by Sara Kolovitz | October 01, 2015

Imagine purchasing a pair of shoes online. From the photo, they look perfect. But when the package arrives, the shoes look nothing like the photo and to make things worse, the fit is tight and uncomfortable. It’s likely you won’t be doing business with that company again.

Similarly, finding the “right fit” is essential when forming a partnership between your association and a sponsor. To ensure success, your staff should deliver exactly what is expected.

Getting off to the right start. As soon as possible, your association’s event-planning team and a sponsor should sit down to review the sponsor’s marketing goals for the event. When your team initially evaluates sponsorship options—generally categorized as traditional, technology or experiential—choose one or a hybrid that matches the sponsor’s goals.

What does the sponsor want to achieve with the partnership? This is the first question your team should ask as it’s crucial to development. Communication throughout the process is key. Once you understand a sponsor’s objectives, you can start addressing how goals and strategies will be measured. Success can be tracked a number of ways including the use of surveys, website traffic and clicks and sales leads. With a sponsor’s goals and metrics established, your team then can create and evaluate sponsorship opportunities that meet the criteria.

Which type of sponsorship is best? Deemed “tried and true,” traditional sponsorships for association events incorporate tangible offerings (such as key cards, tote bags or water bottles) to enhance the attendee experience. These sponsorships are coveted opportunities in which company branding is often the No. 1 goal. Items are often carried, worn or used by attendees throughout the entire event, and often they have a valuable shelf life.

Despite the term’s implications, traditional sponsorships can still be creative. For example, at one conference, a sponsor set up hydration stations with infused fruit water. Attendees enjoyed trying the new flavors, while the sponsor was pleased with the prominent display and being able to promote using branded, reusable bottles.

At a healthcare association expo in December, a sponsor capitalized on the upcoming New Year and fitness resolutions of attendees by distributing antimicrobial fitness towels that featured the company’s logo. Not only was the giveaway unique, it was timely and encouraged healthy living as a tie-in to the industry event.

Thanks to an increasing use of mobile devices, social media and other digital platforms, technology sponsorships fill the bill in terms of delivering high-quality data, measurable results and real-time access to potential customers. With this information, sponsors can act quickly to engage attendees in meaningful conversations and convert them into followers of a new product or brand.

At one association event, a sponsor sent out a series of app alerts that announced prizes for the first 10 attendees to arrive at specific event functions. As attendees flocked to these sites, sponsors had the opportunity to personally connect with individuals as they claimed their prizes.

Experiential sponsorships—such as product demos, executive roundtables and networking events—offer attendees the chance to engage with peers and industry experts and provide feedback about products and solutions. In turn, sponsors use these opportunities to participate directly with attendees and shape their message.

At a recent association conference, a healthcare sponsor set up an oversized white board to garner audience feedback. The site became a type of forum where ideas were exchanged, and the response was overwhelming. A representative from the sponsor company was on hand to network and collect pertinent information about the audience, and the experiential setup was deemed a success due to strong dialogue and face-to-face connections.

Connecting sponsors and offering members value. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to finding the right sponsorship for your association event. But by understanding your sponsor’s objectives and marketing goals, you can develop lasting partnerships that will benefit everyone involved—your sponsors, your staff and, most importantly, your members.