steps to understand and offer features that make sponsorship stand out.

These tips to upgrade your sponsorship program will help your sponsors connect with your shared audiences throughout the event cycle. Plus, these ideas offer sophistication and the personalized approach people want.

Know yourself and your sponsors

Some sponsorship approaches remain the same because they work so well and certainly one of the mainstays is deep knowledge of all stakeholders. A thorough understanding of your organization’s needs and goals, as well as those of sponsors, is essential. Ask yourself:

  1. What are your primary objectives and how do they translate into value for attendees and sponsors?
  2. How can sponsorships help deliver on those goals? What are the sponsorship program goals and what do your sponsors expect from your offerings?
  3. How integrated into the event cycle do your sponsors want to be and what are they trying to accomplish?

Remember: you don’t have to offer EVERYTHING to everyone. Don’t dilute the value of your sponsorships by offering to every level. Premier participants should have access to certain things that no one else does.

Know your attendees

The more you know your audience, the more insights you’ll gain on bringing them the right experience. This comes in the form of attendee surveys, social media analytics, sales feedback and other data-collection tools. Previous event data is certainly relevant. Just make sure the key inquiries about past conferences focus on overall audience perceptions. Another key element to review is which exhibitors attracted the most attendees.

For content opportunities, you can measure the number of social media followers and shares, event mentions, reviews, etc. Search engine analytics offer an excellent method to track event website visits, including video views and downloads, and help determine which topics resonate – giving you a lens into future sponsorship designs.

Align everyone’s marketing goals

With a full understanding of your audiences, sponsors and organization goals, you’ll have a clear picture of how your event will look in relation to sponsorships and exhibitors. Attendee data will help you sell sponsorships and ensure you’re targeting the appropriate companies and building the right ecosystem. For instance, you might need to approach a whole different set of sponsors depending on what the attendee demographic data reveals.

Get sponsors more involved

Signage and logo visibility is not enough. Increasingly, sponsors want to be more integrated with a show or meeting to create deeper relationships with audiences. Today’s dynamic brand experiences offer sponsors alternative engagements to increase networking opportunities, thought leadership and supercharge lead quality.

Relevant offerings include session sponsorships, executive forums, thought-leader stations, community activities and exclusive networking meetings. Getting input from sponsors can also go a long way in setting up your program for success. Bringing in potential sponsors for a strategy session and brainstorm to learn about their business priorities and desired results can uncover new ideas and engagement opportunities.

Gain more sponsor visibility

As digital tech (and tech advances in general) provides attendees more reach during events, it also provides more reach for sponsors. Sure, signage and other collateral should showcase sponsors, but here are more solutions for promotional value:

  • Inclusion in mobile apps or games developed for the event.
  • Beacon-enabled alerts sent to attendee mobile devices when they’re in or near a certain sponsor “zone.” The alerts can include additional promotional messaging like discount codes on a product or service.
  • Social media integration, which may contain branded photo opportunities designed to encourage posting about the event content.
  • Interactive digital signage that includes social media elements such as Instagram feeds. Prominent digital signs can make an impression on attendees who see their social media posts on a large display.

Customize sponsor packages

As with tech and promotion, sponsorship deals should be just as flexible and rewarding. Think through dynamic, out-of-the-box solutions, like offering pricing based on foot traffic or charging more for sponsorship opportunities in high-traffic areas (seating areas, charging stations, etc.).

Here are some additional customization options:

  • Pre- and post-event marketing and promotion
  • Base packages with a menu of add-ons that sponsors may select for an additional charge
  • Naming rights that allow sponsors to “own” a category, such as a technology or a dedicated area of the show

Create value for everyone

Organizers who attract and retain high-value sponsors have the potential to add more heft to their events – including increased attendee engagement and return on investment for sponsors. This ultimately provides a real and meaningful impact on the overall success of the event itself long after it’s over. After all, strong, long-lasting partnerships are essential in a fast-changing world.


Editor’s note: Jennifer Linale, account director of sponsor relationships at FreemanXP, also contributed to the creation of this article.


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