by Sara Kolovitz | March 01, 2016

The request came from a longtime, loyal exhibitor who had agreed to sponsor the next conference for a client, a health care association. For several years, this exhibitor had come to events with a traditional booth space, standard exhibit displays and sales-focused activities, but leadership acknowledged that both the setup and attendee interaction were lackluster. It was ready for a change for the better. So we were tasked with creating a new and unique sponsorship package that would help this sponsor stand out among 140 other exhibitors and to the more than 5,000 expected attendees. The new-and-improved plan needed to provide networking and relationship-building opportunities while providing strong and consistent on-site attendee communication. Instead of a sales-oriented environment, the sponsor wanted an innovative, welcoming space that encouraged open conversation and provided opportunities for attendees to share feedback and network with others in the industry.

In addition to enhancing the booth space and attendee experience within it, the sponsor had another marketing goal: to access attendee data through web analytics for sales-lead generation. As a measure of success, the sponsor wanted more qualified leads for its sales team, hard data to track qualified leads and more participants in its corporate online survey program. With these goals in mind, the team developed a customized sponsorship package that included both experiential and technological opportunities. The following ideas can be adapted by association planners interested in improving their own trade-show experience for vendors and attendees alike.

A “Relax and Recharge” Station: Taking advantage of the sponsor’s 20-by-20-foot island booth near the trade-show entrance, we created a welcoming “relax and recharge” station complete with comfortable couches, tables and charging stations for attendees’ electronic devices that looked futuristic and were equipped with universal charging cords, which attracted heavy traffic. To differentiate this sponsor from the greater vendor community, signage was displayed in prominent locations, including a hanging expo aisle sign with our vendor’s booth number, logo and tag line, and near registration, a light box display with an illuminated logo.

A Snack Station: To develop the sponsor’s goal of relationship-building and open communication, a snack station was created as part of the relax and recharge station. The idea was to encourage attendees to visit the booth for refreshments and conversation instead of company demonstrations and sales pitches. Features included lime-infused water, smoothie shots, a make-your-own trail mix option and popcorn. Bar stools pulled up to the snack station, evoking a more leisurely scene, one that allowed representatives from the company to more freely and easily engage in conversation. During these interactions, reps also used the opportunity to invite attendees to participate in the company’s online survey program and to scan attendee badges for qualified lead generation.

A Mobile App Sponsorship: In order to enhance visibility even further, the vendor upped the technology ante by sponsoring the conference’s mobile app, which resulted in various electronic pitches and reminders: a banner ad on the home screen, a timed banner in the current page, an enhanced exhibitor listing with the sponsor’s logo and daily push notifications. App alerts enabled the sponsor to communicate with attendees daily throughout the three-day conference. The alerts also enticed attendees to visit the booth and announced giveaway winners. Not only did this sponsorship help to increase booth traffic, but it also positioned the sponsor as a cutting-edge, tech-savvy company.

Rave Results and a Symbiotic Sponsorship. The sponsorship package proved to be a success, resulting in an exciting, engaging space on the trade-show floor. For the sponsor, the mix of experiential and technological features enhanced relationships with customers, increased the number of qualified leads and created effective brand awareness. It resulted in an increase in the vendor’s corporate survey program participation by 80 percent and increased booth traffic by 25 percent compared to 2014. The mobile app resulted in 2,245 total downloads, three times the impressions. By listening to the sponsor’s marketing goals and creating a one-of-a-kind vision, you too can launch an on-strategy sponsorship that is mutually beneficial for both a sponsor and your association.