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.

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact